Don’t rush to amend regulationsKwak No-hyun, the liberal superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, promulgated the controversial ordinance on students’ rights yesterday after having been released from prison just last week. He had been convicted of bribing his former campaign rival and fined 30 million won ($26,400) at his first trial, but was able to resume his post because no jail time was handed down. The fine should prohibit the superintendent from returning to work, but with an appeal pending at the Supreme Court, he is able to hold the post until a final ruling.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology swiftly responded to Kwak’s willful action by motioning for an injunction to the Supreme Court, hoping to suspend the implementation of the ordinance.
Amid legal brawls between Kwak and the Education Ministry, principals and teachers in Seoul are at a loss as to whether they should change their school regulations according to the new ordinance or ignore it - although elementary, middle and high schools are now off for winter vacation.
During a sharp confrontation between local and central school authorities and vehement fights between parent associations and teacher groups, what can students learn?
Neither the superintendent nor the Education Ministry will take a step back now. Kwak affirms that the ordinance will help promote the integrity of students, while the ministry voices worries that it will only infringe on students’ right to learn, not to mention the resulting difficulties for teachers.
Under these circumstances, schools should fill the vacuum. As a matter of fact, there is no clause in the ordinance that mandates school authorities to amend their regulations before the new semester begins in March. And it’s not too late for schools to make a decision after the Supreme Court’s final ruling.
Kwak also should not pressure schools to quickly revise their regulations. Although the latest round of the fight may make schools confused, they should gather opinions from various members of the school community to find out what to do to protect students from ever-worsening school violence around the country.
Above all, the parties involved should take into account the uncertain future of the superintendent.
He has no other choice but to wait for a fair judgment in a higher court after having received a guilty sentence.