Court argues ordinance cannot be ‘nullified’

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Court argues ordinance cannot be ‘nullified’

The Supreme Court yesterday ruled in favor of a controversial ordinance aimed at expanding the rights of students, saying the Ministry of Education has no legal ground to nullify the implementation of the ordinance.

The students’ human rights ordinance, proposed by former liberal Education Superintendant Kwak No-hyun, bans any kind of corporal punishment or discrimination based on sexual orientation, allows for demonstrations on school grounds and gives students more leeway in choosing clothing and hair styles.

Kwak said that the idea was meant to protect the basic human rights of students, whom he believed were restricted from enjoying a full range of rights in elementary and secondary schools.

However, the Education Ministry and the current education office ? which is run by a conservative superintendent ? have voiced concerns that the ordinance is too radical and deals with controversial issues that require more of a social consensus.

“The ordinance contains some issues on which we haven’t reached a social agreement, and other issues in the bill also cause concern for parents and teachers,” said the ministry in January 2012, when the Seoul Metropolitan Education Office declared the ordinance.

“We are worried that it could create confusion among teachers and harm the public interest.”

Critics said it would weaken the authority of teachers and schools in general.

The court cited procedural problems rather than the ministry’s reasons for its decision.

The Supreme Court noted that the Education Ministry failed to deliver the reconsideration request within 20 days of the day the Seoul Metropolitan Council passed and transferred the municipal ordinance to the superintendant for a final declaration.

The council sent the ordinance on Dec. 20, 2011, while the ministry sent the request on Jan. 20, 2012.

Upon receiving the ministry’s review request in January, Kwak rejected it and proclaimed the ordinance after a week.

Technically, the ordinance goes into effect immediately, but it is yet to be known whether schools will fully adopt the notion under the Seoul Metropolitan Education Office, currently led by Moon Yong-lin, a conservative superintendent.

Kwak was stripped of his post last year after the Supreme Court sentenced him to a one-year jail term for an election bribery conviction.

Upon taking office last December, Moon vowed to modify the ordinance, signaling a shift from his predecessor.

The incumbent superintendent stated that the ordinance makes it hard for teachers to guide students.



BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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