Teachers offend but maintain jobs

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Teachers offend but maintain jobs

A 29-year-old primary school teacher, identified only by his surname Lim, was caught having paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl in exchange for 110,000 won ($103) after meeting her online in 2009. But the prosecution suspended Lim’s indictment on charges of soliciting a minor, and the teacher returned to his job at the school in North Gyeongsang. All he needed to do was take a counseling program and lose one month’s salary.

Lim is only one of many sexual offenders who still hold their jobs as teachers after committing sexual crimes. A total of 242 teachers have been convicted of sexual crimes, including sexual harassment, molestation and sexual assault, over the past five years.

But 146, more than half, still work as teachers, according to data obtained by the JoongAng Ilbo in cooperation with Representative Joo Ho-young of the ruling Saenuri Party.

That data is based on documents detailing disciplinary action against teachers from 17 education offices nationwide. The 146 teachers only received light penalties, such as salary cuts and reprimands.

Thirty five of them were accused of molesting students at their schools, but continued teaching there.

Approximately 100 teachers committed acts of sexual assault against people outside of school. Only 84 of them were removed from their positions for their misconduct.

Even if a teacher involved in sexual crimes is transferred to another school, students and colleagues have no way of verifying whether the transfer was caused by sexual misconduct unless the court orders the perpetrator’s identity be released online.

But acts of solicitation and harassment usually are not accompanied in such court orders.

“The education office doesn’t usually inform us of the reasons why a teacher is moved from one school to another,” said a vice principal at a high school in Gangwon. Last year, a male teacher was transferred to his school after being caught sexually assaulting his students.

“I was in the dark. I came to know only recently when the education office conducted a regular audit,” said the vice principle, who requested anonymity.

Parents are voicing concerns about the lenient punishments and the education offices’ unwillingness to reveal information about teachers who have a record of sexually assaulting minors and others.

“If my child’s teacher is a sexual offender, how can I trust the teacher?” said Lee Seom-sook, head of a parents’ association called Haksamo.

“Teachers play a key role in developing students’ characters. But I think those sexual offenders are not qualified to teach students, and they should be dismissed no matter the motivation or degree of the crimes,” Lee said.

Parents’ associations are calling for sterner measures against those teachers. Representative Joo, the Saenuri lawmaker, echoed those parents’ voices.

“Many countries apply ‘zero tolerances’ against sexual offenders,” he said. “We should adopt harsher punishments against sexual offenders, especially those who victimize minors.”

BY SPECIAL REPORTING TEAM [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]
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