Teacher sex crimes must stop

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Teacher sex crimes must stop

After the JoongAng Ilbo reported that sex criminals are still teaching in schools, the Ministry of Education began preparing measures to reinforce disciplinary guidelines for public servants in education. The ministry said it will revise regulations to severely punish teachers who commit sex crimes against minors - regardless of the nature of the offense - and teachers with serious issues will be fired. The ministry also plans to demand the city and provincial education offices reinforce and strengthen punishments for schools that cover up or downplay offenses.

It is promising that the ministry became aware of the seriousness of the situation and decided to reinforce the punishments. But the measures are not enough to calm parents’ unease and protect young students. Under current regulations, a teacher convicted of a sex crime is fined one million won ($931) or more and is banned from the classroom.

The real problem is that schools tend to handle sex crimes on campus under their own in-house procedures, rather than reporting them to the proper authorities. In these circumstances, parents often remain silent, fearing the possible disadvantages their children might suffer if the situation becomes widely known. Schools can also cover up crimes to protect their own teachers and staff.

Therefore, it is necessary for law enforcement authorities to open a formal investigation whenever a teacher is suspected of committing a sex crime. Sex crime allegations against a teacher must be investigated and tried in a court of law to determine guilt or innocence.

It is needless to say that such a process is far more objective than any other internal investigation or disciplinary action. Taking into account the authority of teachers in their schools and their influence on students, proper judicial procedures are a must.

According to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and the Korean Institute of Criminology, teachers in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and a host of other countries who commit sex crimes against students are fired and face serious legal punishments. They are banned from working in jobs related to children and at locations near schools.

To protect students, such multidimensional measures are needed, and the Education Ministry and all other relevant government offices must work together to make the change.

There can be no bureaucratic obstacle big enough to stand in the way of protecting our children.

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