A very convenient solution, indeedThe Seoul Board of Education is set to announce the results of a special inspection conducted on a public high school in Seoul that was at the center of a sexual assault case. So far, five teachers were found to have sexually assaulted at least eight female teachers and more than 10 female students, sexually harassing 130 students in total. Superintendent Cho Hi-yeon vowed punitive action for the educators, permanently banning them from teaching. At the least, the perpetrators are expected to be dismissed from their positions. The Ministry of Education is also considering a reduction in pension for any teacher fired over sex crime charges.
Strict punishment is inevitable to prevent sexual assault cases. However, in covering the school over 20 days, I believe the punishments and disciplinary action aren’t enough.
First of all, the members of the school’s community, including the perpetrators, had a low sensitivity to sex crimes.
“The teacher said I was pretty and told me to sit on his lap,” one student said, “and I didn’t know whether I should disagree. If he had touched my chest, I would have objected immediately.”
Some of the defendants admitted they touched the victims but did not have a clear understanding of what constitutes sexual assault or harassment.
Enhancing sensitivity toward sexual crimes at schools is necessary. On Aug. 4, the Ministry of Education announced a plan to provide a prevention education session for all teaching staff before the end of the month. But this particular school invited a professional lecturer in March and offered a sexual violence prevention session for all teachers before the cases even surfaced. Currently, all teachers are required to attend at least one hour of sexual violence prevention training under the Basic Law on Gender Equality. But the problem is that proper education isn’t provided.
“Before the lecture, the principal would speak, and then the lecturer would offer a Q&A session to relax the atmosphere,” said Lee Myung-hwa, the director of the Aha Sexuality Education and Counseling Center for Youth. “That only leaves 20 to 30 minutes of actual lecturing time.”
The session also only focused on a few sexual assault cases without elaboration.
To prevent further sexual assault, education authorities must reflect on how they can make preventive education more realistic. Lectures could be tailored for age group and gender and provide discussion sessions. It is also important to assess whether these sessions are effective. Sex crimes happen in schools, and as we’ve seen, they are also often covered up. Educational authorities must offer a solution for how to prevent the reoccurrence of such horrendous crimes.
The author is a national news reporter
for the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 18, Page 33
by NOH JIN-HO