SEOUL — Teachers across South Korea took to the streets on Saturday, demanding a revision to the Child Welfare Act. The rally, which gathered around 120,000 teachers near the National Assembly, sought changes to legal provisions that currently make them accountable for child abuse for disciplinary actions in schools.
According to a new release by Yonhap News Agency, participants in the rally argue that the act, specifically Article 17, has become an impediment to effective education. This article bans "emotional abuse against a child that may harm his or her mental health and development," a provision teachers say is too vague and leaves room for unwarranted accusations against them. "Article 17 of the act that bans emotional abuse is becoming a sharp blade of lawsuit and accusation against teachers seeking to engage in educational activities," a representative teacher said in a statement.
The rally comes against a backdrop of increasing distress among educators, who are demanding better treatment and more clearly defined authority in classrooms. The calls for reform have been magnified in the wake of a series of suicides by teachers who suffered due to disorderly students and complaints from parents. Teachers argue that the act's vague wording opens the door for groundless accusations and lawsuits, often initiated by parents with malicious intent. "Teachers' instructions should no longer be interpreted as emotional abuse," they added in their collective statement.
Meanwhile, data released earlier this month showed a concerning trend related to teacher suicides. Over the past decade, 144 teachers took their own lives. Elementary school teachers constituted a significant portion, making up 54.2 percent of the total, while middle and high school teachers accounted for 27 and 39, respectively. The age group most affected were teachers in their 20s and 30s, who accounted for 41.7 percent of the total number.