SEOUL (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): South Korea has passed a set of laws that will better protect teachers against harassment, media reports said.
It follows weeks of protests that were sparked by the death in July of a 23-year-old primary school teacher, who had been dealing with complaints from teachers.
The protesting teachers expressed frustration over mistreatment by parents and students. This includes being accused of child abuse for disciplining students.
The new laws passed on Thursday (Sept 21) collectively come under the so-called Teacher Rights Restoration Bill.
Under one of the laws, if a teacher is accused of child abuse, he or she would not be immediately suspended as is the current practice.
Instead, further investigation and evidence would be required.
This particular Bill received unanimous support from South Korea’s National Assembly, according to Korea JoongAng Daily.
Meanwhile, disciplinary action taken against students for valid reasons will no longer be considered child abuse.
School principals would also be prohibited from downplaying or covering up actions that may have breached teachers’ rights or their work.
Other provisions include providing financial support for teachers fighting lawsuits.
The Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union described the changes as a step in the right direction.
However some teachers feel the new laws do not go far enough.
For example, some of them want parents who make false claims of child abuse to be penalised.
South Korean teachers say a culture of complaints from parents left them unable to teach or discipline their students.
There have been at least 15 cases of teacher suicides in 2023. These have not been directly linked to malicious complaints.
The deaths have raised concerns about the mental health of South Korean teachers.
On Sept 15, the government announced a new 10 billion won (S$10 million) plan to tackle the issue.
It includes free counselling and mental health treatments for South Korean teachers.