New law in South Korea aims to protect teachers from bullying parents

South Korea has recently passed a new law aimed at better protecting schoolteachers from harassment by parents. The teachers have been protesting for nine weeks, demanding more rights in the classroom due to frequent harassment by parents who maliciously report them for child abuse. The new legislation, called the Teacher Rights Restoration Bill, requires further investigation and evidence before teachers can be immediately suspended following a report of child abuse. This marks a significant step forward in the protection of teachers’ rights and provides financial support for teachers fighting lawsuits. Additionally, head teachers will have more responsibility to protect their staff.

The protests were sparked by the tragic suicide of a 23-year-old primary school teacher who had been overwhelmed by complaints from parents. Demonstrating against the culture of malicious complaints, the teachers claimed they were unable to effectively teach or discipline their students. The Korean Federation of Teachers’ Unions has applauded the passing of the new law, expressing deep gratitude to the teachers who fought for better conditions.

While the government and local authorities had introduced some measures to protect teachers, the Teacher Rights Restoration Bill is the first legally binding legislation. Recent government guidelines allowed teachers to remove disruptive students from the classroom and restrain them if necessary. Furthermore, the Seoul Office of Education plans to record all calls made to teachers by parents and implement a chatbot to handle initial parent complaints.

However, some teachers argue that the new laws do not go far enough. The chairperson of the Korean Federation of Teachers’ Unions, Kim Yong-seo, called for a revision of the Child Welfare Act, as disciplining pupils should not be equated to child abuse. Teachers also demand penalties for parents who make false accusations of child abuse.

The hyper-competitive nature of South Korean society is seen as contributing to the culture of harassment by parents. Academic achievement is highly prized, leading to intense competition among students to secure top grades and gain admission to prestigious universities. This relentless pursuit of success sometimes results in parents subjecting teachers to undue pressure and malicious accusations.

The passing of the Teacher Rights Restoration Bill to protect teachers from bullying parents is a significant achievement for South Korea’s education system. It sets an important precedent for other countries to prioritize the well-being and rights of teachers, enabling them to create safe and effective learning environments. However, there is still room for improvement in the legislation to ensure a comprehensive framework for protecting teachers and preventing unfounded reports of child abuse.