It goes without saying that sexual abuse of children should never be tolerated. It inflicts indelible pain and damage on the victims, with tragic consequences. It is against this backdrop that all civilized countries in the world have been striving to fight sex crimes against children.
Deserving the harshest condemnation are sex crimes committed by teachers against students. They command greater attention because society trusts teachers to protect children.
It is unnerving, therefore, to see a report saying that many teachers punished for sex offenses retain their positions. The report, released by Rep. Joo Ho-young of the Saenuri Party, shows that a total of 242 teachers have been disciplined for sex crimes during the period from January of 2009 to last August.
It is truly scary that 146 of them were allowed to hold on to their jobs. It is still scarier that 35 of them are teaching students at the schools where they committed sex crimes. That is simply inconceivable.
One reason is that punishment of teachers who commit sex crimes is still too light. Rep. Joo’s report showed that only 84 of the 242 teachers had been dismissed. This shows that the law banning those convicted of sex crimes that come with a fine of 1 million won or a heavier criminal penalty from teaching jobs is not having a big enough effect.
A bigger problem is that school authorities and parents tend to hush up sex crimes involving teachers and students. School officials are apt to keep a lid on such cases in order to protect the school’s reputation and out of sympathy for their colleagues. Parents too are inclined to keep silent to protect their children from becoming the subject of talk among teachers and fellow students.
Such responses and attitudes make many sex crimes at schools hush-hush affairs, with law-enforcement authorities denied to act on the offenses. Any disciplinary action taken by school officials could not be as effective as one administered by the outside legal system.
Against this backdrop, schools and education offices in each city and province should be obliged to report any sex crimes involving teachers to law-enforcement authorities such as police and prosecution.
In addition, the relevant laws should be revised to toughen punishment for teachers involved in sex crimes. We strongly support Rep. Joo’s proposal to automatically banish all teachers convicted of sex crimes from teaching jobs or workplaces involving children. The proposal should gain support from the legislature and the judiciary.
One more step could be allowing parents access to sex crime records of teachers of their children. That could help restrict teachers who get lighter discipline than dismissal from moving from one school to another too easily. We know that sex criminals are prone to commit the same offenses again.