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Student rights ordinance approved by Seoul Metropolitan Council

The Seoul Metropolitan Council has approved a controversial ordinance on students’ human rights, which includes clauses prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals and granting rights to assembly. The ordinance will go into effect from the spring semester at all schools in the capital city.

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

20th December 2011 21:41

Alessia Valenza | ILGA Asia

Liberal civic organizations hailed the controversial decision, while conservative groups condemned it. The education ministry said Tuesday that the ordinance should be reviewed again, citing parents’ concerns and opposition to it.

Since liberal-minded Kwak No-hyun, who has been arrested for making suspicious payments to a rival candidate during last year’s poll, was elected as superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, the office was pushing to draw up a set of rules designed to protect students’ basic human rights. The new rules banned corporal punishment and lifted restrictions on students’ hairstyles and clothing. It forwarded the ordinance to the council for approval shortly after Kwak was arrested in September.

Under the approved rules, which will go into effect in January, elementary and secondary school students in the capital city have the right not to be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. Female students also cannot be discriminated against if they become pregnant and have children.

It also states that school authorities can restrict the time, place and method of student rallies on school grounds only when it is necessary to protect students’ rights to learning and safety.

Students will be allowed to choose their own hairstyles but will have to follow schools’ dress codes.

Parents’ groups and conservative civic organizations criticized the passage of the ordinance, saying they will campaign against those who voted for strengthening student rights.

The Korean Federation of Teachers Association, the Association of Mothers Concerned about Education and other groups pledge to fight until it is abolished.

The groups also said the removal of corporal punishment and other steps to protect students’ rights will leave teachers with no effective methods to keep unruly pupils under control in classrooms.

“We will campaign against those who endorsed the controversial ordinance in the next elections. We will also file a petition with the Constitutional Court to have it invalidated,’’ they said.