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Teachers face increasing sexual harassment

Proportion of sexual misdemeanors infringing teachers’ rights exceed 10% for 1st time in 2020

Oct. 19, 2021 - 14:07 By Kan Hyeong-woo
Rep. Kwon In-sook of the ruling Democratic Party (Rep. Kwon In-sook’s office)
More than 150 cases of sexual harassment and violence against teachers were reported in the first half, as the number of cases rebounded and continued an upward trend that had existed before the pandemic, data showed Tuesday.

Of the 1,215 cases concerning infringement of teachers’ rights reported from the first six months of 2021, 118 fell under the category of actions that cause sexual humiliation or disgust while 33 were sexual crimes against teachers, according to the data submitted by the Ministry of Education to Rep. Kwon In-sook of the ruling Democratic Party.

The number teachers’ rights infringement cases in 2020 fell to 1,179, from 2,662 2019, as the number of in-person classes was drastically reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the proportion of complaints relating to sex crimes and harassment continued to rise, even as the frequency of overall complaints rebounded this year.

According to the data, such acts accounted for 12.4 percent of all infringement of teachers’ rights in the first half of 2021, higher than last year’s 11.8 percent when the figure rose above 10 percent for the first time.

For the reasons behind the increasing proportion of sexual harassment against teachers, the lawmaker’s office mentioned the increasing use of online classes for remote learning, and gave the example of a student who used a different name for the online class and sexually harassed the teacher.

Of the sexual harassment or violence cases between Jan. 2020 and June. 2021, 94.5 percent were against female teachers.

Rep. Kwon pointed out that the severity from sexual harassment or violence is much more serious as victims usually suffer longer lasting psychological damage than with other infringement cases of teachers’ rights, such as insults or defamation.

The number of teachers seeking help also increased with the rising proportion of teachers rights infringement cases resulting in more traumatic experiences, the lawmaker’s office said.

According to the data from the Teacher Healing Support Centers across the country, there were 8,466 psychological counseling sessions done last year, almost on par with 8,728 sessions carried out in 2019. The number of teachers looking for legal support went up by more than 15 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.

“Regardless of online or offline, sexual harassment against female teachers is becoming more serious. Since it is difficult to solve this problem with only faculty members, it is necessary to transfer the sexual complaint council to the (higher) education office, as they do with school violence, in order to deal with the problem safely and quickly,” Rep. Kwon said.

“Above all, the education authorities need a firm will to resolve sexual harassment.”