The Korea Herald


Investigators, not teachers, to handle school violence from next year

No. of police officers deployed to schools set to increase

By Lee Jung-joo

Published : Dec. 7, 2023 - 16:28

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Education Minister Lee Ju-ho (right) and Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min announces measures to lighten the burden on teachers to investigate school violence at the Government Complex Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap) Education Minister Lee Ju-ho (right) and Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min announces measures to lighten the burden on teachers to investigate school violence at the Government Complex Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

Cases regarding school violence will now be in the purview of specialized investigators employed by education offices around South Korea, along with an increase in the number of police officers deployed at schools, starting from March 2024.

In a joint press conference Thursday, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Interior and Safety and the Korean National Police Agency said the measures were devised to lessen the burden on teachers handling rising school violence cases among students.

“Teachers suffered from complaints, threats and even lawsuits when handling school violence cases,” said Education Minister Lee Ju-ho at the press conference. “School violence is a major issue that needs to be addressed urgently in our society and the field of education. However, trying to cover this problem solely through the dedication of teachers individually may deepen other problems in schools.”

Previously, teachers were responsible for handling and investigating fights and bullying cases that arose between students. In the process, some teachers were exposed to complaints and harassment from the parents involved, making it difficult for them to focus on teaching and student guidance.

Starting next year, roughly 15 school violence investigators will be stationed in 177 education support centers under local education offices, for a total of 2,700 investigators nationwide. This number was determined based on school violence cases reported last year, totaling 62,052.

The investigators will consist of retired police officers and teachers with experience in handling school violence cases and guiding students. When school violence cases are being examined, investigators will interview those involved -- including faculty -- while also looking into cyberbullying cases and off-campus violence, which is difficult for teachers to track, according to the Education Ministry.

The Ministry of Education further stated that having an investigator to look into school violence cases will allow teachers to focus on their roles as educators and to provide emergency support for the victims, such as counseling and improving relationships between students.

The Ministry of Interior and Safety additionally announced that they plan to deploy 105 school-based police officers to schools to strengthen security. Currently, South Korea has 1,022 school-based police officers who are responsible for protecting school violence victims and collecting information about cases that arise.

The Interior Ministry added that the officers' responsibilities will further expand to include cooperation with the school violence investigators and serving on school violence review committees.

“Since a teacher passed at Seo 2 Elementary School, teachers have been demanding practical measures to improve their working conditions,” said Interior Minister Lee Sang-min. “The ministry has come together with the Ministry of Education to strengthen the role and increase the number of SPOs to reflect the voices of those working in the education field and to prevent school violence to create a safer school environment for all.”

At school violence review committees in local education support centers, the Ministry of Education will also increase the number of legal experts and form a special team consisting of a school violence investigator, a school-based police officer and a lawyer to review the school violence cases.

Through the newly announced measures, the education minister stated the ultimate goal is to change the culture within schools to eliminate school violence.

“We want to fundamentally create a culture where students, parents and teachers work together to build a better school environment and also create a culture where everyone respects each other,” said Lee.

“The Ministry of Interior and Safety, the Ministry of Education and the National Police Agency will strive to ensure that children will be able to study in a safe environment, free from school violence, and that the rights of the teachers will be fully protected,” added the interior minister.