This week's apparent suicide of a young elementary school teacher in Seoul has been roiling the local educational community, as the concerned school on Thursday denied numerous allegations surrounding her death.
The teacher, known only as a 23-year-old woman in charge of first graders at Seoul Seoi Elementary School in southern Seoul, apparently took her own life in a classroom Tuesday morning. With no witnesses or suicide note known, police have immediately launched an investigation to find the exact cause of her death.
The mysterious death of the teacher, who was hired only about five months ago, has given rise to a lot of speculation in educational circles and online communities, as some say she had suffered from parents' complaints about school violence.
But the school issued a statement Thursday saying the teacher was not in charge of school violence and denying all other speculation, including one that a member of a powerful politician's family was in her class.
"There was no report of school violence in her class this year, and the teacher did not visit the (Seoul Metropolitan) Office of Education regarding school violence," the statement said, adding she was assigned to the first grade class according to her own wish.
"The late teacher always smiled, and worked hard with a strong sense of responsibility and affection for her students," it said, expressing hope that her reputation would not be tarnished by unreasonable speculation, articles and comments.
On Thursday morning, students walked past about 300 funeral wreaths placed in front of the school's main entrance. The funeral wreaths, mostly sent by fellow teachers and parents, carry messages of condolences and sorrow as well as calls for a thorough fact-finding.
Dozens of Post-it notes containing condolence messages from students and others were also attached to the school entrance.
The Korean Federation of Teachers' Associations issued a statement on the day, offering condolences over the teacher's death and calling for a thorough police investigation into the cause of her death.
Education Minister Lee Ju-ho and Cho Hee-yeon, superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, expressed condolences to the late teacher and her bereaved family.
"There is speculation that the teacher's death may have been caused by a serious infringement of teachers' rights. If true, that is a significant challenge to our educational system," Lee said at a meeting with regional educational chiefs in Suwon, south of Seoul.
The minister then stressed that guaranteeing teachers' rights and their educational activities is the first step in public education and a collapse of teachers' rights will lead to a collapse of public education.
Cho said he feels miserable and deeply responsible as Seoul's education chief, after an elementary school teacher took her own life and another elementary school teacher was recently assaulted by one of her students in the classroom. He was referring to a separate recent incident, in which a female elementary school teacher in Seoul was seriously battered by a sixth-grade student.
Source: Yonhap News Agency