With an aim to expand students' rights at school, the student human rights ordinance prohibits corporal punishment by teachers and discrimination against homosexuals and pregnant students, allows rallies on school grounds, and gives students freedom to choose their own hairstyle and clothing.
If promulgated, Seoul will become the third city in the country to have such an ordinance for students' human rights following Gyeonggi Province and Gwangju Metropolitan City.
The new rule, spearheaded in the capital city by liberal education chief Kwak No-hyun, was submitted to the city council for endorsement in October and was approved by the council in December despite protests from the education ministry, some teachers and conservative groups that have argued easing regulations would make it harder for teachers to control students.
An association of parents' and teachers' groups mounts a protest in downtown Seoul on Jan. 17, 2012 against the student human rights ordinance pushed for by the Seoul education office. (Yonhap file photo)
During the detention and indictment of Kwak on charges of bribing a rival candidate in the 2010 election for his post, however, acting Superintendent Lee Dae-young submitted an official request to the city council earlier this year for reconsideration of the ordinance, saying it could "severely hinder public interest."
The education office may submit such a request within 20 days of the city council's approval if the resolution is deemed to be lacking in legitimacy or hinder public interest.
But Kwak withdrew the request for review upon resuming work after his release from custody last week, paving the way for the ordinance to be promulgated on Thursday and initiated by schools starting in the spring semester which begins in March.
The liberal superintendent also ordered the education officials to come up with measures to protect teachers' rights to prevent possible chaos arising from the new rules, according to sources.
Kwak No-hyun (R), Seoul's education chief, speaks to Her Kwang-tae, chairman of the Seoul Metropolitan Council in Her's office on Jan. 20, 2012. (Yonhap file photo)
The education ministry, which has long opposed the ordinance, vowed to seek diverse legal actions against the city's education office and Kwak, including filing a petition with the Supreme Court to nullify the city's resolution. The potential legal battle between the local and the central governments over a local resolution is unprecedented in the country.
If the petition is accepted, the highest court is expected to make a decision as early as next month, according to officials.