“Getting Students to Clean a Staffroom is a Violation of Their Right to Act on Their Own”
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea(Chairperson Young-ae Choi) has made the decision that getting students to clean a staffroom or other spaces used by school staff constitutes a violation of their right to act on their own volition without external interference, a right guaranteed by the Constitution, and recommended the principal of Middle School A to stop the practice of requiring students to clean areas mainly used by school staff.
The complainant, a student at Middle School A, stated in the complaint that all students are required to perform one task regularly and one of the tasks required to do by school is cleaning a staffroom. The complainant claimed that the practice of having students clean up the staffroom is a violation of students’ rights.
The school responded that students are asked to participate in the cleanup activities to create a favorable learning environment and community culture and to cultivate their moral characters.
The Children’s Rights Committee, established within the Commission, acknowledges the necessity of teaching students to clean up their areas given that gaining knowledge is not the sole purpose of education and cleaning is an essential habit to adopt into their daily lives. Nevertheless, the Committee reasoned that it would be sufficient to ask students to clean their classrooms or tidy up their art or music classroom or science lab after use.
With regard to the statement from the respondent school that a staffroom cleanup was part of character education, the Commission noted that character education should not compel students to do certain tasks or blindly follow others and that schools should have made efforts to better fulfill the objectives of education by encouraging voluntary participation of students or counting time spent on staffroom cleaning as mandatory community service hours.
In addition, the Commission took note of the fact some schools, including the complainant’s school, are routinely asking students to clean the staffroom. This is attributable to the willingness of schools to restrict students’ rights for the sake of teaching them ethical values.
The Commission also issued a recommendation to the school superintendent who oversees the operation of the respondent school that action be taken to stop the practice of getting students to clean the areas primarily used by school staff.