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Vocational High Schools' Refusal to Offer Special Classes Constitutes Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities
Date : 2007.05.30 00:00:00 Hits : 1437

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) recommended to Seoul-based Shinjin Science Technology Academy and Eunpyong Technical High School to begin offering special classes for students with disabilities. The NHRCK also recommended to Seoul" s education superintendent that comprehensive supervision and guidance regarding the necessity of integrated and special classes be provided.

In March 2006, the Association for the Educational Rights of the Disabled submitted a complaint to the NHRCK, stating that " Parents of students with disabilities residing in Eunpyeong-gu and Seodaemun-gu, Seoul requested Shinjin Science Technology Academy, Eunpyong Technical High School, and the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education to set up special classes for their children in the vocational schools near their residences. However, their request was flatly rejected."

There are 20 students with disabilities involved in the complaint (16 with feeble mindedness, 3 with developmental disability, and 1 with Down" s Syndrome). Those students belong to special classes at B Middle School (11) and G Middle School (2) in Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul and H Middle School (7) in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul. All of them live in Eunpyeong-gu (14) and Seodaemun-gu (6).

Their parents requested establishment of special classes at Shinjin Science Technology Academy and Eunpyong Technical High School, which are close to their residences and easily accessible, because their children need to continue receiving integrated education in special classes when they enter high school and it is difficult for them to travel long distances to attend school.

Shinjin Science Technology Academy argued that it would be impossible for the school to install convenience facilities for the students with disabilities because its buildings are about 40 years old and there is lack of necessary space including classrooms. In addition, contended the school, the machinery used for actual training includes heavy equipment, high-speed computer devices, heavy surveying instruments, and machines comprising complex computer circuit programs, which are too complicated and dangerous for students with disabilities to handle.

Eunpyong Technical High School stated that its buildings were 33 years old and contended that it would be impossible to construct a building on another site or relocate the existing building because of the development of Eunpyeong New Town. The school also stated that inadequate facilities, teaching aids, classroom space, and budget funds would make offering special classes difficult.

However, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, the supervisory authority, stated that it provides required human resources for handicapped students including teachers as well as special budget funds to schools at each level that request permission to offer special classes. In fact, such schools are accorded priority in the provision of resources. It also said that it had been covering all school education expenses of students with disabilities including entrance fees, tuitions, and the costs of textbooks, lunches, training, and extracurricular activities.

Based on its investigation findings, the NHRCK determined that Shinjin Science Technology Academy could remove a sill in the corridor of the first floor and prevent skidding on the floor as part of an effort to promote convenience of students with disabilities. The decision by Eunpyong Technical High School on whether to construct a new building or relocate the existing building during development of Eunpyeong New Town had not yet been concretely determined. Besides, such decision should not be made short-sightedly. Thus, the NHRCK determined that the reasons given by both schools for refusing to offer special classes were not rational.

With respect to the argument by one of the schools that the machines used for training purposes are too hard to handle, dangerous, and expensive for students with disabilities to use, the NHRCK determined that the school had merely applied the same standards to students with disabilities as to ordinary students and that said argument was grounded in prejudice against people with disabilities; i.e. the school did not want to make any effort to offer the special accomodations or individual counseling and guidance necessary for students with disabilities to undergo training on computers, etc.

Article 31 of the Constitution provides that all nationals of the Republic of Korea are equally entitled to receive education according to their individual ability. Article 18 of the Welfare of Disabled Persons Act stipulates that all educational institutions should take every necessary action including establishment of facilities in order to provide students with disabilities reasonable accommodations according to the type and degree of their disabilities. In addition, Article 4 of the Framework Act on Education provides that no nationals of the Republic of Korea shall be subject to discrimination in education on grounds of their physical conditions, and Article 15 of the Act on the Promotion of Education for the Handicapped stipulates that the heads of ordinary schools shall comply with a request from persons with disabilities or their guardians to offer integrated education unless special circumstances exist.

The NHRCK acknowledged the refusals by Shinjin Science Technology Academy and Eunpyong Technical High School to offer special classes as acts of discrimination against persons with disabilities in education. Subsequently, the NHRCK recommended that those schools establish special classes and that the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education conduct seamless guidance and supervision concerning the need for integrated education and special classes.

Only three schools in Seoul (Gyeonggi Mechanical Technical High School in Nowon-gu, Seoul Management High School in Yangcheon-gu, and Songpa Technical High School in Songpa-gu) have special classes for students with disabilities. All these schools are located far from the residences of the students with disabilities involved in this case.

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