Thursday, December 22, 2011

Floors 4 and 14

[Update: Another student at the same school committed suicide just as this case was being investigated.]

One of last night and today's news topics has gained a great deal of attention in part, I imagine, to the photos below (taken from a cctv camera video which can be seen here).

Apparently she hit the buttons for floor 4 and floor 14, staying in the elevator at the fourth floor and proceeding to the fourteenth. As you might guess, she didn't use the elevator to get down. This story came to light because someone posted a few days ago on a bulletin board about his younger cousin, a 17 year old high school student in Daejeon, who was found dead on December 3 on the roof of the apartment entrance, her shoes and bag left on the 14th floor. The cousin wrote that she couldn't bear being ostracized by her peers, and charges that her teacher who showed no interest in her plight is responsible, something that the school has denied to inquiring newspapers, and will likely do so as police investigate (as described here and here).

Teachers in Korea - homeroom teachers especially - are expected in their own way to be counselors as well, and the attention, or lack thereof, given by teachers to students like the girl in this case would likely have more impact here than in Canada.

I got to watch one of my students go through becoming a 'wangtta' earlier this year. I knew her homeroom teachers from this year and last year, and while they could point to the problem - a classmate of hers who was directing the rest of the class to ignore her - there wasn't much they could do other than talk with her (a lot). While things eventually improved, the experience changed her a great deal from the way she was a year earlier (though I imagine puberty contributed to that).

The same things happen back home - the day the girl in Daejeon died, an anti-bullying rally was held in Montreal after the suicide of a 15 year old girl due to bullying, and the recent suicide of a boy who was targeted as an openly gay student in Ottawa led the Ontario government to introduce new anti-bullying legislation. Though solutions have been offered, it's one thing to try to stop physical bullying, but how does one stop ostracism? It's not like you can force people to associate with someone, which makes the Korean brand of this particularly difficult to deal with.

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