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Lawmaker pushes for stricter cram school law after writer's suicide

2017/05/03 21:52:16

Cram school (CNA file photo)

Taipei, May 3 (CNA) A lawmaker said Wednesday that she will propose a law amendment to tighten regulations governing cram schools in Taiwan, in the wake of the apparent suicide of a promising writer who was allegedly raped by her cram school teacher.

New Power Party Legislator Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸) said she will put forward an amendment to the Supplementary Education Act that will require cram school owners and employees to use their real names when recruiting students and offering lessons.

The penalty for violation of the law would be revocation of the school's license or suspension of the right to recruit students, Hung said.

Several issues that have long plagued the cram school industry have come to the forefront since the recent death of a writer, who apparently committed suicide because of depression that lasted years after she was allegedly raped by a cram school teacher, Hung said.

One such issue is the practice of part-time teachers using a fake name when they are working illegally at cram schools, the lawmaker said. Even when such teachers are caught, they simply assume a new name and move on to a different school, she said.

Parents have often complained that they could not verify the background of the teacher because he or she was using a fake name, Hung said.

The case that she cited in her decision to push for a law amendment was that of a 26-year-old writer who was found dead in an apparent suicide last week.

After the writer's death, her parents issued a public statement through her publisher, alleging that their daughter had been raped years ago by a cram school teacher and the the trauma had led to her death.

The writer's debut novel about young girls being raped by their cram school teacher included a true account of her own experience, the parents said.

The book, which was published this year, was written with the hope that there will never be another sexual assault victim in Taiwan society, the parents said.

The victim's name cannot be disclosed because Taiwan's Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act protects the identity and privacy of sexual assault victims. Government officials have warned that naming her could result in a fine, although her publisher and parents had already disclosed her name in a public statement.

In a legislative session on Wednesday, however, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said no fine would be levied against the writer's parents and stressed that the warnings were meant to protect the victim.

In a press conference the same day, Legislator Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said there are currently 19,000 cram schools in Taiwan, many of which do not disclose the real names of their teachers.

As a result, students and parents cannot verify the academic and criminal background of cram school teachers, Lin said, adding that the Ministry of Education needs to amend the law to address the problem.

However, Chang Hao-jan (張浩然), director of a Taipei supplementary education association, questioned whether revealing the real names of teachers would effectively prevent sexual assault in cram schools.

A more effective way of dealing with the problem would be to impose heavier criminal penalties for sexual assault crimes, he said.

According to Chang, teachers often use "stage names" for good luck and because they are easier to remember, not necessarily to avoid detection.

Meanwhile, addressing the rash of public commentary on the alleged rape and suicide of the writer, a psychiatrist on Wednesday warned the public not to spread unconfirmed information on the Internet.

Lai Te-jen (賴德仁), president of the Taiwanese Society of Psychiatry, said society as a whole tends to react strongly to injustice, but he warned that inflammatory comments could trigger group anxiety and affect the mood of sensitive people and those suffering from depression.

Another doctor, Tri-Service General Hospital Psychiatry Department Director Yeh Chi-pin (葉啟斌), also issued a similar warning, saying that many of his patients have been affected by the widely publicized incident as it has forced them to recall their own painful experience.

Legislator Lin Chun-hsien and Kaohsiung City Councilor Hsiao Yung-ta (蕭永達) have released the name of a teacher who they said raped the writer, and have called for him to turn himself in to police.

(By Su Lung-chi, Chen Wei-ting and Christie Chen)
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