A former teacher at Zhongshan Junior High School in Taipei, Hsiao Hsiao-ling (蕭曉玲), yesterday protested a decision by the Supreme Administrative Court not to hear her appeal against her dismissal by the school from a teaching position, which she believed to be a political decision.
Formerly a music teacher at Zhongshan Junior High School, a public school in Taipei, Hsiao openly opposed Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin’s (郝龍斌) single-version textbook policy and filed a lawsuit against Hau in November 2007.
Hsiao sued Hau because she believed the policy violated the Ministry of Education’s textbook policy guideline of “one curriculum, different textbooks,” which was created to ensure diversity in education.
Following Hsiao’s open opposition to Hau’s policy proposal, the school held a teachers’ evaluation meeting and decided to fire her because she had “defects in behavior” that might “harm the image of teachers.”
Hsiao was removed from her teaching position in January 2008.
“This is a very serious accusation to a teacher, because a teacher who is fired on such grounds is forever deprived of his or her qualification as a teacher,” Hsiao told a press conference in Taipei yesterday. “Yet, the evidence that the school provided was very weak.”
For instance, the school submitted to the court a picture of a clock showing the time to be 3:10pm and used it as evidence that Hsiao was 10 minutes late to a class. The school claimed that she was constantly late for class.
Hsiao appealed her case to the city’s Department of Education and then to the Taipei High Administrative Court and the Supreme Administrative Court.
The Department of Education supported the school’s decision and the Taipei High Administrative Court also ruled in favor of the school, saying it respected the expertise of those taking part in the teachers’ evaluation meeting. The Supreme Administrative Court refused to hear the case last month, saying judges do not have any educational expertise.
Via a written statement, Humanistic Education Foundation executive director Joanna Feng (馮喬蘭) said the school’s decision to fire Hsiao was political and that “the judiciary is apparently lending a helping hand to political repression.”
“If the court simply respects -decisions made by schools — or other government institutions — what do we need courts for?” Feng asked.
She said it was ironic that many schools try to give teachers who have sexually assaulted students “another chance, but are imposing such a harsh punishment on a teacher based on some very weak evidence.”
Having been unemployed for four years since being fired by the school because she has lost her qualification to teach, Hsiao said she would continue to fight and campaign for changes in the education system.
“I’m fighting not only for justice, I’m also fighting to defend my honor, because the school accused me of something I didn’t do,” Hsiao said. “I’m not just fighting for myself, I’m fighting for all teachers, because if we don’t make changes within the education system, other teachers may also be sacrificed and suffer defamation.”