“After 20 years, I have finally received justice” former Kuokuang Junior High School teacher Hsu Shu-mei (徐淑美) said on Sunday after the private school agreed to recognize her years of teaching at the institution at the end of last year.
Kuokuang Junior High School was originally set up by CPC Corp and was reassigned as the Junior High division of National Sun Yat-sen University in 2005, placing it under the direct administrative jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education.
On May 30, 1992, Hsu and a student held a press conference to denounce an incident of violence and sexual harassment at the school. On Aug. 1 of the same year, the school refused to extend her teaching contract and declined to offer an explanation.
Having taught at Kuokuang for 11 years, Hsu said it was hard to believe that she had been dismissed so casually and she decided to fight for her rights. Supported by her parents, she sat in front of the school in a silent protest from 1992 to 1996.
“At first I entertained thoughts of teaching at Kuokuang again, but the more I clashed with them the more obvious it became that I would not be going back,” Hsu said.
After the promulgation of the Teacher’s Act (教師法) in 1995, Hsu followed the guidelines set down in the “Temporary Provisions for the Teachers’ Complaints Review Committee” and submitted her complaint to the committee.
However, the conservative nature of the education sector at the time, meant that Hsu’s complaint was not accepted until she sought to change the make-up of the committee, her efforts resulting in the first appointment of a committee member who was not a dean.
The committee finally decided that Kuokuang Junior High “should” re-employ Hsu.
However, both the school and then-Kaohsiung City’s Department of Education said that the “should” in the decision conveyed a suggestion rather than an order and therefore refused to comply.
Refusing to give up, Hsu pursued alternative options and instead filed civil and administrative lawsuits against the school. In 1996, the bureau instructed Yingming Junior High to employ Hsu as a substitute teacher. She later became a full-time member of staff and has remained at Yingming Junior High ever since.
Hsu’s case has taken so long that Kaohsiung has had five different mayors, starting with former Kaohsiung mayor Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) in 1994, all the way to current Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊). Her case was only resolved when Democratic Progressive Party legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) proposed an amendment to the Act Governing the Retirement of School Faculty (學校教職員退休條例).
That proposal stated that after a teacher successfully appealed [to the committee] there should be clear documentation recognizing his or her years of service.
In addition to the amendment, Kuan also appealed to the Ministry of Justice to provide an independent case law explanation asserting that Hsu’s appeal had been “successful,” thereby forcing the school and the Kaohsiung department of education to make concessions.
The Ministry of Education claimed that its Central Region Office was already processing an official recognition of Hsu’s years of service at Kuokuang Junior High School.
The department was happy that Hsu’s appeal succeeded and that the ministry now had a legal basis on which to protect the rights of [private school] teachers, -department committee member Tai Shu-fen (戴淑芬) said.