Mon, Dec 22, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Groups decry students’ ‘confession letters’

DEATH WARRANT:The practice, used by 91% of schools in the five municipalities, forces students to write letters of confession for misdemeanors and has led to suicides

By Wu Po-Hsuan  /  Staff reporter

Education groups yesterday criticized school faculties who make their students write “letters of confession” and “letters of repentance” as a form of punishment, saying that the action is a violation of students’ basic human rights.

The Humanistic Education Foundation likened faculties who adopt such punishments to the Taiwan Garrison Command during the Martial Law era, because faculties often intimidate and interrogate students while making them confess to their mistakes.

The foundation said a student in Hsinchu County, who spent a morning at the students’ affairs office writing three letters of confessions while being watched by a school counselor, committed suicide by jumping off a building.

In an incident which saw a student jump from the third floor, prosecutors discovered a letter of confessions in his schoolbag waiting to be signed by the student’s parents, the foundation said.

“School administrators might say that these suicides are individual incidents, but the truth is 91 percent of schools in the five municipalities — Taipei, New Taipei, Greater Taichung, Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung — punish students in these ways. In many instances, the content of these letters of confessions or repentance directly led to severe punishments under school statutes,” foundation members said.

“It is not only a violation of basic human rights, but, to many students, the last straw that broke the camel’s back,” they added.

The parents of the deceased student from Hsinchu County said their son was “too young and afraid of the consequences he might have had to face.”

However, when they filed a grievance with the Ministry of Education, the ministry said that their son had “too low a tolerance of stress.”

National Senior High School Teacher’s Union member Huang Hui-chen (黃惠貞) lambasted the practice, saying that teachers trained under the current system have no tolerance for students who make mistakes.

National Taiwan Univeristy professor of law Huang Mao-sheng (黃茂生) said school faculties force students to write these letters only to pin down what rules they have broken, but the action is no different from stripping the students naked.

“The action deprives children and teenagers of their privacy, forcing them to expose their inner selves,” he said.

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