Protect children from indecent teachers with strict punishment

Indecent behavior by teachers toward students is totally unacceptable. Society must share a universal understanding that severe punishment is essential to stop children from being harmed.

A new law against indecency by teachers is expected to be enacted during the current Diet session as lawmaker-initiated legislation by the ruling and opposition parties.

Under the current Education Personnel Certification Law, even if a teacher’s license is revoked due to disciplinary dismissal, it can be reacquired after three years.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry initially aimed to permanently bar teachers to stop disqualified teachers from abusing this system, but gave up the idea because it was inconsistent with the Penal Code, which stipulates that a sentence of imprisonment without labor or a more severe punishment will cease to be held against a person 10 years after completing their term.

In contrast, the envisioned law initiated by lawmakers is unique in that it allows prefectural boards of education to decide whether or not to reissue licenses after hearing the opinion of a third-party panel. This would be a big step forward in protecting children.

In the past, there have been cases in which teachers who had committed sexual crimes were hired in other areas and committed crimes again. In order to prevent such incidents, the reissuance of licenses should be strictly examined and done carefully. The voices of the affected children and their parents must be listened to carefully.

More than 1,000 public elementary, junior high and high school teachers were disciplined for obscenity and sexual harassment in the 2015-19 school years. Half of these cases involved students or graduates of the schools where they taught.

There were many cases of teachers asking their students to meet them under the guise of “guidance” or “interviews,” and in some cases they told students to keep such encounters secret.

The psychological trauma of students being betrayed by teachers they trusted is great. It is an urgent task to protect and support the victims.

Some children are too ashamed or afraid to report incidents, while some suffer after they have grown up. Through measures such as conducting surveys and setting up counseling services, an environment must be created in which victims can raise their voices.

In some cases, educational boards or schools did not disclose information and took lenient measures because they thought that the victims would be embarrassed if the problem came to light. In some cases, students complained about the harm, but were accused by other students and parents of “ruining the teachers’ lives.”

All of society needs to be made aware that it is not the students who should be accused, but the teachers who engage in indecent behavior.

Another issue is how to prevent teachers who have lost their licenses from being reemployed in such businesses as cram schools and sports clubs and repeating their indecent behavior.

In Britain, people who apply for jobs that involve working with children have to submit a document to prove that they have not committed a crime in the past. It would be worth considering introducing a similar system in Japan.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 22, 2021.