Sexual Crimes Against Children: Strictly Check Candidates’ Suitability to Work as Education Professionals

Discussions will begin on a new system that would prevent persons who have committed indecent crimes from jobs involving contact with children. It is necessary to make it an effective system to protect children from sex crimes.

The government has submitted a bill to the Diet that would restrict people with a history of sexual offenses from working in the field of education. The bill would require schools and daycare centers to inquire about sexual offense records with the central government when hiring teachers and daycare workers. If a criminal record is confirmed, the school or daycare center would be required not to place the employee in a workplace where there is contact with children.

The government has said that it will develop a new system for checking the records for that purpose. Private businesses such as cram schools and sports clubs will also be able to use the system to check the sexual offense records of their employees.

Sex crimes against children by teachers, childcare workers and other education professionals continue to occur. Recently there was a case of voyeurism by teachers at a major cram school. There have been cases of repeated crimes committed by the same offenders, and it is necessary to keep people with a record of sexual offenses away from children to stop the harm.

In Britain, there is a system known as DBS (disclosure and barring service) that checks for a history of sexual offenses when hiring teachers. The new system to be discussed in the Diet is being called the Japanese version of the DBS.

In Japan, there had initially been an issue regarding such a system’s relation to the freedom to choose one’s occupation, which is guaranteed by the Constitution. In Britain, however, a wider range of occupations are covered by the system than in Japan. It is only natural that the safety of children is considered a top priority.

The crimes covered by the new system are cases of non-consensual obscenity and cases in which a person is convicted of violating ordinances such as those against groping and voyeurism. Criminal background checks will apply to new hires as well as incumbent teachers and others.

The introduction of the new system of not allowing a person who has committed a crime to work in the field of education again is expected to have the effect of deterring first-time offenders, in addition to preventing repeat offenses.

One challenge in drafting the bill was determining the time period that an inquiry into a sexual offense history should cover. The Penal Code stipulates that a sentence of imprisonment or greater punishment will cease to have effect 10 years after its completion. For this reason, 10 years was originally eyed as the standard.

However, in many cases, sex crimes are recommitted by the same offender even more than 10 years later. The government has now extended the period to 20 years to ensure that such repeat offenses will be prevented. This is a pragmatic decision based on the reality of the situation.

The bill would require employers to transfer employees to a different position, among other measures, if there are complaints of suspicious behavior from children or parents and problems are actually found, even if they have no record of previous sexual offenses.

The majority of teachers and childcare workers have never been involved in sexual crimes and are sincerely committed to children. It is necessary to avoid a situation in which these teachers and others are barred from work due to ambiguous implementation of the system. The government needs to provide clear criteria to avoid confusion in workplaces.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 23, 2024)