Survey: 186 teachers punished for sexual misconduct

The Yomiuri Shimbun

At least 186 teachers at public elementary, junior high and high schools, and special-needs schools were dismissed or disciplined in the 2020 school year for sexual misconduct against students and others, a nationwide Yomiuri Shimbun survey has found.

The figure was down about 30% from the 273 found in a similar survey conducted by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry in fiscal 2019. However, the recent findings have shed new light on how entrenched the problem is, as some teachers were found to have committed sexually indecent acts during nationwide school closures implemented due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In April, The Yomiuri Shimbun conducted the survey to determine the number of teachers punished in fiscal 2020 for sexual misconduct and other indecent acts, targeting 67 boards of education in 47 prefectures and 20 ordinance-designated cities.

The Sagamihara city government did not respond, citing “consideration for the victims.”

Of the 186 teachers who were punished in the 2020 school year, a total of 109 were dismissed on disciplinary grounds. More than 100 of the 186 teachers were punished for acts against children aged under 18, including their students.

The number of punished teachers dropped compared to the ministry survey in the 2019 school year, apparently because schools temporarily closed across the nation last school year. However, some teachers continued to engage in sexual misconduct against their students.

In one case, a teacher traveled a long distance to commit indecent acts against a student during school closures. Another teacher used social media to entice a student and sexually assaulted her. These teachers were dismissed for their acts.

Notably, the survey found that some victims reported sexual misconduct by teachers that occurred in the past, while some teachers had voluntarily reported their indecent acts. The city of Sapporo and the prefectures of Hyogo, Yamaguchi and Chiba each had a teacher punished for lewd acts that occurred from five to 28 years ago.

“I’ve seen news reports about the seriousness of the problem of sexually indecent teachers, and I don’t want there to be any more victims like me,” said a woman who contacted the Hyogo Prefectural Board of Education about the sexual abuse she suffered from a high school teacher 15 years ago.

Traveled 300 kilometers

In February this year, a man who was an elementary school teacher in Aichi Prefecture was sentenced to three years in prison, suspended for five years, at a criminal trial held in Kagawa Prefecture.

This Aichi teacher was tried in Kagawa because, before he was hired as a teacher in Aichi in April last year, he had worked as a support staff member helping children with their studies and daily life at an elementary school in Kagawa.

According to the ruling, the man repeatedly committed indecent acts, such as calling a female student to his apartment, touching her body and taking images of her, when he was employed at the Kagawa school.

Even after becoming a teacher in Aichi, the man kept his apartment in Kagawa in order to meet the girl. Last spring, schools were closed all over the country but until early May the man frequently traveled to his apartment in Kagawa from Aichi, where he repeatedly committed indecent acts against the girl.

Aichi and Kagawa are about 300 kilometers apart. A round trip between the prefectures takes many hours, but school officials did not notice anything suspicious about his behavior because his crimes were committed during school closures amid the pandemic.

In December last year, the man was dismissed on disciplinary grounds by the Aichi Prefectural Board of Education.

Social media exploited

A male teacher at a municipal junior high school in Kitakyushu was dismissed last October for inappropriately communicating with a female student through social media and other means, and repeatedly engaging in sexual misconduct.

From April to mid-May last year, when their school was closed due to the spread of the virus, the teacher kept in touch with the student and met her. During questioning by the city’s board of education, the teacher said he had become intimate with the student while advising her on matters related to school life over the phone and the Line messaging app.

Following this incident, the board of education conducted an emergency survey on about 6,600 teachers and staff members at public schools in the city. As a result, 99 cases were discovered, including those that occurred some time ago, in which the respondents had communicated with students via social media or email without permission from their school principals.

The school principals gave these people verbal reprimands and instructed them to stop unnecessary communication with students.