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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Freedom in Education Wins

Despite the previous warning of dismissal that Kimiko Nezu had been given, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Board of Education decided not to fire her. On March 31st, the Tokyo Board of Education gave the 57 year-old teacher of home economics a 6-month suspension without pay, the fourth suspension and the ninth disciplinary measure that they have issued her for not standing up for the song Kimigayo during school ceremonies. Kimiko Nezu and her supporters cheered outside the gate of Minamiosawa Gakuen School, saying it was a victorious event that the Board did not, or could not fire her with the rising public opinion and media attention.

Here is the link to the TBS news on April 1 compiled by members of Committee to Stop Firing of Nezu and Kawarai with English subtitles.

Here is a Japan Times article that covered the event on March 31st.

For those who are not familiar with the Kimigayo/Hinomaru controversy at Japanese schools, see this Japan Times article.

For updates in English, check the blog site of the Committee.

I cannot be prouder of the tireless efforts of Ms. Nezu, Ms. Kawarai and their supporters. I joined their actions at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings on March 24, the day of the graduation ceremony, only for half a day. They stand in rain handing out flyers, making speeches, going up to the reception of the Board knowing that they will only be blocked, and they argue for hours with the security guards and the Board employees. I could not believe that they did this every day, every single day. I think this persistance and resilience of these teachers and their supporters is what really moved the Board to reverse its direction of punishment.

Still, the Tokyo Board issued punitive measures to 20 teachers this time, including two to whom they denied re-hiring after retirement. We need to continue to encourage the Board and Tokyo Government to make right decisions, ones that comply with our Constitution that guarantees freedom of thought and conscience.

Satoko Norimatsu

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