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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

20 teachers punished over 'Kimigayo' row

Staff writer

Twenty public school teachers were punished for disobeying an order to stand and face the flag during the singing of the national anthem in graduation ceremonies in March, the Tokyo board of education said Monday.

The punishments ranged from a 10 percent salary cut for between one and six months to six-month suspensions from work and nonrenewal of contracts for temporary or part-time workers.

The board decided on the penalties during a meeting Friday.

The board has been punishing teachers since ordering public school principals in October 2003 to instruct teachers and students to stand and sing "Kimigayo" at graduation and entrance ceremonies.

About 400 teachers have been punished so far.

There was speculation this year that Kimiko Nezu, a home economics teacher at Minamiosawa Gakuen School for Children With Special Needs, might be dismissed for having defied the order since October 2003.

Instead, she was suspended Monday for six months.

"Pushing just one view (onto people) must not happen in a democratic society," Nezu said.

Forcing children to sing the anthem without telling them about its history or the history of the Hinomaru flag is not education, she added.

Nezu had been punished several times over the years for remaining seated during the anthem. The penalty has become more severe each time.

"I assumed I would be dismissed this year," said Nezu, who was punished not only for disobeying the order but also for wearing a sweater at her school emblazoned with the phrase "Objection Hinomaru, Kimigayo."

She speculated that the significant public support she has received stopped the board from dismissing her this year.

Nezu, other defiant teachers and their supporters have actively protested the order over the past two months.

"I felt that when many people take some action together, things can be changed," Nezu said during a news conference.

"It's been proved today that no matter how many times you remain seated, you won't be fired," she said.

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The Japan Times

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