Japan to share data on teachers who commit obscene acts

The education ministry has decided to update the database managing teacher’s licenses from next fiscal year so that disciplinary records of those who have committed obscene acts against children can be shared nationwide, Kyodo News learned Tuesday.

    The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has requested 480 million yen ($4.4 million) as a fiscal 2018 budget outlay to finance the system change, which is intended to prevent dismissed or suspended teachers from landing jobs at different schools by concealing their past records.

    According to law, a teacher’s license becomes invalidated if the holder is discharged as a result of disciplinary measures or physical or mental problems, or given a prison sentence or other heavier penalties.

    Such records are currently reported in official journals and registered in the database. But the system’s complex search method has been identified as a barrier to sharing the information.

    Some teachers have managed to become re-employed after taking advantage of insufficient screening by education boards and concealing the fact that their licenses had been revoked.

    As for suspension from work and other lighter disciplinary actions that are not listed on official journals, it is now left to self-certification, according to the ministry.

    In August, a temporary teacher in Aichi Prefecture in central Japan was dismissed after being arrested for committing obscene acts against a girl at an elementary school where he worked.

    He was previously arrested and suspended from work for involvement in child pornography in Saitama Prefecture near Tokyo but an education board in Aichi hired him after having failed to thoroughly check his past record. He had changed his name on the family registry and the teacher’s license.

    The new database is expected to be ready in several years. If an official at an education board enters the name of an applicant, the updated system will be able to display the applicant’s date of birth, type of license, expiry date and validity of a certificate.

    The ministry will also consider obtaining certificates confirming past records from education boards where applicants were previously based.

    But municipal governments have their own privacy policies and it remains unknown to what extent the database can share reasons for disciplinary discharges and other measures that are not listed on official journals.

    Naoki Ogi, an education commentator and special professor at Hosei University, said, “Teachers who committed obscene acts against children should never return to classrooms. Teachers should be recruited and trained with a strict mind against obscenity.”

    But he also said disciplinary measures could cover less serious matters, and that data should be managed carefully.

    In fiscal 2015 that ended March 2016, the number of teachers who received disciplinary actions at public schools due to obscene acts stood at 224, the highest on record, of which 40 percent involved children at their workplace as victims.

    An official said the ministry will continue working with education boards to share information more widely and identify problem teachers.