Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Press Release June 16, 2005
About a year and a half ago, we filed a lawsuit against the Tokyo Board of Education, demanding the invalidation of the directive that had been issued by the board on October 23, 2003. The directive ordered the teachers and other staffs of Tokyo Metropolitan schools to stand facing the "Hinomaru" flag and sing the "Kimigayo" national anthem at school events such as graduation or entrance ceremonies. It implied that the failure to follow the order should result in serious reprimands.

Hinomaru & Kimigayo
In Japan there are various opinions and attitudes towards the flag and the song because of their association with the country's wartime aggression, and even when the symbols were granted legal status by the National Flag and Anthem Law in 1999, the government assured us that they would not be forced upon anyone.

The Board says "One size fits all", but does it really?
The 10.23 directive, not only ignoring those facts, but also prescribed every detail of
the ceremonies. And the board sent several inspectors to all the Metropolitan schools to make certain that the ceremonies were conducted as ordered. As a result, the freedom and creativity of each individual school were lost, and the ceremonies to celebrate students' graduation or entrance were transformed into cold and rigid rituals.

Prevention is better than cure.

Many teachers and school staffs perceived that the true intention of the directive was to produce teachers and students who are reticent and obedient to the authorities, and decided to file a lawsuit to invalidate the directive. Carrying the formal title of The Lawsuit for Confirming the Right to Refrain from Singing or Playing the National Anthem, less formally it is known as The Preventive Lawsuit. What is unusual with this lawsuit is that while most suits are filed after some punishment or disadvantage has been imposed, this one was filed to prevent the anticipated punishment beforehand.

We will fight for the victory of the Preventive Lawsuit and the retraction of the unjust punishments.

Teachers in Various Standings United to Protest
Both those who refuse to stand during the song and those who cannot choose but stand against their will can take part in the suit together. It has now developed into a large-scale civil movement, with 401 plaintiffs, more than 50 lawyers, and more than 1,000 supporters, and it is drawing keen public attention as one of the most important in the history of educational lawsuits in Japan. It claims that the 10.23 directive violates the article 10 of the Fundamental Law of Education, which prohibits the political intervention by the administration into education, as well as articles 19,20,21 of the Constitution of Japan, which guarantee the freedom of thoughts, religion and expression.

Teachers Punished for 40 Seconds of Silence
In spite of various forms of protest against the 10.23 directive including this lawsuit, however, the Tokyo Board of Education reprimanded about 250 teachers last year, and more than 60 this year. Among them the severest is one month's suspention from teaching imposed on a teacher who was reprimanded for the fourth time. This unprecedented punishment is too severe for just sitting quietly for 40 seconds during the song. Furthermore, teachers whose students did not stand during the song or those who explained about the freedom of conscience to the students in classes were summoned or interrogated for 'inadequate student guidance', and were given punishments of 'strict warning' or 'guidance'.

Strife to Guard the Freedom of Education
It is now quite clear that the true target of the coercion is students. We cannot allow the Tokyo Board of Education to ignore the Constitution of Japan and to make Metropolitan schools the place of control and obedience. With the start of the examination of witnesses, our lawsuit has moved into a new and import stage. We are going to prove publicly in court the injustice of the coercion by the Tokyo Board of Education, and the justice of our disobedience, the struggle for the freedom of education. The network to support our struggle has been widely spreading, but the circumstances in this country do not allow us to be optimistic. The Koizumi Administration is aiming at the amendment of the Constitution of Japan and the Fundamental Law of Education, for which the debate at the Diet is scheduled to begin. The Preventive Lawsuit is an important movement to fight against nationalistic control of education and to protect the fundamental human rights and the freedom of education guaranteed by the Constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education.

Your Attention Matters!
We sincerely ask the journalists of Japan and other parts of the world to pay close attention to this lawsuit and to report on this issue internationally.
Thank you very much in advance.

This news release is issued by:The Organization to Advance the Preventive Lawsuit


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