The board of education in Machida, Tokyo, has reversed a decision by the city to exclude students at a pro-North Korean school from receiving personal safety alarms because of Tokyo’s tense political relationship with Pyongyang.
On Monday, the first day of the new school year, the board sent alarms to the Nishi-Tokyo Korean Second Elementary and Junior High School after waves of protest messages were sent to the board and Machida City Hall.
The board has not offered any apology or explanation for its action despite criticism that its initial refusal to provide the alarms could constitute a human rights violation.
Since 2004, it has provided safety alarms to first-graders at municipal schools. Children use the alarm in threatening situations, setting off a loud noise that can attract help. The same alarms were given to students of private and ethnic Korean schools on request.
The decision not to give the alarms was made by the city’s general affairs division in a discussion March 27. “The tense relationship with North Korea” and its apparent move to launch a ballistic missile were cited as reasons, according to the division.
The decision was then communicated to the pro-North Korean school without notifying board members, according to the division.
After it was made public that students at the school were excluded, the school board received more then 1,300 protest phone calls and email messages, with some saying that politics has nothing to do with the safety of children or suggesting the move is tantamount to a human rights violation.
The board called an emergency meeting Monday morning and reversed the decision after hearing views from its members, including those who have been consulted. The board told the school of the change in the policy shortly after noon.
School Principal Li Jong Ae said he had told students at an entrance ceremony earlier in the day that they would not be getting the alarms from the board, and that some pupils looked disappointed.
After the decision had been made not to give the alarms, some expressed support for it on the Internet, while the school received safety alarms from various parts of the country.