Board: 'Kimigayo' rule isn't force

Texts that say teachers told to obey axed

Kyodo

The Tokyo board of education has labeled two history textbooks by Jikkyo Shuppan Co. as inappropriate for public high schools because they state some local governments are forcing teachers to sing the national anthem and display the Hinomaru flag.

Teachers nationwide have been disciplined for not displaying the national flag or singing “Kimigayo” at school ceremonies, as ordered by their local authorities, and many have sued in vain. Among them were 13 former Tokyo teachers whose punishment meted out by the metropolitan government was upheld in June 2011 by the Supreme Court. They thus failed in their attempt to be rehired after violating a metropolitan directive.

Public high schools normally select the textbooks they wish to use and ask their local board of education for approval. But if the board withholds consent, the schools cannot use them, as might be the case for the two history textbooks after Thursday’s decision by the Tokyo board.

It is rare for a board of education to reject textbooks that have already been cleared by the screening process of the education ministry.

In the fiscal 2011 national screening process, which assessed textbooks for use from the current fiscal year, Jikkyo Shuppan’s history books initially stated: “The government has unveiled during Diet deliberations that the law does not force citizens to sing the national anthem and hoist the national flag. But in reality, that is not the case.”

Experts conducting the screening process at the time questioned the final sentence, which was subsequently approved with the following revision: “Some local governments are forcing public servants to do so.”

However, the Tokyo board of education said it deems it the “responsibility of teachers to properly instruct” students to sing “Kimigayo” and display the Hinomaru. It further said the description in the textbooks is not in line with its position and concluded they are “not suitable for use” by public high schools.

Last year, the Tokyo board notified 17 high schools that the Jikkyo Shuppan textbooks were not in line with its policy. None of the schools selected the textbooks.

On Thursday, the board said it decided to disclose its position so schools in the capital will make appropriate decisions in the future when selecting textbooks for their students.

“It is the responsibility of teachers (to instruct students to sing “Kimigayo” and display the Hinomaru),” an official of the board said. “We have not forced them to do so.”

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