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Ehime high schools to require notice from students who want to attend political events

by

Staff Writer

All public high schools in Ehime Prefecture decided en masse to require advance notice from students who intend to participate in off-campus political activity, the prefecture’s board of education said Wednesday, though it has denied ordering the schools to do so.

The decision was made by each individual school, according to the board, and comes as Japan is set to lower the minimum voting age to 18 from 20 this summer. The requirement is sparking concern that it could deter students from taking part in events such as political rallies out of fear they would have to reveal their political beliefs to their teachers.

Such a move could further deepen political indifference among young people at a time when it is crucial for the country to raise political awareness in its youths ahead of the looming Upper House election this summer, experts say.

The education board said all 59 public high schools in the prefecture, including those for students with special needs, are scheduled to change their school regulations to introduce the system in the next fiscal year starting in April.

Although the education board denied it instructed schools to implement such a notification system, a handout given to the schools detailing ways to include such notification rules in their regulations appears to have heavily influenced the decision.

The handout, given to vice principals at a workshop last December, includes “examples” of new regulations such as a mandate that students must submit notice a week prior to taking part in political events away from school.

At the workshop, the school board also asked each school to report any such changes in their regulations.

Even though the school regulations are not legally binding, if students breach the rules they could face disciplinary measures such as suspension from school.

The education ministry said it thinks this is the first case of all public schools in a prefecture adopting the notification rule in unison.

Teruo Koike, a department chief with the Ehime Board of Education, denied pressuring schools, saying the board made it clear that it was up to each school to change its regulations as it sees fit, and that the handout was just an example in case they did decide to implement a notification system.

“We never instructed schools to introduce such regulations,” Koike said.

“It is our duty to secure students’ safety. There could be times when students participate in violent rallies or are absent from schools for a long period of time due to participation in political activities,” he said.

“Students could be dragged into trouble or die by taking part in some kinds of gatherings. If such things happened while a school had no clue where its students were or what kind of events they were participating in, then the school would be blamed.”

Last October, following the passage of a bill that takes effect in June and lowers the voting age to 18 from 20, the education ministry issued a guideline lifting the long-imposed ban on high school students engaging in political activity off campus and under certain conditions.

The guideline, which is also not legally binding, states that schools should restrict or seek to ban aggressive forms of political participation, and give instructions to students “to a necessary and reasonable extent” if their involvement and behavior are considered likely to interfere with schoolwork or affect other students.

In a handout the ministry issued in January to complement the guideline, it effectively gave permission to schools to implement rules requiring advance notice of students’ intent to attend political events.

Kaname Yamamori, an 18-year-old high school student in Saitama Prefecture, said such a move could prevent young people from becoming political aware before they even have a chance to begin.

“Some of my friends are starting to think it is necessary to think more about politics and society, given the right to vote (starting from the Upper House election in summer),” she told The Japan Times last week.

“But the notification system could make them refrain from participating in politics. It may give them the idea that joining a rally is a negative thing if it is something they have to notify schools about beforehand.”

  • Id

    Wow, this is as close to fascism as you can get.

    • Pink Floyd

      absolutely, and Japan is about 80% there when it comes to total fascism… give it a couple more years and it will be like north Korea, with shopping.

  • Amoura

    I fail to see why one would even need to be permitted to leave school for a political event in the first place. A lot of these are televised, and even if they aren’t, we have this wonderful thing called the internet to fill us in on stuff. I’m not sure what prompted this, but it might be an effort to keep kids in schools, with the new light bring shed on truancy issues.

    • AmIJustAPessimistOrWhat?

      Read closely — “There COULD be times when students participate in violent rallies or are absent from schools for a long period of time due to participation in political activities”

      I agree, engaging in a political activity is generally not a valid reason for truancy. But the rules also include what a student might do on the weekend, which is NOT truancy.

    • Philosopher

      While I’m all for students attending as many of their classes as possible, I also believe they should be encouraged to explore the political world and even go to demonstrations.

      Attending demonstrations is entirely different to reading about it on the internet or seeing it on television. You could use the live music compared to a recording of live music analogy but it is so much more than that. By being at a demonstration, you are showing the other demonstrators that you start with them literally and figuratively. You’re also showing the target where you stand and how you would vote on the issue. For young voters, this is particularly powerful.

      The new rules require students to inform their school before they attend any political events even if they’re after school finishes for the day, on the weekends or in school holidays. That means they’re still obliged to inform their school despite the event not interfering with their classes. The justification given for this imposition is that the school would be able to protect students if the protests turned violent. For a start, this is Japan in the 21st century, where violence at political events is so rare that the riot squad is almost never sent to them. If the police don’t predict violence, why would Ehime’s schools? It does sound like the schools are going to be stopping students from going to any protests that they disagree with or think their students shouldn’t be concerned about.

      Perhaps the students should protest about these new rules. Pickets at the school gates, pamphlets in their young hands and indignation in their young minds.

    • Ferris Lee

      It’s not to keep kids in school. Ehime students have to inform their teachers and their school if they participate in rallies on the weekends or evening. I’m a teacher here, students must inform their homeroom teachers of their activities outside of school. At my HS, the students are not allowed to enter convenience stores, karaoke boxes, wear make-up , have unauthorized hairstyles, long hair, hold part-time jobs or even ride bicycles/get a scooter license. There is strict oversight on their week-end activities/ time outside of school. But in this case, it seems counter-intuitive to the intellectual growth of the children.

  • Amoura

    I fail to see why one would even need to be permitted to leave school for a political event in the first place. A lot of these are televised, and even if they aren’t, we have this wonderful thing called the internet to fill us in on stuff. I’m not sure what prompted this, but it might be an effort to keep kids in schools, with the new light bring shed on truancy issues.

  • AmIJustAPessimistOrWhat?

    “There could be times when students participate in violent rallies or are absent from schools for a long period of time due to participation in political activities”

    I assume It is already the case that absence from school must be justified in advance or afterwards with a parental or doctors notice.

    So the only change is to start monitoring what students do on the weekends in their free time. I can see where this is headed.

    • 151E

      Monitoring what students do on the weekends and their free time is nothing new. High school teachers patrol local festivals to make sure the kids are behaving, and homeroom teachers will get a call even on the weekend if a student is seen smoking or caught shoplifting. I’m sure these new rules are just meant to intimidate and dissuade kids from participating in any political activity that the principal and school don’t agree with.

  • Ron Lane

    “It is our duty to secure students’ safety,” says Koike of the Ehime Department of Education.

    Quite a statement. I would have thought that parents had that responsibility when it comes to the extra-curricular activities of their children.

  • Ron Lane

    “It is our duty to secure students’ safety,” says Koike of the Ehime Department of Education.

    Quite a statement. I would have thought that parents had that responsibility when it comes to the extra-curricular activities of their children.

  • 151E

    A truly egregious infringement of students’ civil liberties, but par for the course really.

  • 151E

    A truly egregious infringement of students’ civil liberties, but par for the course really.

  • 151E

    A truly egregious infringement of students’ civil liberties, but par for the course really.

  • R0ninX3ph

    Whats next? Only giving permission for students to attend political events for the incumbent?

  • Paul Johnny Lynn

    “We’re not trying to influence or stop you kiddies being political, honestly. But, just remember; if you ARE…..think about it, O.K.? Think about it…..”

  • J.P. Bunny

    “It is our duty to secure students’ safety.” If the news is anything to go by, students have been getting themselves into all kinds of unsafe situations for quite some time now. How is preventing them from doing their civic duty going to keep them any safer? “Yes, you may vote. But you may be kicked out of school if you actually get involved.”