National

Teacher loses appeal over 'Kimigayo' punishment

The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday dismissed an appeal by a teacher seeking the annulment of a board of education reprimand issued over her refusal to play “Kimigayo” on the piano during a school ceremony in 1999.

The Hinomaru national flag and “Kimigayo” were defined by law in 1999 as Japan’s national flag and anthem. But they remain contentious due to their symbolic links to Japan’s Imperial system and militarist past.

Presiding Judge Kimio Miyazaki rejected the teacher’s request, upholding a lower court ruling in December that stated that “public servants’ freedom of thought and conscience are subject to restraint for the sake of public welfare.”

The name of the 50-year-old teacher is being withheld for reasons of privacy. She said later Wednesday that she will take the case to the Supreme Court.

In April 1999, the teacher refused the official order to play the national anthem for an entrance ceremony at the school in the western Tokyo suburb of Hino, according to the court. The school instead used a taped accompaniment.

The board of education of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reprimanded the teacher in June 1999, saying she violated the Local Public Servants Law by disobeying the order.

She filed the suit in January 2002 at the Tokyo District Court, saying the school had breached the Constitution by trying to force her to play the anthem. The district court rejected the suit.

In related moves, 345 teachers at schools run by the metropolitan government filed two lawsuits against the metro board of education in January and May, claiming it was unconstitutional to force them to stand facing the Hinomaru and sing “Kimigayo” at school ceremonies.

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