TOTTORI – A teacher at an elementary school in Yurihama, Tottori Prefecture, has been accused of punishing slow eaters by forcing them to eat their lunches with their hands for about seven years.
The prefectural bar association said Friday it sent a letter of warning to the teacher, a woman in her 50s, and the Togo Elementary School principal as well as a request to the town’s board of education, calling the behavior a human rights violation and demanding it not happen again.
Board officials, including its chairman, Saburo Maeda, admitted at a news conference later in the day that they had failed to handle the situation properly and promised to step up efforts to prevent it from happening again.
The teacher has denied the accusations. She has been relieved of her duties and is currently taking a one-year training course outside the town, according to sources.
The school board said it was investigating the allegations and had not yet verified if they were true.
The teacher allegedly told pupils who failed to finish their lunches within the designated eating time that their plates needed to be cleared away and if they did not have handkerchiefs or tissue to put the remaining food on, they had to hold it in their hands.
She would put the food in the children’s hands and make them eat “like dogs,” the bar association’s letter said.
The teacher did this from the time she joined the school in 1997 until around July 2004, the letter says.
The association also alleged she hit and kicked disobedient pupils in the head and back.
The bar association said that in one incident, she ordered several kids to eat a mixture of rice, soup and side dishes from their hands. One first-grade girl was so shocked that she stopped going to school. Four years later, she still shows signs of posttraumatic stress disorder, the association said.
Eight of the 24 pupils in the teacher’s classroom last year were found to have been forced to eat food with their hands or from handkerchiefs, the bar association said.
It became involved when the parents of a pupil filed a complaint with it in November.
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