Rebuked ex-teachers lose ‘Kimigayo’ suit

Kyodo News

The Tokyo High Court on Thursday rejected a demand for compensation by former teachers who argued they were refused postretirement re-employment because they had remained seated during the national anthem at school ceremonies in defiance of their principals’ orders.

The ruling overturned a February 2008 decision by the Tokyo District Court that awarded a total of around ¥27.5 million in compensation to 12 former teachers and a clerk at high schools run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

Presiding Judge Tatsuki Inada of the high court said the orders to stand and sing “Kimigayo” in front of the Hinomaru flag “were not intended to command them to engage in acts that may straightforwardly deny the plaintiffs’ perception of history and do not necessarily violate Article 19 of the Constitution that establishes freedom of thought and conscience.”

The ruling was largely in line with a Supreme Court precedent issued in February 2007 on a similar case.

Inada said the refusal to hire them as part-time instructors after retirement was within the metropolitan government’s purview because “the plaintiffs had no option but to be given low ratings since they violated orders from superiors and were reprimanded.”

The lower court ruled in February 2008 that the metro board of education overstepped its bounds by attaching exaggerated importance to the teachers’ defiance of orders while failing to factor in other aspects, such as their service records.

The plaintiffs were seeking roughly ¥5.6 million in compensation per person from the local government.

Several lawsuits have been filed, mainly by teachers who have been reprimanded, seeking nullification of the disciplinary measures and a court confirmation that the orders are unconstitutional.

The Tokyo District Court ruled in September 2006 that the board of education cannot force teachers to sing the anthem in front of the national flag or reprimand them for refusing to do so, as such practices infringe on the Constitution.

But the Supreme Court rejected an argument by a music teacher in February 2007 that a principal’s order to accompany the singing of “Kimigayo” on the piano is unconstitutional, saying the order “does not mean denial of the plaintiff’s view of history and the world, and cannot be said to violate freedom of thought and conscience under the Constitution’s Article 19.”