The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by three former school teachers who claimed it was unreasonable they were banned from working part time after retirement because they had in the past refused to stand and sing the national anthem.
The Tokyo District Court also rejected their appeal in April 2016.
The three teachers, who wanted to be known only by their family names — Watanabe, Nagai and Kobayashi — applied to be rehired as part-time teachers in 2010 after they retired.
However, their applications were rejected because they had failed to follow administrative orders from school principals to stand and sing “Kimigayo,” the national anthem, during school events.
“I believe that the ruling is very unfair and is overreacting to the act of not standing and singing ‘Kimigayo,’ ” said Watanabe during a news conference held after the ruling.
In 2003, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s board of education issued a notice to all public high school principals in Tokyo stating that there would be penalties for teachers who refused to sing the national anthem during entrance and graduation ceremonies.
The trio argued it was unconstitutional and illegal for schools to not consider rehiring them because they refused to follow the order, and demanded damages. However, the high court ruled that the notification and the administrative order were reasonable.
Lawyer Yosuke Minaguchi noted there are cases where schools rehired teachers who had been punished for acts of violence against students or who had sexually harassed other teachers.
“Their actions, to simply refuse to stand (and sing the national anthem) based on their beliefs and principles, pales in comparison,” Minaguchi said.
Nagai said she declined to sing the national anthem on religious grounds as she is Catholic.
“We will appeal (to the Supreme Court) immediately,” she said.
Keizo Nakai, the chairman of the board of education, said in a written statement: “The ruling backs the position of the city. We will continue to strictly deal with those in violation of the administrative order.”
This case is one of many long-running disputes between the state and public school teachers who claim that being obliged to sing the anthem and being penalized for refusing to do so violates their constitutional rights.
In May last year, a district court ruled that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government must pay a total of ¥537 million to 22 former high school teachers who were punished for refusing to sing the national anthem.
In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that penalizing teachers for not standing to sing “Kimigayo” was constitutional, but it warned administrators to exercise care in going beyond a reprimand.
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