National

Education ministry to update teacher database to prevent repeat cases of sexual abuse

Kyodo

The education ministry will update its database of teacher’s licenses starting in the next fiscal year so that disciplinary records of those who have committed sex offenses and other obscene acts against children can be shared nationwide, it was learned Tuesday.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has requested ¥480 million ($4.4 million) in the fiscal 2018 budget to finance the project, which is intended to prevent repeat offenses by dismissed or suspended teachers.

According to the law, a teacher’s license becomes invalidated if the holder is discharged on disciplinary measures, cited for physical or mental problems, or sentenced to prison or other heavy penalties.

These records are currently reported in official logs and registered in the database. But the current search method is complicated and has been identified as a barrier to efficiently sharing the information.

Some dismissed teachers have managed to find employment at new schools, taking advantage of insufficient screening by education boards and concealing the fact that their licenses had been revoked.

Suspensions and other lighter disciplinary actions are not listed in official logs, and such cases are only communicated through self-reporting, according to the ministry.

In August, a temporary teacher in Aichi Prefecture was dismissed after being arrested for abusing a girl at an elementary school where he worked.

Before he was hired at the school, he had a previous arrest record and had been suspended for involvement in child pornography in Saitama Prefecture, but the school’s education board failed to conduct a thorough background check. He had changed his name on his family registry and on his teacher’s license.

The new database is expected to be ready in several years. Officials will eventually be able to search the updated system to find an applicant’s date of birth, type of license, expiration date and validity of certificate.

The ministry will also consider obtaining certificates confirming past records from education boards where applicants were previously based.

But municipal governments have their own privacy policies and the database may not always be able to reveal reasons for disciplinary discharges and other measures that are not listed in official logs.

“Teachers who committed obscene acts against children should never return to classrooms,” said Naoki Ogi, an education commentator and special professor at Hosei University. “Teachers should be recruited and trained with a strict mind against obscenity.”

But he also said disciplinary measures could cover less serious offenses, and that data should be managed carefully.

In fiscal 2015, the number of teachers who faced disciplinary action at public schools due to obscene acts stood at 224, the highest on record, of which 40 percent involved children at their workplace as victims.

An official said the ministry will continue working with education boards to share information more widely and identify problem teachers.