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The Tokyo District Court earlier this month ruled that three metropolitan assembly members in 2003 unduly interfered with sex education at a school for students with special needs. It also ruled that the punishment the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education meted out to teachers at the school for conducting “inappropriate sex education” was illegal. The ruling serves as a warning that officials handling education-related matters should refrain from coercive intervention in the classroom.

At the school in Hino, Tokyo, teachers conducted sex education by using dolls with genitals and songs to help mentally disabled children easily understand the lesson. In July 2003, the three Tokyo assembly members — two from the Liberal Democratic Party and one from the Democratic Party of Japan — visited the school to observe the class. They criticized teachers, using strong language such as “You have no common sense.” An official from the board of education was also there.

The court decided that the assembly members damaged the teachers’ reputations by insulting them. In a rare move, it also ruled that their act of interfering with the sex education constituted “unjust control of education,” which was prohibited by the Fundamental Law of Education that was in force then. It also decided that the board of education official failed to protect the teachers. The court ordered the assembly members and the board to pay ¥50,000 each in compensation to two teachers.

In September 2003, the board reprimanded teachers at the school for conducting inappropriate sex education. The court ruled, however, that the board failed to show what appropriate sex education was and that the punishment constituted abuse of discretionary power. It ordered the board to pay ¥200,000 each in compensation to 10 teachers.

It is reported that the teaching materials for the sex education were confiscated when the assembly members visited and that they have not yet been returned. Officials have the right to express their opinions on education. But they have no right to intimidate teachers, thus depriving them of autonomy and creativity.

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