Rie Hirakawa, a friend of mine who heads the secretariat of the Hiroshima Prefectural Board of Education, recently declared that "acts of obscenity and sexual harassment will not be tolerated" in local public schools and said a guideline for disciplinary punishment will be revised to mete out more stringent penalties on teachers involved in such acts.

Hirakawa earlier served as Japan's first female school principal recruited from the private sector. She has just been selected as one of only three female secretariat chiefs in the nation's 47 prefectural boards of education.

Hirakawa has always felt that punishment for teachers accused of sexual misconduct is often too lenient. She raised the issue right after she began in her current position. "Being a woman and mother, I thought I would never forgive such an act committed against my children or myself," she said.