The ruling parties are looking to create a law that will prevent teachers who have sexually abused students from returning to work at schools, with the aim of submitting it to the current Diet session.
A working team formed by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito held its first meeting at the Diet building on Monday. The team comprises 21 Diet members from the two parties with extensive knowledge of educational, academic and judicial affairs.
It is jointly chaired by former Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hiroshi Hase of the LDP and Komeito’s Tomoko Ukishima, who is head of the party’s subpanel on educational affairs.
The current schoolteacher license law stipulates that even if instructors commit acts of sexual indecency, are dismissed from their job and have their licenses rescinded, they can reacquire a license after three years.
Last year, the government mulled the option of indefinitely barring such people from acquiring a license, as a measure to cope with the problem of sexually abusive schoolteachers. But the government eventually abandoned the idea, based on the opinion that it would limit individual rights, including the freedom to choose an occupation.
The working team therefore decided to consider establishing a new law to prevent sexually abusive teachers from returning to work at schools, instead of revising the schoolteacher license law. The working team plans to discuss the establishment of a system for this purpose.
It will also consider a clearly stated stipulation in the law that prohibits schoolteachers from sexually abusing students.
In addition to the new law, the working team will consider the introduction of a system that would allow background checks during the employment process to ensure applicants have not committed sex crimes.
The working team will hold discussions once a week and conduct hearings with experts. It aims to wrap up the discussions before the Golden Week holidays in May, and submit the bill during the current Diet session.
After the working team meeting on Monday, Hase told reporters: “I think it’s better to create a new law. It’s the ruling parties’ responsibility to submit the bill during the current Diet session.”
The number of sexual abuse cases involving schoolteachers has been increasing. There have been notable cases in which homeroom teachers and others in key jobs exploited positions of leadership or trust among students to commit such acts.
According to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, a combined 153 public elementary, junior high and senior high school teachers, as well as those at special-needs schools, were dismissed in fiscal 2019 because of indecent acts or sexual harassment involving students.
The number was the second-highest after a peak of 163 in fiscal 2018. Of the fiscal 2019 total, 121, or about 80%, committed sexually indecent acts on students or graduates of schools where they worked.