Arrested teacher with previous offenses highlights hiring loophole for sex offenders

June 26, 2017 (Mainichi Japan)
NAGOYA — After a teacher who had been previously punished for child pornography was arrested in Aichi Prefecture in May on suspicion of molesting two students, parents and experts are calling for stricter hiring policies. However, changes may not be easy.

The suspect in this recent case was 29-year-old substitute teacher Toshihiro Ota, who was arrested on suspicion of performing indecent acts on two female students at a municipal primary school in Chiryu, Aichi Prefecture in May. He reportedly admitted to the allegations, and told police, “I like little children, and I did it to satisfy my desires.”

Ota was hired by the Chiryu Municipal Board of Education in April 2015. However, in 2013 when he was a teacher at a public school in Saitama Prefecture, he was arrested on suspicion of sending an image of a young child naked to an acquaintance. Ota was ordered to pay a fine and voluntarily left his post after the Saitama Prefectural Board of Education suspended him for six months.

As a rule, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology advises prefectural boards of education to dismiss teachers who engage in indecent acts with students on disciplinary grounds, but the final decision is left up to each board, and there have been many cases like Ota’s where punishment only goes as far as a suspension.

If a public school teacher is instead dismissed from their position on disciplinary grounds, their name is made public in an official gazette, and the information is added to a teaching certification management database maintained by each prefectural education board. Under the Education Personnel Certification Act, a teacher dismissed on disciplinary grounds is deprived of their teaching license. Such a teacher cannot be certified for at least three years, and if the punishment the individual received exceeded imprisonment without labor, then that time period can be extended.

However, punishments such as suspension or lower are in principle not shared between boards of education in different prefectures. Those in charge of hiring procedures must collect information on their own, but prefectural education boards differ in their handling of personal information, making access to necessary information extremely difficult.

“It’s hard to grasp punishments handed down in other prefectures, so the only thing we can do is trust applicants’ resumes and what they tell us during interviews,” the individual in charge of hiring at the Chiryu Municipal Board of Education admitted. “If I had been aware of his history, I wouldn’t have hired him.”

Usually, boards inquire at an applicant’s previous workplace about their work ethic and reputation during the hiring process. Ota, however, had written on his resume that he had been engaged in housework, not mentioning his time as a teacher in Saitama Prefecture at all. When asked during a job interview about why he had not been at work, Ota reportedly replied that it was due to his family situation.

He also changed the kanji for his name “Toshihiro” after being suspended in Saitama Prefecture. A source close to the Aichi Prefectural Board of Education suspects that he did this to avoid his suspension from his previous work being discovered through an internet search.

“More consideration should be made about the risk posed to vulnerable children,” commented a 34-year-old Aichi woman whose eldest daughter is in the second grade of elementary school. “I wish they wouldn’t let those who have committed indecent acts return to the teaching podium ever again.”

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