What to tell children when teachers go astray

TOKYO —

On May 9, a dozen police officers converged on an elementary school in Kasuga, Fukuoka Prefecture, and arrested the principal. Imagine the scene from the children’s point of view. What lessons would they draw from it? That individuals do wrong but society stands firm? Or that all adults, even those in direct charge of their lives, are rotten?

“Teacher, how can you do such awful things?” Shukan Josei (June 17) imagines horrified children asking – not only in Kasuga but in a number of places across the country where “crimes and scandals” involving teachers have occurred lately.

Ikuhiro Matsubara, 57-year-old principal of Otani Elementary School in Kasuga, was arrested on suspicion of possession of stimulant drugs. Police say he admitted the charge and has been cooperative. The vice principal promptly called an emergency assembly and gravely told the children, “The principal did a very bad thing.” Well, yes. The school, after all, was sufficiently concerned about drug abuse among fifth- and sixth-graders to have incorporated the issue into its curriculum.

Matsubara had been well thought of. He was a music teacher, and a popular one. He composed songs. Two schools in the district adopted his compositions as their school songs. What should they do now? A flurry of debate followed the arrest, one PTA faction demanding the songs be changed, another insisting that the songs were good, even if the composer was not, and should stand. The eventual decision by both schools was to keep the lyrics but change the melody.

It’s not easy to change a school song. “It takes six months to learn it properly,” explains a school board member. “We’d have to have a new one by September if the children are to be able to sing it at graduation next March.”

If misery loves company, Matsubara has some. Shukan Josei covers three other arrests of teachers around the same time, suggesting a spreading moral contagion, though without statistical backing. In Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, junior high school teacher Shingo Kinoshita, 56, was charged with embezzling PTA funds to feed his pachinko habit – a total of 638,000 yen over two years, since paid back.

Another episode seems in some respects more sad than criminal. Still, stalking is stalking – it’s too much to ask the victim to make allowances for the state of the stalker’s soul. (We, however, can make such allowances, and accordingly withhold the stalker’s name and school.)

“Mr T,” 58, taught at a junior high school in Saitama Prefecture. Single, he set his sights on a female teacher 30 years his junior. He plied her with phone calls, left flowers and gifts for her on her desk in the teachers’ lounge, invited her out, proposed marriage. He was warned repeatedly – by colleagues the harassed young woman confided in, and finally by the police – that his behavior constituted stalking, a criminal offense. Each time he promised to desist, but his feelings apparently got the better of him.

Witnesses describe him as a handsome and powerfully-built man – he coached the school basketball team. They say that his behavior, though harassing, was never threatening or malicious. We can infer something of his emotional condition from the fact that for the past 10 years he’s been singlehandedly caring for his invalid mother.

But word was getting around the school, and parents were upset. “I can’t trust him with my daughter,” said one.

In April, the teacher he stalked was transferred – whether or not in connection with the case is unclear. “Mr T” was arrested on May 14.

In any other setting, this would be a matter involving the perpetrator, the victim and society. The fact that it occurred in a school adds another dimension – the children’s. School is many things, but one thing it should not be is a place where children learn too soon how sordid adult life can get.

Japan Today

  • -1

    Sensato

    “Mr T,” 58, taught at a junior high school in Saitama Prefecture. Single, he set his sights on a female teacher 30 years his junior. He plied her with phone calls, left flowers and gifts for her on her desk in the teachers’ lounge, invited her out, proposed marriage.

    This sort behavior used to be commonplace and widely accepted in teachers' rooms and other workplaces in Japan. This has been changing in only the last couple of decades.

    Also, even today a significant percentage of the male teachers in any given Japanese high school are married to their former students, many of whom they 'officially' started dating soon after high school graduation. This is also widely accepted. (I was even invited to one such wedding, which to me felt a little awkward.)

    Lots going on behind the scenes.

  • 3

    JTDanMan

    I tell my kids the following: "Trust your teachers. Trust yourself more."

  • -3

    lucabrasi

    Don't agree that "Mr T" did anything wrong. Flowers, offers of dates, a marriage proposal... this is how relationships are made (or not).

    If he'd followed her home or sent her naked photos, that would've been different, of course....

  • 5

    Alphaape

    I would tell my kid don't just "trust" someone because they are supposedly in a position of trust. Keep your guard up, and try not to get yourself into a situation that may cause you strife. If they did do something to you, and tell you that if you tell me (parents) that something bad will happen to them, I would want them to tell me, and let them know I can take care of myself and me and the perp teacher/administrator will have a nice conversation on boundaries. Kids need to understand that there is no shame in reporting if a teacher is doing something wrong to you. Most of those who will gossip, are probably the ones who are afraid to do something to stop it.

  • 6

    tmarie

    “Mr T,” 58, taught at a junior high school in Saitama Prefecture. Single, he set his sights on a female teacher 30 years his junior. He plied her with phone calls, left flowers and gifts for her on her desk in the teachers’ lounge, invited her out, proposed marriage. He was warned repeatedly – by colleagues the harassed young woman confided in, and finally by the police – that his behavior constituted stalking, a criminal offense. Each time he promised to desist, but his feelings apparently got the better of him.

    It seems some of you didn't bother to read the entire thing. She was not interested and made it clear. To continue is sexual haressment and stalking. Nothing "okay" about that at all. This is not how "relationships are made" this is how women end up getting attacked by guys who can't take the hint the woman wants nothing to do with them.

  • 1

    Cricky

    I use these stories to demonstrate to my children don't trust someone because of their position, trust is earnt not assumed due to a title. Judge by actions not words.

  • 0

    ebisen

    The TRUTH, plain and simple. Children are much smarter than many adults think, and understand issues faster. Also, while a teacher should be an example for the society, it is usually far from it - teachers are people who usually never interact with the society the way other members do - for example many are never employed in a company, and have absolutely no idea on using the skills they teach (except by passing them forwards to our children). Society should pay much more attention on educating the teachers, and keep them from becoming simply some recycled students..

  • -1

    iagbp423

    This is the way it is : Children give teachers a lot of credit now. The other hand, guardians gave them a lot of credit way back when. Now they are losing now. Teachers are required the qualities appropriate to 'teachers'. Personally speaking I think nurture cannot be above a person.

  • 4

    Guillaume Varès

    Why would they need to change the song? His professional or artistic abilities have nothing to do with that. Many songs, books, etc. were written by less than perfect people. Should we stop reading classic books by Celine because he was also a despicable antisemitic collaborator of Nazis?

  • -1

    Lowly

    What was wrong w/ Mr. T? I guess that he kept it up after being refused. Still, it sounds like he wasn't following her or forcing her to do anything, just giving too many gifts. Annoying, but arrest-worthy??

  • 2

    Tessa

    Why did the police have to go to the school to arrest the principal? Surely they could've done it out of view of the kids?

  • 0

    Star-viking

    On May 9, a dozen police officers converged on an elementary school in Kasuga, Fukuoka Prefecture, and arrested the principal. Imagine the scene from the children’s point of view. What lessons would they draw from it?

    That police are vindictive, and so instead of arresting the principal at home, decided to shock him, and the kids by arresting him at his workplace?

  • 2

    Lowly

    Yeah, but maybe they had some reason to arrest him ASAP, w/o letting him give them the slip or flush evidence or s/t...

  • 4

    Skeeter27

    Try the truth! It life they will handle it! It better they find that people are honest rather than dishonest!

  • -1

    tmarie

    Surely they could've done it out of view of the kids?

    Shock value to keep them in line I suspect. The police here love the drama of arresting and investigating.

  • 0

    SenseNotSoCommon

    The school, after all, was sufficiently concerned about drug abuse among fifth- and sixth-graders to have incorporated the issue into its curriculum.

    Pardon???

  • -1

    jpntdytmrow

    What a great opportunity for 6th graders to learn how the legal system works. An adult is accused of a crime and is made to go through the legal process without committing suicide or being forcefully removed. The children will then be able to respect the legal system adn the adults who work in it. Might get some future judges.

  • -2

    ka_chan

    I really don't see the big deal. Teachers are people after all. Now, I think the police were wrong (insensitive) to arrest the principle at school. At least they didn't seem to do it quietly. They could have arrested him at home or after school or before. It is also wrong of the vice principle to say that "The principal did a very bad thing". He hasn't been convicted unless in Japan an arrest is an automatic proof of guilt. Some say so and that the Japanese judicial system is unfair. As for the stimulates, no info on what, but he is man of 57 responsible for young kids, he may need a little something to keep up. The issue about the song is bogus. What does any of this have to do with a school song? I doubt that the kids know the the principle wrong it unless someone told them. And he hasn't be convicted of anything!
    The charge against the teacher is much a serious crime, embezzlement. But it is considered a white collar crime so generally the punishment is harsh... like paying it back which he did. It was in Jr High so the student should be that surprised. This should have been handled by the school before it got this far. They should fire the principle. The stalking instance is a little pathetic. I guess it would have been alright if he was messing around with one of his students.
    I noticed that the some of the members or of the PTA are idiots. They should be more concerned about their children's behavior than others. Kids are not stupid, they usually know the score.

  • -1

    stormcrow

    There are some adults who are wonderful teachers but there are other adults who have no business being in a classroom and shouldn't be allowed anywhere near kids. That's basically the sour dose of reality I give my kids, so we (my wife & I) encourage each of our kids to speak freely and tell us what's on their mind about their teachers. If a teacher is a little out of line, we tell our kids to just hang tough and put up with it. However, if a teacher is way out of line and saying/doing things in an utterly absurd manner, and believe me when I say that I've seen more than my fair share of crummy teachers, we won't hesitate to put a spotlight on them and challenge them to explain their actions in front of the school principal, especially where it concerns the mental well being of the kids. I've been amazed time and time again by adults posing as teachers. It really is one of the saddest things, and it bears repeating, some adults have no business being anywhere near kids.

  • 0

    Equality

    His behavior, though harassing, was never threatening or malicious. We can infer something of his emotional condition from the fact that for the past 10 years he has been singlehandedly caring for his invalid mother.

    Oh, so this makes the fact that he was stalking a female teacher okay? Stalking is NEVER okay, no matter if a person is a handsome and powerfully-built man or whatever else. Who are we trying to empower here, the victim or the stalker?!

  • 0

    jumpultimatestars

    Arresting someone in front of the school just because of their medication? I would suggest out of all people in the situation the police did the most to possibly harm the kids. I hope you guys also realize that illegal "stimulant drugs" in Japan includes very tame legal brand name drugs that even children are prescribed in the US.

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