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Abuse cases at record level

Japan. The esteemed reputation of teachers in Japan took a battering this week when it was revealed that a record 1,527 were punished for misconduct last year.

More than 100 were reprimanded for sexual misconduct, according to the ministry of education's report for April 1996 to March 1997. This is a 36.5 per cent increase in the number of such cases reported last year.

Nearly 400 teachers were disciplined for beating or hitting children, while 206 principals were reprimanded for turning a blind eye to corporal punishment in their schools. Penalties included suspension, pay cuts and warnings.

Both figures for violence and sexual assaults against pupils are the worst since the ministry began releasing the results in 1977.

Of the cases of gross moral turpitude - ranging from sexual harassment to sexual abuse of pupils by teachers - 66 teachers were "punished" and 27 were dismissed.

In a country where rape often goes unreported, there is much anecdotal evidence of male teachers abusing female students. According to one pupil at a private school, who declined to be identified, it is not unknown for teachers found guilty of sexual abuse to be moved hurriedly to another school to avoid scandal. For most teachers, however, the pressure to appear beyond reproach is paramount.

Prosecution for sex abuse or corporal punishment is rare in Japan, but one bizarre case, revealed earlier this year, may go to court.

Police have accused three male and one female teacher of acting as accessories to a suspect who posed as a doctor to give girls physical examinations at their junior high school. The "check-ups" were allegedly video-taped. One teacher has already resigned.

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