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Self-checklist helps Japanese teachers identify 'deviant thinking' behind indecent acts

Associate professor Yukiko Imai of Nara University explains the process of creating the self-checklist to check for "sexual deviance," at Nara University in Nara on Jan. 19, 2021. (Mainichi/Yusuke Kato)

NARA -- While there is no end to the number of teachers punished for indecent behavior toward children, an associate professor with experience as a juvenile guidance counselor has created a self-checklist for teachers to examine if they have deviant sexual ideas.

    Based on her experience in a police force and schools, Yukiko Imai, an associate professor of criminal psychology at Nara University, devised the checklist as a measure to prevent children from falling victim to indecent behavior, and is aiming to have it adopted at educational institutions across the country.

    The number of teachers slapped with disciplinary measures for indecent acts or sexual harassment at public elementary, junior high and high schools in Japan remains high. According to a Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology survey, which began in fiscal 1977, the figure exceeded 200 for the first time in fiscal 2013 when 205 people were subject to disciplinary action.

    The situation remains serious, with a record 282 teachers disciplined in fiscal 2018 and 273 in fiscal 2019, the second most yet. Many victims are students and graduates of schools where the teachers work.

    Imai dealt with delinquency issues as a Shizuoka Prefectural Police juvenile guidance officer for 22 years, starting in 1986. She developed a deep interest in rehabilitation and victim support, and entered the education sector as a school counselor in 2010. At the board of education's request, she has interviewed about 20 teachers involved in indecent assault cases, and explored avenues for preventive measures.

    Through the interviews, she found that a certain number of teachers approach children with no awareness of the harm they do, who think that "this much is acceptable," or who lose control of their emotions in thinking "I have to be around them," which leads to indecent acts. The checklist is intended to raise awareness of "deviant thinking," and to discourage them from committing the acts.

    It consists of 34 questions, including: "Physical contact is sometimes necessary for teaching," "I sometimes communicate with students and their parents on my cell phone," "There is no one at work I can consult," and, "Not turning down sexual advances outright means yes." Respondents answer the questions on a scale of "often true" (3 points) to "not true at all" (0 points), and tally the numbers in correspondence with each results category, which include "desire for sexual stimulation," "feeling of isolation and inadequacy," and "assumptions in interpersonal relationships."

    Evaluation is done for each category and high-scoring teachers will be given a "red light" or "yellow light" to alert them. Teachers falling into high-score brackets will be advised to consult with a psychiatrist or other specialist. To obtain accurate results, they are asked to answer the questions and grade themselves in a place where they cannot be seen by others.

    Imai said, "I have seen many cases where people were shocked to learn a person perceived as a good teacher became a perpetrator. I would like them to use the checklist to learn about their own tendencies, and get support from counseling organizations so that no child will fall victim (to sex crimes)."

    Moves to introduce the system are already underway. In fiscal 2020, Shizuoka Prefecture in central Japan saw a rash of 11 indecent assaults by teachers, as of March 3. In November 2020, a male vice principal at a Numazu municipal junior high school was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping two girls aged between 10 and 19 for indecent purposes.

    Associate professor Yukiko Imai of Nara University, holds a self-checklist to check for "sexual deviance," while explaining how the checklist was made, at Nara University in Nara on Jan. 19, 2021. (Mainichi/Yusuke Kato)

    The prefectural education board has so far taken measures to prevent a recurrence, such as having a clinical psychologist meet with the offending teachers to try to determine the cause. However, indecent cases continued, and as a way to strengthen countermeasures, the self-checklist is scheduled for introduction in the first half of fiscal 2021.

    An official said, "We would like to make use of the checklist as a means to make teachers aware of 'deviant thoughts' that they themselves are not aware of."

    The following are the main questions in the self-checklist created by Imai to identify one's own "sexual deviance."

    Physical contact is sometimes necessary for teaching.

    Not turning down sexual advances outright means yes.

    As an adult, I feel that it is not wrong to give sexual guidance to children.

    One-on-one counseling or teaching with children and students may take place multiple times, or for long periods of time.

    Encouraging or praising children and students can be done by touching the head, shoulders, arms, and other body parts

    (Japanese original by Yusuke Kato, Nara Bureau)

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