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Tokyo child care facility's rules suggest expelling children with developmental disorders

The school's rules include a statement to the effect that if a child is diagnosed with a developmental disorder and is deemed to be having trouble in school, he or she may be asked to leave. (Mainichi/Hiroshi Endo)

TOKYO -- The rules of a noncertified child care facility in the Japanese capital focusing on sports education state that children with developmental disabilities may be asked to leave if they have trouble with school life, the Mainichi Shimbun has found.

    Buddy Sports Kindergarden Setagaya's rules may violate the Act for Eliminating Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities, and Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, which has supervisory authority over the facility, has advised its operator to make changes.

    According to Buddy Sports' operating company website and other information, it provides child care and sports-focused education for children aged 2 to 5. In addition to the Setagaya facility, there are seven affiliated and sister schools in Tokyo and neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture.

    The facility distributed the school's rules and regulations at an information session for parents seeking to enroll their children. They include the following statement: "If a child is diagnosed with a developmental disability such as autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or if there is a risk that the child may have such a disorder, and when we determine that the child will have trouble with school life or physical education in general, we will encourage the child to move to special needs education in consideration of the child's growth and development, and may ask the child to leave the school."

    The facility is covered by a government-sponsored program that began in October 2019, under which kindergarten and day care services are free of charge for certain age groups and certain families, and it also receives a subsidy from the ward as it meets the central government's standards for guidance and supervision of noncertified child care facilities.

    The ward's child care authorization and coordination division said, "At the time of our on-site inspection, we judged that the wording of the regulations might conflict with the disabilities discrimination act, so we verbally advised the preschool to revise them."

    When the Mainichi Shimbun asked the preschool's operator in writing to explain the rule's intention, they replied on June 22 that they were revising the content of the rule in consultation with the ward office. They did not provide any detailed information on whether any children had withdrawn from the school because of the rule.

    The anti-discrimination law, which came into effect in April 2016, prohibits public institutions and private businesses from discriminating against people with disabilities. In May this year, a revision was enacted that requires private businesses to provide "reasonable accommodation" to support the mobility and communication of people with disabilities.

    The Day Care Division of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said that "there have been no confirmed cases so far" of children withdrawing from child care facilities due to rules on developmental disabilities.

    "The use of noncertified child care facilities is a matter of individual contracts, but generally speaking, it (the Buddy Sports rule) may violate the Act for Eliminating Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities," the ministry division explained.

    Atsushi Ueki, a professor of law at Meijo University who is familiar with the disabilities discrimination act, said, "There is a high possibility that this is unfair discriminatory treatment (of people with disabilities)." He added, "Given that child care workers are required to have a certain level of knowledge about education for people with disabilities, it is unlikely in ordinary circumstances that the fact that a child has a developmental disorder alone would interfere with child care duties."

    (Japanese original by Hiroshi Endo, Tokyo City News Department)

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