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Southwest Japan education board asks schools to tell parents PTA membership is optional

A Kitakyushu Municipal Board of Education notice asking schools to tell guardians PTA membership is optional is seen in this Feb. 3, 2022, photo. (Mainichi/Kazuhito Ito)

KITAKYUSHU -- Municipal schools in this southwest Japan city have been asked to tell parents and guardians that PTA membership is in fact optional and that they should check whether they intend to join or leave the organizations.

    In response to PTA-related issues across Japan, the Kitakyushu Municipal Board of Education sent a notice dated Dec. 10, 2021, to all 199 of its municipal elementary, junior high and special needs schools. It is likely a first step in improving PTA activities, which tend to appear compulsory.

    In its notice, the municipal education board acknowledged the importance of PTAs, and asked that schools make it well known that joining or leaving is a decision for parents and guardians. It also requested that schools confirm parents' intentions by having them submit documents when joining or leaving, among other methods.

    Schools are asked to discuss with their PTAs how to potentially implement the requested measures from the new academic year starting in April. The education board also clearly indicated that schools must, in accordance with city ordinance on data protection, not provide students' and guardians' private information to PTAs without the concerned parties' consent.

    Although PTA membership is optional and not legally required, a majority of schools deem it a matter of course that all guardians join. In 2014, one guardian sued the city of Kumamoto over claims their notice to leave a PTA was not accepted. In a separate 2021 case, papers pertaining to a city of Oita school principal were referred to prosecutors on suspicion of violating the Local Public Service Act by providing a PTA with personal information without informing guardians.

    Following the municipal education board's notice, the Kitakyushu municipal PTA council also sent guidelines to the same effect to 198 PTAs. It stated that confirming guardians' intentions through documentation was the ideal method, and called for PTAs to do so to the best of their ability.

    Ryushi Miura, head of the PTA council, estimates only around 10% of PTAs confirm parents' membership intentions in writing. "Although the confirmations might reduce membership, I'd like to see this as a good opportunity to select which activities are necessary, and improve PTAs by giving them a new image," he said.

    (Japanese original by Kazuhito Ito, Kyushu News Department)

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