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Students felt sexually harassed by teachers in 97 cases in central Japan pref.: survey

The Shizuoka Prefectural Board of Education building is seen in this file photo. (Mainichi/Kenichi Mito)

SHIZUOKA -- Ninety-seven cases in which students felt they were sexually harassed by teachers occurred at schools in Shizuoka Prefecture in the 2021 academic year, a survey by the prefectural education board has revealed.

    The Shizuoka Prefectural Board of Education compiled results of a survey conducted on students at public elementary, junior high and senior high schools in the prefecture. The education board intends to step up action and subject schools where students said they suffered sexual harassment to ongoing guidance and check for improvements to prevent recurrences. It also plans to draw up a checklist based on responses in the survey to have school employees review their everyday behavior.

    The survey, conducted between November 2021 and March 2022, questioned 156,306 students ranging from those in the fifth-grade of elementary school to those in the third year of high school, including students at special needs schools. Elementary and junior high schools in the Japanese government's ordinance-designated cities were excluded. Students were informed what type of behavior constituted sexual harassment before answering questions at home and elsewhere. Responses were collected by managerial-level staff, such as principals, bypassing the students' homeroom teachers.

    Of the 97 cases in which students felt they were sexually harassed by teachers, 46 cases were at junior high schools, 27 at elementary schools, 21 at high schools, and three at special-needs schools.

    Broken down by type of behavior, 55 cases of unnecessary physical contact and 12 cases of unnecessary proximity or gaze accounted for some 70% of all harassment cases. Specifically, such responses included, "A teacher stroked my head when they praised me," "A teacher touched my arm when they instructed me in a club activity," "A teacher put their hand on my shoulder for about 40 seconds when we lined up in the gym hall," and, "I got the impression a teacher looked at my chest when I greeted them."

    Regarding teachers' misbehavior in connection with students' physical features, sex, or appearance, responses included, "A teacher said my weight aloud so other students could hear it when our body measurements were taken," "A teacher told a student, 'You've gotten fat,' and they were hurt," "A teacher adds the suffix chan (expressing endearment) to particular students' names," and, "I felt bad when a teacher told me not to cry because I'm a boy."

    An education board official commented: "Among the responses, there were no cases that would be subject to disciplinary action, such as an indecent assault. However, the old sense of values (teachers may have) is no longer valid."

    (Japanese original by Hideyuki Yamada, Shizuoka Bureau)

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