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December 7, 2003

Worker at school for deaf children fired over sex abuse

From: Daily Yomiuri, Japan - Dec 7, 2003

Yomiuri Shimbun

Kanamachi Gakuen, a school for children with speaking and hearing impairments in Katsushika Ward, Tokyo--the sole facility of its kind in the metropolitan area--has dismissed a male employee for repeated sexual abuse of a teenage female student who is deaf and mute, The Yomiuri Shimbun learned Sunday.

The metropolitan government plans to launch an investigation into the case early this week by making an on-the-spot inspection of Tokyo Aiiku-en, a social welfare services operator that runs the school.

The employee, in his 30s, repeatedly abused the student over about three years, touching her breasts and performing other illicit acts. The management of the facility learned of the abuse from another student, who had been asked by the female student for help.

After the employee confessed to abusing the student, Tokyo Aiiku-en fired him and reported the case to the metropolitan government in late November.

Shocked by the report, the metropolitan government decided to make an on-the-spot inspection of the social welfare services group to further investigate the case.

Tokyo Aiiku-en said it could not yet make any comment as an in-house investigation was still under way.

The dismissal of the employee, whose name is being withheld, followed an August corporal punishment case at the school, whose operational and upkeep expenditures are financed by the central government.

In that case, a student lodged a complaint with the metropolitan government in August over corporal punishment by a school employee. In October, the metropolitan government ordered Tokyo Aiiku-en to set up an ad-hoc third-party investigation panel, comprised of lawyers and scholars, and to submit a thorough report on the case, including corrective measures.

Kanamachi Gakuen, established in 1948, is one of 15 schools for deaf and mute children in the country. It teaches students from five to 20 years old who have hearing and speaking impairments. At present, enrollment comprises more than 20 students from Tokyo and neighboring prefectures such as Chiba and Kanagawa.

The Kanamachi Gakuen cases are believed to be the tip of the iceberg.

Three years ago, an employee at Oncho-en, a protective institution for children in Chiba Prefecture, was arrested on suspicion of molestation. In November 2002, an employee at Tsukuba Aiji-en, a similar facility in Ibaraki Prefecture, was dismissed for abusing children.

Masato Hirayu, a lawyer and director of the Japanese Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, said, "Some structural flaws lie behind the spate of abuses in these facilities. They're chronically short of staff, and some employees have the perception that they can do whatever they want with the children, since they are taking care of them on their parents' behalf."

Hirayu added: "A law should be written to prohibit corporal punishment and define the qualifications required for the manager of each facility. In addition, staff training and educational programs should be improved."

Copyright 2003 The Yomiuri Shimbun