Report by Kimiko Nezu on her visits to Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education, February 1st to 14th, 2008

On February 1, 2008, I was summoned by the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education on account of my wearing a pullover with "OBJECTION HINOMARU KIMIGAYO" printed on it, which they alleged was an offence of not obeying the administrative order issued by the principal of my school as well as a violation of the Duty of Concentrating on the Job. The Board claimed that the interview would be in regard to the "incident" reported by the principal of Minamiosawa Gakuen School for Children with Special Needs in October, 2007. I had many questions during the interview, but the interviewer, Mr. Takahashi, the Chief Managing Officer, kept repeating, "The interview is not an occasion for you to ask questions. I am not in the position of answering them." And so on February 7, I faxed to him written inquiries open to the public. On February 8, I took the inquiries to the Board in person.

On February 12, I received the answer from them. It said, "We are unable to answer any of your questions. That is the answer." This was the response from the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education that never fails to insist on the accountability of its teachers!

Anticipating that at the behind-the-curtain meeting of the regular Board Meeting scheduled on Thursday, February 14, the issue of my punishment would be suggested to be included in the agenda, we organized ourselves (I myself and members of the Committee to Stop Firing of Nezu, Kawarai and Other Teachers) to make appeals to the Board for three consecutive days, starting in the evening of the 12th.

The content of the appeals were as follows: "I am not aware of ever receiving an administrative order from the principal. Nonetheless, is it still to be understood by you and me as an administrative order? As I wear the pullover in question, I engage myself in the job wholeheartedly without ever being distracted. The principal, who claims my wearing the pullover to be a violation of the Duty of Concentrating on the Job, has been regularly witnessed by many of his staff to be dozing off at his desk. Shouldn't this behavior of his be understood as a violation of the Duty of Concentrating on the Job? When the report made by the principal and my understanding of the 'incident' diverge, we cannot expect any fair and appropriate judgment to be made. Therefore, I first ask you to answer my open inquiries."

In the early morning on February 13, we handed out flyers of appeals and explained our issues by loud speakers in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (where the Board of Education is housed). Then we headed to the Employee Issues Section, Department of Personnel, and made following requests: "We ask you to at least answer inquiries Ms. Nezu has presented," and "We ask to see Mr. Takahashi, the Chief Managing Officer." While we were making these requests, the plaintiffs of the law suit regarding the Board's refusal to give the retired teachers new appointments arrived, asking to see the Head of the Appointment Selection Section. Overwhelmed by our collective presence, the Head of the Personnel Planning Section resorted to issuing a warning three times.

He read the warning: "It is five minutes past one, and this is the third warning. If this warning was not heard, we will call the police." By calling out the name of myself and Mr. M, a plaintiff of the above-mentioned suit, he issued an "order of departure."

We decided to leave. After having a late lunch, we headed to the Employee Issues Section again. There we saw the Head of the Appointment Section being placed at the front line, and the word "holiday" printed on his vest caught my attention. I asked him several times whether wearing the vest with the word "holiday" printed on it constituted a violation of the Duty of Concentrating on the Job. But there was no answer coming from him. The next day we paid a visit to the same Section, he was not wearing the vest in question. We wondered if that was simply a happenstance.

I had been asking them to see Mr. Takahashi, the Chief Managing Officer, before they decided on a punishment to be imposed on me. The Head of the Appointment Section and the Head of the Public Service Section came out to see me, and they were initially saying: "He won't be able to see you today." In response I told them I would be prepared to see him even in the middle of the night or in the early morning, but this was what they said, quite unconcernedly: "Mr. Takahashi, the Chief Managing Officer, will not see you today, tomorrow, or any time in the future. This is the decision we as the Board of Education have made."

If that was what they insisted, next step was to see Superintendent whose job included, we assumed, answering my inquiries. We headed to the 30th floor where the Superintendent Office was located. There we found strict guard against us. Obviously, they thought we deserved it. Nonetheless, we started to repeat out requests.

On the 14th, there were at least 10 guards that I could see and count. They included not only the guards that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government hired but also the Security Police Officers. When we asked through a microphone, "Please, Security Police Officers, do not videotape us," they immediately put away their video cameras. That was why we were sure they were from the Security Police. Following the early-morning distribution of flyers of appeals, we attended the regular Board of Education meeting in large numbers. After that, we made our requests over and over again, even though it might seem futile. The government staff were acting and reacting as if they were Adolf Otto Eichmanns, but as we repeated our request, we hoped that our appeals strike home with even one of them. When I could see that our words touched someone, I felt relieved. Otherwise, all we could see were Eichmanns thrown at the front line.

Anybody who did not do what the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education told them to do were to be expelled. This applied not only to teachers but also to any Tokyoite. That was the message thrown at us from the beginning to the end. Mr. T., my former student, said: "So, we are all dispensable Tokyoite!"

I was supported by so many people day in and day out. On February 12th, 30 people showed up to give their support. On 13th, approximately 100 people did. On 14th, when the regular Board meeting was held, as many as 120 people came out to support me and to express their serious concerns toward the way the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education had been functioning.

Ms. T, Ms. T, who came from all the way from Hiroshima and Osaka to show their support, thank you very much. Two of my former students from my last year at Ishikawa Junior High School showed up and they gave me tremendous energy.

While we were making our requests on the 27th and 30th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, outside there were people encircling the Building to show their support. The members of the Committee to Stop Firing of Nezu, Kawarai and Other Teachers were explaining our issues to the public and asking for their support in two different locations by the Building.

I heard that there were people who gave us monetary support on 13th and 14th. As I saw the bills they had left for us and thought of their expression of support, I felt my fatigue just got blown away.

Let me share with you two happy incidents:

(1) One of my former student from my early years at Ishikawa Junior High School came to Tokyo Metropolitan Government in order to renew her driver's license. As she approached the Building she heard the name "Kimiko Nezu" being mentioned by a speaker talking through a microphone. She asked what was happening, and she came up to the 30th floor to say hi to me and to show her support.
(2) I was given a present by a person working at Tokyo Metropolitan Government. "Why me?" I asked, and she replied, "Because you are fighting for your cause." She probably was aware of and sympathetic toward our morning appeals. We suspect there must be many people working at the Government who share her sentiment.

The issue of my punishment was not discussed at the regular Board meeting on February 14th. We think it will likely be discussed at the next regular Board meeting scheduled on February 21st. In order not to allow them to decide on a punishment that leads to my dismissal, we are planning to organize ourselves on February 20th and 21st as follows.

We welcome your support!