Recording a Precedent


Thank you for being the “eyes” in this case, whoever you may be. When any kind of abuse is kept a secret, it is bound to repeat. When abuse is spoken out, when it is known to more people, when more eyes are watching, it makes it difficult for further abuse to happen. Therefore, your only “job” as a reader of this case, is to be informed (and if you would like: to seek more information from both sides).

– Know that there is a Labour Dispute between the teacher and the school.
– Know that it stemmed from harassment and the silencing of it, according to the teacher.
– Know the different paths the teacher has taken to solve her problem.
– Know that the teacher has given her evidence of her claims fully in court, and based upon it and the school’s evidence, the judge has made a recommendation.
– Know that this court case is officially public, and is open to any body to attend at any time (in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo District Court, 13th Fl, 部19 on given dates and times).

In this case, the problem happened to a teacher. It is important to know of some precedent should it ever happen to another teacher, or a student, his family or even other international school teachers in similar circumstances. Currently, there is no written precedent of what to do when you have a serious problem within an international school. Members of the school community remember that Japan Soccer Coach and former St. Mary’s parent, Ruy Ramos (ラモス瑠偉) had once taken the opportunity to address the issue of school bullying on Japanese TV in the early 2000s.

St. Mary’s deserves to be an excellent school, not by omission of its problems, but by solving problems properly. Currently, the school has no clear teacher-evaluation procedure: how/when/why a teacher should continue teaching or be fired. This may cause the school to have many uncertified teachers, teachers who have not been evaluated in years, good teachers who are overlooked etc. In this case, a teacher was fired on an undocumented whim. Teachers leave their home countries behind to educate the students at St. Mary’s and spend a lot of their own money to set up lives here, just like other ex-pat families. Some degree of fairness and security is necessary for the stability of the school and the retention of good teachers in the long run. Few internationally-savvy teachers these days would want to stay long-term at a school with one-year contracts, no clear policy about job security, and large set-up costs (i.e. 6 months rent upfront in Setagaya-ku).

It is important not to fear solving problems. Be a critical thinker. Read the blogs and ask questions. Read flyers, recycle them and keep the seed of information should it ever become useful to you.

Japan is one of the best places in the world in which to live and work. There are laws that are upheld and if private residents / citizens have a problem, there are judiciary channels through which it can be solved. Even foreign residents are protected fully under this civilized and gracious protection.

Thus, the teacher in this case, is very grateful to be able to resolve this administrative / labour dispute through the courts. There are much worse problems in the world, where people suffer greatly, without any recourse to help themselves.

Legalistically, this case is only a labour dispute. But of course, the drive to fight it properly has to do with the theme of: “abuse of power with impunity”.

Thus, to persist with this case, to bring watchful eyes on the teacher’s problem vis-a-vis certain administrators, it is hoped that the treatment of all teachers doesn’t deteriorate again. Furthermore, whether or not the case is successful for the teacher, this exercise in using this hard-won judicial system to check if she is right or wrong, is important in and of itself.

Here is Isabel Allende talking about the age-old problem of abuse of power with impunity from minute 15:56:



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6 responses to “Recording a Precedent

  1. hello


    RE: the flyer given out Sept 21.

    We realize the school has issues. It is always a good idea to troubleshoot problems. Thanks for the update.

    • stmaryslabordispute


      • Concerned parent

        >No abuse. The teacher was clearly incompetent. There were teacher evaluations, and Ms. Tran received them. Obviously, she hasn’t shared them with anyone.

        Dear Concerned Parent,

        If you would like to say that you are a “parent” who “clearly” saw that this teacher was incompetent, you perhaps would like people to think you were a parent of a student in this teacher’s class. In this case, you should have made a complaint about this teacher when she taught your son. That is what all parents should do, fearlessly about anything at the school. Why complain now on a blog? Why did you let your son “suffer” under her care? If you did complain, there should be a record of it for everyone to see and for the school to use in this court case. 32 families have submitted a petition in support of the teacher. There are letters or emails of support to account for all 51 students and their families. So, perhaps you are not a “parent”, but just “concerned”. You should just say so. In that case, please read on.

        The great thing about taking this matter to court is that documented evidence such as teacher evaluations can be shown to everyone. Even if the teacher, as you suggest, has been hiding poor evaluations from everyone, certainly the school would have a copy. The school has had 10 months, and ample opportunity to show such documents. A document with the teacher’s name, the class observed, and the teacher’s signature in acceptance of the evaluation would be crystal clear. There should be follow-up evaluations too, to see if the teacher has improved or not. The school must have standard evaluation forms for these. Why weren’t they used? One or two of these poor evaluations coupled with parent complaints or student complaints would make a plausible case for incompetency. Furthermore, before someone is to lose their livelihood, it is important to issue verbal or written warnings. Where were any of these things? Unfortunately for the school, such documents cannot be created now in retrospect.

        The teacher has shown the court 70 documents which support that “incompetency” was NOT an issue.

        So, there were no official, proven reasons to fire this teacher–the teacher was forced to accept the will of the school without question. Such a situation does fall under the category of “abuse of power with impunity”.

        Thank you for your suspicions of the teacher perhaps being sneaky. It has given me a chance to answer any misconceptions about her. Japanese courts are purely based on documented evidence, not any one party’s assertions. You should take a day off from work to see the court proceedings–I’m sure we won’t be surprised to see you. The teacher knows why she has been fired. She had held up a mirror to the administration one day, and they did not like what they saw. Harassment, according to the teacher, was happening by members of the administration. In my opinion, instead of solving it, they decided to sweep it under the rug, by dismissing her. In court, the admin have the opportunity to prove this theory wrong and that the real reason was legitimate. So, we are waiting.

        All teachers uniformly, deserve to know exactly the documented status of their job security if they are to commit themselves whole-heartedly to the school. That is how the school can guarantee a dedicated, long-term, at-ease teaching faculty.

        P.S. For teachers reading this, there is a danger that the admin may just become more careful at documenting potential dismissals for teachers, in the future. In this case, it is important to video-record lessons that are being evaluated and also clearly request 3rd and 4th party observers, to give a rounded-out evaluation. There should be opportunity given to improve. Never sit in a closed-door meeting with admin by yourself, unless you can record it. Request colleagues to be present. Be highly suspicious of and protest admin who write their own minutes to meetings with you (you should be able to sign in agreement that they are true). As well, keep good original records of your success as a teacher. It’s best not to take anything for granted. If you really are a bad teacher, don’t bother taking the school to court about it–it takes a lot of time and energy to sort out and billion-yen settlements are not possible anyway. Sue them when you truly feel they deserve it and you deserve better.

  2. About the teacher

    Thank you for all this work on the blog. It is interesting to see the comments! Can you make the comments more visible?

  3. concerned alumnus

    I have to say that this is sad. St. Mary’s was a superb school until 1978, when Br. Michel Poitras resigned as the Principal of the high school. All was downhill since that time. I was there during the beginning of the downward spiral. Once Mr. Paradis and Mr. Scripko left, the school declined even further. I wish that Br. Charles Desjarlais will return as Headmaster. He will certainly clean up the school.

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