If you are looking for a review of St. Mary’s International School, you should know this site documents the experience of a teacher who challenged the school through the courts. While this site reflects negatively on how the admin have chosen to deal with a host of situations that have arisen from this case–demonstrating its arcane and arrogant style of management every time, this is not to detract from the fact that the community of some teachers, parents, students and alumni have made it a great place to be for many, through their hard work. In fact, it is through the support of this community that Ms. Tran (the teacher whose story is written about here) was able to sue the school, and continue to live and work in her field, in Japan for another 4 years before moving on for personal reasons. This is to say, St. Mary’s school community deserves a lot better than what management has shown capable of offering. For that, we cannot endorse that families pay the exorbitant tuition nor encourage new teachers to apply before a rigorous consideration of ALL options.
We are some former and current members of the international community in Tokyo, who have had children / students at St. Mary’s. We started this blog in 2008 to document the way in which the school administration dealt with an individual who stood up to them, and who took up an issue that most wouldn’t in Japan–especially in an isolated community like that of expats. The stakes are very high for speaking out.
Needless to say, we felt the school handled things appallingly in Ms. Tran’s case and have continued to do so, over the years (yes, the case has gone for years!). As individual families, teachers or students, it’s hard to speak up for fear of (a child) getting bullied, of the stress of being given a hard time every day, or of (a family) losing options if an expulsion were to happen. For teachers, losing a job means repatriation because the school positions itself in control of his/her home, only source of income and latest job reference. Except for repatriation (she had fought to stay on in Japan) Ms. Tran experienced all of this, and even more, after she thought her case was finished in court! She had not been given documented reasons for why the school decided to end her job in 2008. This lack of transparency and accountability by the school, despite contracts, is an abuse of power. Many of us may miss this point as just being administrative. But, it reveals how vulnerable individuals can be, in a strange place–and how everything one has built up to live and work in Japan can vanish in an instant, on someone else’s whim, just because they don’t like you and think they are more powerful than you. This is how Ms. Tran found herself. This blog is about how she fought back.
This blog is anonymous for obvious reasons. The court cases documented here are available to the public through the Tokyo District Court. Information discussed can be verified through the court documents.
Separately, with the unexpected release of the school’s letter to the community regarding sexual abuse at the end of January 2014, we lent our blog’s “Forum” for that issue because we had long known the importance of having a safe, anonymous place for parents or the diaspora of alumni to express how they really felt about the school and difficult topics. There existed no other space or outlet to do so. That issue soon took on a life of its own, and with the school’s chronic non-response, it revealed the true character of the school in the face of accountability, writ large.
We’ve been happy to maintain this space for individuals to express their paths of working out issues against major institutions. This unofficial medium has been an important crucible.