Tag Archives: libel

What to Do If Your International School is Run By A**holes

Forgive the title, but is there really any other way to say it?

We went from 11,000 visitors to almost 22,500 since January because of people wanting to know what has become of the allegations in St. Mary’s International School’s sexual abuse scandals.  Counts of assault have been revealed to us like clowns coming out of the VW buggy of your worst nightmare.  And then what should we get?  A Japan Times article about a sex scandal at ASIJ within a week of its revelation!

ASIJ Japan Times Article

[Note to Japan Times: what was wrong with our story (released in January)?  Don’t the emotional lives of little boys matter as much as little girls?  Isn’t St. Mary’s as newsworthy as ASIJ?  If it weren’t for the fact that many families have kids in both schools, we’d feel left out.  We are literally, brothers and sisters.

Note to ASIJ: don’t worry, you’re not alone–we’ve got institutional pedophilia at St. Mary’s International School.]  

Newcomers to this blog have tuned into the Forum page (which is a separate annexed section about a thematically different topic from the rest of the blog), and might understandably be confused.  If you have no idea who we are or what to make of this hodgepodge of themes, we’ve put out some FAQs below.  After reading them, maybe you too can come to the conclusion that all these stories actually belong in the same bag (correct me if I’m wrong):

That the international school community in Tokyo has weak foundations in real governance and leadership–especially at the schools cited in this post.  They are inherited private oligopolies that follow a business formula.  The admin are usually inbred promotions who have never had to answer to transparency or accountability.  They rely on the Japanese norm of silence to deal with problems.  Then, “problem individuals”, after years of anguish, come back for a reckoning:

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Is this what we want?  The bloggers here, given our angle, will attempt to offer suggestions to remedy these problems in the here and now–hopefully helpful, no matter what international school you have deal with.

Our theory about the bad governance and leadership:  the international school community is made up of vulnerable, isolated individuals and families highly dependent on the private services of these educational institutions.  It is a roaring money-making, diploma-churning machine that everyone loves in Good Times:  teachers and admin make tons of money at a lower tax rate than in their home countries; staff have subsidized housing in one of the most expensive cities in the world; alumni can feel proud of their alma maters; parents have somewhere reliable to educate their kids during their stint in Japan; international kids are immersed among a student body just like themselves; new and old admin look like geniuses if they can keep the music going, though they don’t have much to tweak.  As it should be.  But what happens when you add a protest by a teacher during carnival?  Or bullying?  Or now, sexual abuse, into that mix?  And then a noisy victim or three or 32?  The whole bubble is threatened.  Nobody at the helm is individually smart enough or empowered enough to act–no active leadership has been needed in recent memory.  But the worst thing has been that no one has been moral enough to act, which should override everything.  By this, we indict Brother Michel, the head of the corporation of St. Mary’s during this scandal, Mr. Kagei and of course the litany of pedophile admin and teachers who have preyed on the student body.  The ASIJ admin are equally shirkers of doing right–ignoring the girls who came out to tell them of their plight.  But, these admin are not alone.  The Bystander Effect is real.  Everyone knows that criminals and wrong-doers are bad, but whistleblowers are even worse–because they are us…in a role we can’t imagine.  When a victim steps forward, we all take a step back, thinking of the hassle to ourselves.  A largely complacent community, with atrophied civic activist muscles, has no idea how to navigate this without being a serious buzz-kill to the God of Good Times–people would rather not have known.  Who dares provide leadership on something like this?

The knee jerk plan of admin, in absence of a real solution, has always been to ignore or silence any individual who threatens the brand name (and hence, marketability) of the school, as obviously has been done throughout the case documented by this blog at St. Mary’s International School and now, apparently at ASIJ.  St. Mary’s admin have even been known recently to go the extra step of denigrating whistleblowers in secret (Ms. Tran’s resurrected case) or settle quietly with the Archbishop (over Brother Lawrence’s victim).  Loyal teachers, parents and alumni are content to rely on the same problematic admin to…address problems.  In complacency, we are complicit.

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This is called GroupThink, a nasty phenomenon.

First, some FAQs for new readers:

1. Is this blog about St. Mary’s International School?

No, this blog has specifically tracked a case which ran 2008-2010 about a teacher who sued St. Mary’s International School for unfair dismissal.  She felt that it was the signature act of oppression by an administration that was willfully deaf, dumb and blind to transgressions made by its top-ranking admin for the 2 years she worked there.  The school paid a settlement.  The teacher is / was Ms. Tran.

2. Is this case current or past?

This blog started up again in 2012-present when Ms. Tran found out that the Linda Wayne, Curriculum Coordinator at St. Mary’s, was behind an attempt to shut her out of her post-St. Mary’s employment in the field of teaching at Tokyo universities–an unnecessary dick move.  More at: Case Background.

3.  How is this related to the sex-abuse scandal at St. Mary’s?

It isn’t.  Suddenly, during the updates of the resurrection of  Ms. Tran’s case in January 2014, the school admin released a  letter to parents with the shocking news that Brother Lawrence was accused of sexual abuse while working at St. Mary’s.  This blog, being the only free, anonymous way to discuss matters related to the school at the time, offered the Forum, for people to discuss this separate issue.

4. Where can we read more about the updates about the sex-abuse scandal at St. Mary’s?

Commenters at the Forum are becoming more forthright with what they know, so check there.  A miraculous discovery on the Forum has been a blogger from Canada named Sylvia who has dedicated an enormous amount of her time documenting every case of sexual abuse within Canada’s Catholic church.  She gives names, dates, photos and history of those in the clergy.  Sylvia has documented no fewer than four cases that have emerged along with the story of Brother Lawrence:

  • Brother Lawrence / Guy Lambert, sexual abuse allegation from 1963: bit.ly/1deuurH
  • Brother Benoit Lessard (deceased), sexual abuse of students who attended a camp KEEP in late 60s: bit.ly/1nQZKSn
  • Brother John Paradis, sexual abuse of student(s) involving fellatio during tenure 60s, 70s, mid 80s: bit.ly/OL67qC
  • Brother Marcel Villmure, sexual abuse involving molestation and threat-shaming of students with foolscap-sized nude photocopies of themselves if they told bit.ly/1jrfZP

The clearest (and unfortunately most graphic) account of abuse was given here on our own Forum and republished as a post on Sylvia’s site, by an alumnus: bit.ly/1gfyIPu.  Commenters have pointed out the incomprehensible complicity of the school secretary at the time who apologized to the victim once he emerged from the Brother’s office (a sign of her knowing what happens to the children in the office), and of the gym teacher of that era who may have known what was in store for the child as punishment, when he sent him to the Headmaster’s office for a transgression.

Second, some tips for the international school community to flex their activist muscles:

1. Japan is a first world country, so work it.

In a first world country, legitimacy and accountability are much more important to institutions than in developing countries–but one person won’t convince them.  Organizing many people to solve problems democratically is legal and effective.  In particular, parents getting on an email list, and then meeting at a rented hall where everyone pitches in is one way to get people together to discuss what they want.  Ideas:

  • A petition could result: to the media; to the police; to the UN in this case of violation of children’s rights; to the education ministry, which licenses the schools; to the “accreditation” councils which the schools depend on to rubber-stamp their “credentials” in the relatively poorly-enforced world of international teaching standards (like WASC, IB, COIS etc.).
  • Catholic parents could petition the Archdiocese and the Vatican in the St. Mary’s case.
  • A class-action lawsuit, civil damages re: endangering students.
  • A parents’ council / board with actual influence on the school’s policies, hiring decisions, admin appointments could result.  See #2.

2. We can always boil an institution’s inexplicable immoral silence down to: Money.  So hit them where it hurts.

Families that have the flexibility to move elsewhere need to show institutions that their poor governance will cost them–simply by moving to better-run schools.  Research enrolment deadlines.  Are other schools somehow inconvenient?  What is more important: family convenience or a safe, accountable school that doesn’t have a delayed-deploying sexual abuse bomb?  Other international schools trying to sit nice and quietly on the sidelines of this PR nightmare for St. Mary’s and ASIJ can show leadership by stating their thoughts on the matter and assurance of how their schools are run.

Families that are planning to stay for a longer-haul and who are themselves invested in the school community also have power.

Take the example of how large banks deal with developers.   If a developer wants to build an office / retail tower, it needs the financial backing of a huge bank.  Shovels can’t hit the ground, obviously, until this money is released.  Banks only release the money when they are 60%, 70% or 80% sure, depending on the case, that the developer has what it takes to actually run the finished-building properly and pay back that large loan.  Only then, would they start to release the funds, but even then, in stages.  So, to assure the bank, the developer, at the beginning of the project, only equipped with architectural drawings and a sales team, is busy lining up tenants and clients to fill up the imaginary tower.  They must present to the bank expressions of interest, if not sales contracts, from enough tenants or buyers to assure the bank that this will be a viable building that can do its duty of fulfilling its debt.

My point is: parents represent the bank.  Collectively, they hold the money that the school needs to run.  We are talking USD $25-30 million a year.  They absolutely need to be front and centre on the decision-making for every new school year.  Fine, a private company like these schools can have whatever board they want.  And yes, they once represented a oligopoly of schools.  But no longer: with at least a dozen choices in the Tokyo area, and growing.  However, parents new and old, as a block, remain a buyers’ monopoly: a monopsony.  Schools have a hard time attracting and retaining a customer, especially with viscerally disgusting scandals like these.  Parents deserve a checklist of assurances before releasing their cash:

  • Have grievances lodged by parents, students, teachers or alumni been solved adequately?
  • Do returning admin or teachers pose a threat / have serious complaints accrued against them?
  • Have background checks / review systems for new and returning staff been updated?
  • Who is enjoying a life-time tenure, why?
  • Are staff licensed to be working with / teaching children?
  • Is there a system in place for all members of the school community to solve problems without fear?

My experience at St. Mary’s showed no serious or enforceable system of complaint by anyone.  The admin have no accountability to anyone except themselves.  One parent-faculty memo showed only 69% of staff even have teaching certifications etc.  When we started this blog about Ms. Tran back in 2008, citing those things that Ms. Tran and we  encountered may have seemed petty and isolated.  But now look at what they actually represent!  We wish it weren’t true!

As the international school situation is now, the problem is, it is only in theory that the parents have a powerful collective hold of the school’s needed revenue.  In reality, the parents are not organized and are individually contracted with the school to pay their child’s fees.  A parents’ board would solve that: a legal entity that can direct parents, who’ve signed on, when to release money and by how much.  Even if the school outwardly refused to do business with the parent-board, it would have no way of seeking legal redress with all the individual families who participate.

Even the threat of this should be sufficient for ushering in a new era of accountability: meet the community’s demands for answers.  There is no arguing that these terrible sexual abuse scandals are a damning indication of institutional governance rot. There is no defence for it.  At least, we can make it an opportunity for change.  [Since power seems to corrupt, a compromise between the admin and the parents could be setting up a tuition-release fund held in trust / escrow until the parents get their answers].

3. Write to the the Japan Times writer, Jon Mitchell who wrote about the ASIJ case, tell him to include St. Mary’s!

Finally, an update on Ms. Tran’s defamation case against Gregory Strong of Aoyama Gakuin University

In our opinion, this case is a prime example of how someone’s drunkenness on self-perceived power and influence goes on to make them perpetuate a rotten and corrupt system of secrecy:

After the judge ruled the case a go (Ms. Tran as an overseas plaintiff had to pay a deposit to the Japanese court to prove her seriousness), Strong’s side issued arguments.  We’ve roughly translated and summarized Ms. Tran’s response below.  (Next time, in early April, Strong’s side will be able to respond.)

First: Strong’s words about Ms. Tran was in a private email to an individual, was not public and therefore does not constitute defamation.

–> The definition of defamation does not include that false remarks have to be public.  There are precedent cases within the Japanese courts that show that being public does not have to be a factor in determining defamatory remarks.  Furthermore, Strong may have written the email in confidence, but he certainly had no control over how public the email would have become, nor could he enforce its secrecy [i.e. this blog!].  Lastly, in the email that Strong wrote himself, he stated that he would likely be warning others away from hiring Ms. Tran, so his intention of keeping such gossip a secret is not true.  Therefore, the defence’s argument of the remarks being “public” or not doesn’t make sense.

Second: Ms. Tran was not qualified to work at Aoyama.

–> Ms. Tran had not sued over a job at Aoyama, nor listed it as a reason for the lawsuit.  Surely any candidate who feels qualified has the freedom to apply to a publicly posted job without fear?  It is unrelated to why Strong would go ahead and write defamatory, self-admittedly unverified, imagined things about another person that would negatively affect their reputation.

Third: the email was written simply to express why Strong would not be hiring Ms. Tran at Aoyama

–> Such an email should be directed to Ms. Tran, herself, then–not her current employer!  Also, the email does not at all talk about Ms. Tran’s qualifications.  In fact, it only mentions Strong’s ideas about Ms. Tran’s case and settlement with St. Mary’s.  So, this doesn’t give any more excusable an explanation of the email communication, and it contradicts Strong’s argument that Ms. Tran wasn’t qualified.

Lastly: Gregory Strong is not liable for the court costs in the breach-of-settlement case against St. Mary’s

–> Strong’s email specifically states that he had knowledge (whether real or fictitious is another matter) of an otherwise  confidential settlement.  He pins the source as St. Mary’s admin, cites this authority and specifies the confidential nature of the matter.  Next, he acted upon this information in the worst way possible: using it to harm one of the parties–Ms. Tran.  Would Ms. Tran have enforced the settlement with St. Mary’s, if Strong hadn’t specified in his own words how and from whom he got this information?  Of course not. [I wonder if St. Mary’s would also sue Strong for having put them through an expensive lawsuit?]

  •     *     *

There you have it, the foulest smelling week of international schooling in Tokyo.  Thanks to everyone who has been helping to lift the lid off this doozy.  Next: you are powerful, Mr. and Ms. Bystander, Bystander san, and Bystander tachi!  It’s time to do something!

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Moms! You list higher than Power!

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The alumnae of ASIJ proved to be much louder and more media savvy than the alumni of St. Mary’s…just saying.

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Why are any of us still putting up with this bullshit?  Let’s reclaim the schools and be the generation that changed things for the better. For good.

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Update on Defamation Case Against Gregory Strong

[UPDATE added below in red] We were truly surprised by the news about the sexual assault allegations against Brother Lawrence at St. Mary’s, from a letter to parents sent out on January 31.  As we wrote in the last post, the least we could do to help members of the wider school community who may be affected, is to host and facilitate a(n anonymous) discussion, found in the Forum.  We are happy to use this blog’s established existence to do that.  Apparently, many of us are interested:

[UPDATE: Here is the world-wide readership for the past week, for example:Feb 11 Stats

Here is how people came to our blog (for the past 30 days–to include January 31st, the day the letter to parents came out).  Wow–is all we have to say about the power of Facebook–507 referrals, and counting:]

Feb 11 Referrers

*     *     *

As for Ms. Tran’s case, because she submitted the overseas plaintiff deposit on time, the defense (Gregory Strong, Professor of English at Aoyama Gakuin) has had to submit arguments for the February session of the court  i.e. engage in the suit fully. That happened earlier this week.   Ms. Tran’s side will rebut the arguments for the next session, at the beginning of March.

The defense’s arguments are long and repeat much of what was said in the case with St. Mary’s earlier.  Namely, that Gregory Strong had no obligation to hire Ms. Tran at Aoyama.  Again, while this is true, the decision not to hire someone surely shouldn’t be followed by a defamatory rant to the person’s current employer, nor a written threat to stymie the person’s future chances of being hired elsewhere.  How about just not hiring the person, Mr. Strong?

We can only imagine that a small-minded, petty person with an inflated sense of self-importance and influence would bother to do that.

Upon checking out Gregory Strong’s CV, it seems he presents at McGraw-Hill Education Events at JALT, writes about EFL and ESL, and of course, is in charge of hiring for Aoyama Gakuin University’s English Department.  Thus, it is understandable why he wrote this email defaming a teacher in the “strictest confidence”: such a thing is, otherwise, utterly unprofessional to do.  Of course, there was an assumption of an unwritten Code of Silence and the support of a league of behind-the-scenes actors who have no qualms about damaging others.  It’s great that Ms. Tran’s employer at the time refused to participate.

It’ll be interesting to find out how the defense will argue that Mr. Strong felt it necessary to go the extra step of writing about fictitious court orders and settlement results against Ms. Tran in his infamous email.  And if St. Mary’s claims not to have fed Mr. Strong this information officially, then Mr. Strong needs to explain why he cited an authority at St. Mary’s.

*     *     *

We are not big fans of Codes of Silence and non-transparency.  These things may be useful for holding up reputations of institutions or the egos of those who run them, for a while, but ultimately, they create an environment full of unacknowledged cracks.  When the weakest member of a community is being punished for or prevented from speaking out, be it a new teacher, be it an isolated family or student, the community is an unsafe one.  These days we hear a lot about societies fighting to protect women, girls, minorities like the LGBT community, victims of sexual abuse (in India, Sochi, the world wide Catholic community…)–because when the weakest members feel safe and thriving, that’s when we can be assured a community is a solid one.

St. Mary’s International School was not a safe place for Ms. Tran to bring up, what should have been standard complaints: stop whispering in her ear Mr. Assistant Vice-Principal; acknowledge the test results of her students and stop closed-door meetings where a teacher is not allowed any advocate present.  It was surprising, instead the machinery that had been set up and waiting, to squash her speaking up.  In 2008, it was in the wording of the contracts that the school had set up with the teachers’ landlords, and the ambiguous wording of the employment contract itself.  These things could only be challenged in court, which took time and expense.  When the teacher overcame those, in 2010, it was the St. Mary’s admin, Linda Wayne, Curriculum Coordinator, who leveraged a network of friends in positions of power to pass on things that would damage the career of a teacher in a way that would not be visible to the courts.

Why is there machinery to quiet voices?  Why not deal with problems openly and transparently?  Is the brand of the school more important than the well-being of the individuals within it?  We are afraid so.

By the way, we don’t mean to attribute real “power” to people like Gregory Strong and Linda Wayne.  We feel like it is only applicable because in this small, claustrophobic context of international schools in Japan, and particularly at St. Mary’s — these individuals seem big.  Noting the ultimate pettiness of what was done to Ms. Tran, we know that her slanderers would not be considered worthy of their professions in a real context.  If Linda Wayne’s dinner conversation with Gregory Strong meant to excuse why St. Mary’s had to pay a settlement to Ms. Tran:

An Excuse

In our opinion, 25-30-years is much too long a tenure for people like Linda Wayne and Gregory Strong to ever be advocates of progressive education and teaching excellence.  Spotty-bottomed bureaucrats intent on reinforcing the brand of the only institution on their resumes?  That’s more likely.  Some international schools in Europe have a 7-year maximum on how long any teacher or administrator is allowed to stay.  What a great policy.

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Litigating from Overseas

Overseas litigants taking up a case in the Japanese courts is nothing new.   The comfort women from the surrounding Asia-Pacific countries that Imperial Japan had once dominated, perennially sue the government for apologies and restitution.  The parents of murdered British teacher, Lindsay Hawker, somewhat successfully sought justice through criminal court by seeing through a life sentence for the killer.  However, unless the case is heart-stoppingly huge, we’ve often never heard of overseas litigation among regular circles.

In fact, at the first sign of meeting hardship in Japan, it’s not uncommon that unattached “gaijin” start shopping around for a ticket back to their home country to run away jurisdictionally and emotionally.

Japan is often over-sold for its planet-bizarro touristy goodtimes—and its (once) roaring yen.  Litigation here, there or anywhere is usu. considered a major downer.

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Japan = good times only!

In Ms. Tran’s case, who would want to get fired and have to deconstruct the systemic unfairness of it?  Who would want to see the aftermath?  Delve into labor laws, the plight of foreign workers, systemic abuse of power and meet the true stony-face of the Japanese working world and justice system?  If you don’t have a future here, why dig in your heels?

In fact, in Ms. Tran’s first case, the St. Mary’s admin had banked on the tried, tested and true behavioral gaijin flight pattern by:

  • reminding her that unless she took advantage right away of the free shipping back to Canada, organized by the school, of the allowable 1000 lbs of household contents, this very expensive option would be forever lost to her (knowing that they had induced her to ship about the same amount to prepare for a “life in Japan” just 2 years earlier)
  • giving her a goodbye card–colored black for demoralization, while other teachers who were retiring, moving on au naturel etc. had nice washi patterns
  • revealing at the last minute that her apt lease was actually the school’s lease and that she’d be considered a squatter if she stayed a minute longer

If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ll know that Ms. Tran, instead of worrying about the fate of her closetful of fashionable dresses, or about the school’s stationery-as-emotional-weapon, just changed the locks and stayed in the country another 4 years  (continuing for 22 more months in the same apt, until the case resolved), effectively scrambling known patterns.

So, in this case now with the St. Mary’s defense case scapegoat, Gregory Strong, how does it work that Ms. Tran can litigate in Japanese civil court, from overseas?  A quick Google search will show that Tokyo has well-established bilingual legal services (Japanese-English) for foreigners–like, overseas foreigners:

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It probably made a difference that Ms. Tran had connected with her lawyer while still living in Japan (most offices require a face-to-face, paid consultation at the first meeting).  However, the logistics of payment and communication thereafter have been simple and seamless.

Ms. Tran has had to put up 150,000 yen as a deposit required for overseas plaintiffs, in addition to court fees and one-time legal fees, as requested by Gregory Strong’s lawyer, in case Ms. Tran poses some sort of flight risk!

By the way, after 6 years, how much did Ms. Tran eventually have to ship home?  I asked and it was less than half of what she had originally brought.  Apparently, the 2008 economic crash gave her “an epiphany about banks, their promotion of consumer spending to lock people into personal debt to them in order to rely on loans and credit cards, the mechanisms by which their top institutional investors reap ungodly profits, the main source of income inequality.”  Hmm.  500 lbs of clothes is still a lot of clothes!

And, why dig in your heels, Ms. Tran?  

1. Not standing up for yourself is a top 5 death-bed regret.  

2. Kurosawa did warn of brain-rot from simple narratives:

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3. “日本が大好き, OK?”

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Lawsuit Against Gregory Strong, Professor of English at Aoyama Gakuin University

Despite our informal poll earlier showing that people figure BOTH Linda Wayne and Gregory Strong were culpable in defaming Ms. Tran, it’s been confirmed that Ms. Tran will be suing Gregory Strong through the Yokohama District Court–the first court date is in 2 days: January 8, 2014.  The case will be for defamation that originated from a conversation he testified to have had with Linda Wayne, and was reported to Ms. Tran’s employer in an email, in a way that sought to denigrate her professionally.  Following the “logic” of the courts, if St. Mary’s International School and Linda Wayne (and in fact Gregory Strong himself) were eager in defense mode to alleviate the school of any official association with that email, it leaves Gregory Strong himself responsible for what he wrote.

Ms. Tran has learned from St. Mary’s teachers that Linda Wayne will be leaving St. Mary’s at the end of the school year, and probably Japan.  Her fateful conversation with Gregory Strong, speaking on behalf of the school as one of its admin, leading to this defamation suit will be something she has left behind for her friend Gregory Strong.  What a way to cap off a 20+ year friendship in Asia!  Something actually fitting for Linda Wayne and Gregory Strong and their idea of relating to people.  They had wanted to spread the word about Ms. Tran.  Well, they got what they wanted.

What will Ms. Linda Wayne do?  The hope is any profession that has to do with people and social skills will be spared.  A consultant for school accreditation?  Supply teaching?  Will she have new coworkers or new neighbors?  Probably.  I hope they use Google.  Her husband Joe was a nice guy–if he’s well now, maybe he can represent them to new folk.

[Update January 20: it has been suggested that Linda Wayne, who is not at retirement age, is being asked to finish her tenure at the school.  2013 ended two major uses the school corporation had for Wayne:  

1. Undoubtedly, she has had to answer to the litigation against the school sparked by her friend Gregory Strong, who had cited her office at the school as the source of defamatory remarks.  The school’s successful downloading of all the responsibility on Strong himself likely did not mitigate the fact that the poor choice of having communicated sensitive issues to such an indiscreet person put the school at risk and cost them unnecessary legal expenses in three levels of court.

2.  The school, as per usual, also depended on Wayne, as the Curriculum Coordinator, to see through another accreditation process.  

Since the corporation has finished squeezing both responsibilities out of her, it’s curtains, is it?]

The fact that Ms. Tran is pursuing litigation from overseas can cause the other side and the courts to doubt the sincerity and authenticity of the claim–after all, it will cost Gregory Strong lawyer fees to defend himself and an overseas’ plaintiff could drop the case without recourse.  To that end, Japanese courts have a provision that may require Ms. Tran to post a type of deposit to ensure that she is not taking this lightly.  I’m sure Ms. Tran will not hesitate to wire that amount over.  [But FYI, the yen is sure to tank against CAD / USD…]

OK, that’s all we’ve found out for now and we are sure of its accuracy.  Thought I’d share 🙂

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The Statistics Behind Our Blog: Thank you!

Thank you, to our readers!  You have taken an interest, given us feedback and made us feel that this issue is being discussed.  That’s all we’ve wanted.

As you know, the bloggers who have contributed in writing and translating here, have done so to help readers learn how to navigate a system that is designed to keep an individual quiet, stop  progress and discourage speaking up when something is wrong.  It was, in particular, illustrated by Ms. Tran’s case and how she’s fought back.    Most of us have been direct members of the school community, which deals with so many children and vulnerable families that can’t afford to have a bad experience with St. Mary’s.  In discussing Ms. Tran’s case, we hope that the school will think twice about treating any individual like this again.

We thought you might be interested in the statistics that you have generated over time.  As writers, we are not counted if we log in as writers (and we try not to be).

1. Over the months, even when there was no activity from us (we resumed recently from an over-3-year hiatus, in October 2013), this blog seemed to sustain interest and stand as a resource for people to learn about this case at St. Mary’s.  At the end of 2012, WordPress, the host of this blog, showed us that, on average, visitors come to view multiple blog posts:

Stats by month

2. More recent stats show, for example, in the past 90 days, links from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn were among sources that drove our traffic:

Referrers 90 day stats

3.  Since “Search Engines” were the strongest source of traffic, we wondered what were some of the terms people searched?  It turns out, some people search specifically for Ms. Tran and this story, about Linda Wayne, and even now for Gregory Strong at Aoyama University.  A candidate teacher searched for vacancies at St. Mary’s International School.  And people look for advice about labor disputes in Japan:

search terms stats 30 days

4. In the past month, it was no surprise that people read our most recent posts.  But they also seemed to dig through the archives too:

Content 30 day stats

5. Our FAVORITE stats is this one: our blog is being read all over the world!! (The view allowed as far back as February of 2012):

Stats by country since Feb 2012

So, thank you.  And please continue to share this story with readers you think would be interested.  The shortlink to our home page is http://bit.ly/1cfYNYm .

 

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Part 3: Don’t Expect the Japanese Courts to Care

Recap of Part 2:

[Update: Linda Wayne and Gregory Strong’s initial court letters were added to the last post]

  • Ms. Tran realized that court was the only way to find out who was really behind the email, which attacked her teaching reputation and her career.  So, she took St. Mary’s back to court for Breach of Settlement because the email’s author had specified that he knew of the settlement details from a school admin.  The school had signed a confidentiality clause.  Professor of English at Aoyama Gakuin University, Gregory Strong was this email author–a man Ms. Tran had never met, but to whom she did apply for a job.

  • In court, St. Mary’s Curriculum Coordinator, Linda Wayne, testified that she had spoken of the case and of the settlement to Mr. Strong.  But the school used the defense that she was uninformed and did not really know what she was talking about, thus, the information that was passed on to Gregory Strong was, essentially, gossip and was not a technical account of the settlement details.  Gregory Strong, who was not being sued, but was obviously responsible for exposing St. Mary’s to this court case testified  to help the school that the information was indeed just gossip.  Furthermore, he took some responsibility for fabricating the information in the email based on his own observations.

  • The District Court ruled that since the school lied about the settlement, they hadn’t breached it.

Next:

Ms. Tran was a little more than creeped out by Gregory Strong, a stranger, who seemed to have such personal involvement in sabotaging her career.   As well, it was disappointing that the courts did not uphold their own confidentiality clause.  How inconvenient for a individual!

Ms. Tran appealed to the High Court asking: isn’t the fact of discussing the settlement, especially if it involves lies causing harm to a party, part of the rationale behind a “confidentiality clause”?  Back when the case ended in 2010, the confidentiality clause evidently had an exception: for Ms. Tran to write a final statement to the school community about the case, for closure.  As a member of the school community who opted to be on this list, I got this email:

Court Announcement May 2010:

“[英文]

I would like to inform you that the dispute with St. Mary’s International School ended at Tokyo District Court on April 15, 2010.

 St. Mary’s International School regrets the dispute.

 The school and I confirmed that I worked as a teacher at the school, and my employment contract was completed.  We agreed to accept the court mediated settlement that includes a mutually agreed upon amount.

 Throughout this process, many students, parents and teachers of St. Mary’s have been a tremendous source of support to me morally and through letters and petitions.  It was my pleasure to see this process through and find a way for us to be heard clearly in the school community.

 私と聖マリア学園との間の労使紛争が、東京地方裁判所において、2010年4月15日に、聖マリア学 園において労使紛争が起こったことについて遺憾の意を表明し、私が聖マリア学園との間の雇用契約に基づき教師として勤め、同契約の雇用期間が満了したこと を確認した上、私が納得した解決金の支払等を内容とする和解が成立して解決したことをお知らせします。

 これまで私の精神的支えになり、手紙や署名により支援していただいた聖マリア学園の生徒、保護者の皆様、ま た、同僚の教師の皆様のおかげで解決に至りましたことを心より感謝申し上げます。この労使紛争が円満に解決したこと、この解決を皆様に 報告できたことを喜ばしく思っています。

 宜しくおねがいします

So, had “gossiping” with members of the teaching industry about the settlement been allowable too, for the school?  Ms. Tran did not remember signing off on that.  According to the court papers, apparently, the confidentiality clause read like most ones do–that neither party was to discuss the settlement details to a 3rd party.  That’s pretty clear!  However, despite the appeal, the High Court did not really improve on or add further comments to the District Court’s ruling.  The papers went through the appeal process like oats through a horse.  Lying about a settlement is not breaching the settlement.

The Supreme Court?  Yawn.  It might have potentially been an Elle Woods’ moment,

but Ms. Tran probably should have realized that she needed to get in line to seek any social justice in Japan from that institution.  The Supreme Court wrote that they had nothing to add, to the nothing that the High Court had added.

Oh Ms. Tran, get in line:

Supreme Court Upholds Non-Disclosure of Companies Whose Employees Died of Overwork

Comfort Women Still Fight For Justice

Courts block evacuation of Fukushima kids, even after admitting hazards

Oh, and not to mention the “terrorism” that freedom of speech has now become here in Japan under Shiny Ape.

So, what we learned from all this is that technical adherence to court orders / laws / rules is what matters to courts.  Therefore, if you find yourselves settling in court–you might want to add “infinity” after each clause, in case the childish party you’re dealing with abuses it once you’re back in the school yard.

Next: This case was either a Breach of Settlement or a Defamation case.  So, since it wasn’t a breach, lying about someone must be defamation (?)  But who is responsible for the defamation?

As well, we wonder, did Linda Wayne speak on behalf of the school corporation when she falsely characterized the settlement and the record of a teacher?  If not, had the school done anything to reprimand her and this behaviour?

If this is done to a teacher, would it be done to students or families who take up an issue at the school?  i.e. Is St. Mary’s International School a bully institution?

Is Japan an institution that makes it hard for individuals to protest being bullied…by institutions?

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Part 2: St. Mary’s Excuses in Court

clowns-jokers

Ms. Tran didn’t meet much variety in this litigation.

[Update: some court documents have been added on December 2, 2013.] Hello again.  I didn’t mean for the wait from Part 1 to be dramatically longish, but I cannot read Japanese reliably without my assistant by my side and there are quite a few documents.  I’ve been recently reminded to get on with it.  So, you’ll have to excuse me for writing first and including court documents later when I can verify details.

That doesn’t stop us from discussing the essentials, though!

So, Ms. Tran realized that a strange man in the university industry she didn’t even know (Aoyama Gakuin University Professor, Gregory Strong) had written a terribly defamatory email about her–sent to her current employer.  He specifically cited St. Mary’s admin as the source of his information.  Because the email was so full of personal vitriol against Ms. Tran, she couldn’t imagine how a stranger would convincingly be able to do it.  It seemed very probable that St. Mary’s was behind it.

Why always court, Ms. Tran?

1. The best thing about litigation in Japan is that it is much cheaper than it would ever be in the US or Europe.  Therefore, regular people can afford to resolve their problems in a civilized way and leave the yakuza out of it.  Depending on the lawyer, Ms. Tran has paid between 315,000 to 440,000 yen per case.  Appealing is an additional 100,000 yen or so.  And there are document fees (sending, printing) of a few more man.  If you win a settlement, the lawyer gets 16%.

2. In addition, taking a case to court causes it to be accessible to the public.   For instance, all of Ms. Tran’s cases can be found at the Tokyo District Court under their file numbers.  And under Japanese law, all parties are free to discuss matters in the case, except details under a confidentiality order.  Believe it or not, I have actually adhered to this rule.  I figure, taking it online and making this narrative known is just good to know.  Sunlight disinfects.

3. Matters get solved while you go on with your life.  Ms. Tran was in the university industry and worked every day.  Her lawyers went to the court meetings (and she did too sometimes), but it did not disrupt her work.  Furthermore, taking her bullies to task through expensive litigation (for the school) was an important  sting she wanted them to feel every time they felt entitled to #$%! with people.  With this lesson, would St. Mary’s think twice about what they’d say to her future employers–some of whom might be “testing” the school?  Ms. Tran thought it would certainly help.

4. As a foreign worker in Japan, there is actually SO MUCH bullshit dealing with an employer who leverages your ignorance of your rights and Japanese law to screw you, that hiring a bilingual lawyer is the only way to understand and assert your rights.

So, court it was!  

Ms. Tran at this point didn’t know the identity of the St. Mary’s admin who had been cited as the bully in her new profession.  It was important to find out.  She figured it was either Curriculum Coordinator Linda Wayne, or (now) Elementary Principal Michael DiMuzio, since both of them were the main muddle-managers [sic] in the fiasco of 2006-8, and have proven capabilities in such a thing.  The elderly Catholic Brothers?  Maybe, if they weren’t always napping.

Though Gregory Strong was a stranger, professional and grown man, there was always the possibility that he made all that strange gossip up.  Who knows, people with an obsession and a lot of time on their hands can do a lot of damage.  In any case–“it was important to find out”.

Round 1: The school was caught in a panic once Ms.Tran served them court papers.  In the District Court they brought out everything they could to mitigate why or what they did or didn’t talk to Gregory Strong about–several strands of cooked spaghetti from the school’s lawyers, were thrown at the wall, which one would stick?

  • *Ms. Tran held a scholarship for her former students on YouTube!!  (um….so?)
  • The blog was never taken down!! (well, that was never in the settlement terms, my dears)
  • Linda Wayne, was stressed about the prolonged court case and had to talk to her friend Gregory Strong–but it was just over dinner.  And he’s a friend. (also coincidentally a long-time recruiter in the university teaching industry) 
  • Linda Wayne, although an administrator, wasn’t exactly present herself at the settlement signing so she couldn’t have known the details of the settlement to ever be speaking about them accurately (I guess the “school corporation” only includes the 2 dudes present at the signing)
  • Linda Wayne only helped draft the settlement of the first case–she didn’t actually get to see the final version (oh yes!  the drafts were one week apart and several adjectives different)

(I know, I know, the logic is amazing)!  [UPDATE: Here is her letter to the court (in English and in Japanese) being vague on dates and details (for instance, conveniently only remembering dates after the incident of defamation), vague on whether it is Gregory Strong who is the liar for saying that she had spoken to him about the settlement, or whether she is the liar for being a top administrator, yet claiming not to be privy to a settlement she helped to draft:

Linda Wayne English Court Statement      Linda Wayne Japanese Court Statement

And here is Gregory Strong’s signature on the case:

Gregory Strong Statement Signature (Japanese)]

Gregory Strong (you can imagine how popular he must be with St. Mary’s admin) had to step up too!  After all, it was HIS indiscreet email that had caused legal harm to befall the sacred institution of his long time friend.  What did he say?

  • He had seen Ms. Tran demonstrate at the SMIS carnival himself!! (I guess she had been holding a sign detailing her contract terms for him to see?)
  • He had seen Ms. Tran’s scholarship Youtube videos!!  (declaring the settlement details in way that would ruin her career?)
  • He did have a conversation with Linda Wayne about the settlement, but since she didn’t actually know any details, then it was all just gossip and lies–nothing true about Ms. Tran or the settlement details.
  • The email that he wrote then, was just conjecture (i.e. gossip) and not truth; not a breach of the settlement’s actual details.

Ms. Tran’s lawyer, an older gentleman who has long defended foreigners from all kinds of crap (and from other foreigners in this case), in addition to being the president of a law firm in Kita-Senju, had asked Ms. Tran to choose at the beginning: defamation or breach-of-settlement case?  But there would not be two cases at once.  Ms. Tran thought that establishing identities and getting testimonial court records was a pretty necessary first step.  So, that was the breach-of-settlement case.

Alice Flamingo

Japanese courts are like this flamingo croquet game.

The Tokyo District Court ruled that since the details Gregory Strong cited in the email turned out to be all inaccurate, it means that Linda Wayne wasn’t telling the truth about the settlement, and therefore wasn’t talking about the details of the settlement.  Therefore the school lied about, but did not breach the settlement.

Do we smile or frown at this verdict?  Laugh or cry?  It’s hard to tell.  I myself am going to get a beer.

Next, Part 3: Ms. Tran asks the High Court: doesn’t lying about the settlement qualify as speaking about it? #curious (What’s the point of a confidentiality clause again?)

* This is the YouTube scholarship video Ms.Tran made after the settlement, that the school used in their defense.  Basically, if SHE talked about the settlement in the video, why couldn’t they?  The judge ruled that this was a non-issue (because there’s nuthin in this video) and was not part of the settlement details.

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