"No Down syndrome in photos"

"No Down syndrome children in photos"

Schools in Japan

- Asahi Newspaper -


A municipal elementary school in Nagano Prefecture excluded a boy with Down syndrome from a commemorative photo for a newly enrolled class earlier this month to avoid upsetting other parents.

According to the boy's mother, the principal told her that the school can have two versions of the group picture taken: one with all the new pupils, and the other without the boy.

The boy attends a school for children with special needs but also goes to the elementary school to be able to interact with local children.

A reader of The Asahi Shimbun and friend of the boy's mother wrote to the paper’s readers’ forum page and raised the issue of discrimination.

The principal later apologized for his lack of consideration.

The boy's mother said: “My son's school now accepts us in the same way as it does for other children. I am grateful for this.”

According to the mother, the boy entered a special-support school at the start of this academic year in April.

It was decided he will study and join events at the elementary school a couple of times each month.

He was accepted as a class member and given a desk.

When his mother visited the school in March to talk about the entrance ceremony, the principal said to her: “The parents of the other children might ask why your son is in the photo with them all together. I would suggest having two kinds of picture taken--one with your son included and the other without him. Or, you may be thinking of how the other parents may react and decide not to have your son in the picture from the outset,” she quoted him as saying.

After giving the matter much thought, she opted to have two kinds of picture taken.

The boy waited nearby while the photo for the group was shot without him. Then he joined his classmates for the alternative picture.

“I was very sad, thinking that his classmates may think that ‘he is different from us after all,’” the mother said.

A friend of the mother’s, who heard of the story before the entrance ceremony, wrote a letter to The Asahi Shimbun’s “Koe” (voice) readers’ forum.

The letter was published in the April 7 issue that is distributed in Tokyo and eastern Japan.

The letter quoted the mother as saying about a group photo in an e-mail, “I was asked by the principal to choose between a photo with him and one without him, or to refrain from joining in the picture. I was so shocked, I felt I had lost all my strength.”

Her letter concludes, “I hope to see a society in which people with disabilities and their families do not have to try to gauge the faces of able-bodied persons.”

Shortly after the letter was published, the principal visited the boy’s home and apologized.

The Nagano Prefectural Board of Education received a report on the incident from the elementary school.

“There should have been just one photo in which all the children pose together,” said an official at the board. “Photographing all the pupils but the boy could have given a message to the other children that ‘having him together would be troublesome.’”

Toshihiko Mogi, a professor of education on children with disabilities at J.F. Oberlin University, offered his viewpoint: “While schools need to teach that all children are equal, whether they have disabilities or not, and to promote exchanges among them in their communities, what this school did was to emphasize a difference. The principal should have persuaded them if some parents had expressed concerns.”

ALL CHILDREN ARE SPECIAL

The principal said it did not occur to him at the time that taking two versions of the group photograph could be construed as a form of discrimination.

“I had not expected that the boy’s mother would take it so hard since I wasn't thinking that taking two kinds of photos could be discrimination. I feel very sorry for having hurt his parents’ feelings.

The principal went on to explain that some parents of new pupils had voiced their anxieties about the boy’s enrollment.

"Since she looked anxious and hesitant about taking a photo with the other children (when I met his mother), I suggested that we could take two versions of pictures.

“Now, I feel I should have listened to her more attentively and encouraged her to let him be in the picture with the other children.

“Her son is as important as the other children. We want to work together with the boy’s parents and with the parents of the other children in order to deepen friendship among the children.”

(This article was written by Eri Iguchi and Yuichi Yamada.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

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    by fighter_eiji | 2014-05-01 00:51 | English
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