Mayor Masakiyo Ogura of Higashiomi City, Shiga Prefecture, said at a meeting held on the 17th to discuss truancy measures, "We are dismayed that the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has approved free schools, and it could destroy the foundation of the nation," and the organization that operates free schools in Shiga Prefecture said that their remarks were unacceptable and started a signature campaign calling for their retraction.

At the meeting, Mayor Ogura of Higashiomi City said, "I am dismayed that the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has recognized the existence of free schools, and doing things that I think is good could destroy the very foundation of the nation," and after the meeting, he also said, "Most of the truancy is the responsibility of parents."

Mayor: "Statement as a problem, I will not retract"

Mayor Ogura told NHK, "The government is trying to promote support for free schools without sufficient discussion, so I made the remarks as a matter so that we can discuss it."

He then explained, "I admit that I said too aggressively, but I didn't deny the free school or the parents who let me go there, even though there was a lack of tongue."

On the other hand, regarding the criticism of his remarks, he said, "I do not consider them to be problematic statements, so I will not retract them."

In response, Since, an NPO that supports truant children in Higashiomi City and other cities, said that their remarks were unacceptable and started a petition campaign demanding that they be retracted.

On the morning of the 19th, a staff member called for signatures in front of a JR station in Higashiomi City, and commuters to work and school responded.

Tomohiro Aso, the representative of the group, said, "If truancy is dismissed as the responsibility of parents, it is impossible to do it, and I think it is important to deepen understanding."

The organization started an online petition campaign on the 18th, and plans to collect signatures with the goal of collecting 1,<> signatures in the future.

Representative of a free school in Otsu: "Think carefully and make a statement"

Representatives of free schools in Otsu City expressed their indignation.

The free school "Triumph" in Otsu City is attended by 2 children from the second grade of elementary school to the third grade of junior high school, and provides a place for children to interact and spend time freely four days a week.

Mr. Satoshi Tanikawa, the representative of this free school and whose own children have also experienced truancy, said, "Free schools are places where children who refuse to go to school are recognized as they are and the ability to take on challenges is cultivated," and commented on Mayor Ogura's remarks, "I felt that parents do not know that parents really treat truant children with a really hard time. They do not understand that by making such statements from the mayor's standpoint, they will be denied the safe and secure places they have found and their feelings will be destroyed. I doubt whether this kind of thing can be implemented as a measure against truancy, and I would like you to think carefully about it and speak up."

The council, which is formed by 32 free schools in the prefecture, will submit a protest letter to Mayor Ogura on the afternoon of the 19th, saying that "the mayor's remarks are completely unacceptable" and requesting that he retract his remarks.