A municipal elementary school in Nagano Prefecture, Japan may now live in ignominy as it was reported that they excluded a boy who had Down’s syndrome from the commemorative photo of his class. According to the mother of the boy, the principal of the school apparently told her that the school wants to have two versions of the group picture taken – one with all pupils, and the other without the boy with Down’s syndrome as this might upset other parents.
The boy’s mother says that he actually attends a school for children with special needs, but they encouraged him to go to the said elementary school to be able to interact with other children. It was decided by his parents that it would be good for him if he studies and joins events at the elementary school a couple of times each month, and the school readily accepted him as a class member, even being given his own desk. When the time for the class photo came, the mother was approached by the principal. “The parents of the other children might ask why your son is in the photo with them all together,” the principal reportedly stated. “I would suggest having two kinds of picture taken—one with your son included and the other without him. Or, you may decide not to have your son in the picture from the outset,” the mother quoted the principal as saying.
At the day of the taking of the picture, 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. When confronted by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, the principal had later apologized for his lack of consideration. An Asahi reader and friend of the boy’s mother had apparently wrote to the paper and raised this issue as discrimination. The principal said in his statement that it did not occur to him at that time that what he decided on could be construed as 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,” the principal said. “I feel very sorry for having hurt his parents’ feelings.”