Japanese Teachers Balk at Anthem That Glorifies Emperor

The Tokyo Board's move has prompted more than a dozen lawsuits with teachers fighting for everything from compensatory damages to the constitutionality of the order. The cases have gone from the district court to the Supreme Court, and most of the court rulings have sided with the school board.

Nishihara says the hurdle for Arai's class-action lawsuit will be high, because the teachers are not suing the school for unjust punishment. They're questioning the constitutionality of the order itself.

Bunya Kato, a lawyer representing the teachers, strikes a more optimistic tone. He points to U.S. Supreme Court case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette as reason for hope. In that case, the highest court ruled in favor of a Jehovah's Witness student who argued that his religion prevented him from swearing allegiance to the flag.

Arai knows the odds are stacked against her and fellow teachers, but she's not ready to give up yet.

"Once you begin the fight, you must continue fighting until the end," she said.

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