Fukushima schools sought to start swimming lessons for the summer
Elementary and junior high schools in Fukushima are about to start summer swimming lessons using outdoor pools. Many parents are still worried about their children exposing their bare skin during the lessons, where radioactivity readings are still positive even after decontamination. The government of Fukushima city relies its decision to start swimming lessons on the permissible annual radiation exposure of up to 1μSv on school yards set by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, Sports and Technology. Such level, however, is higher than the 0.6 μSv set under the labor standard act for children under 18. Despite parents' concerns, some schools have told those students, who requested to stay out of water, to watch these swimming lessons at the poolside or to play other sports on the school yard. It is said that some junior high schools even told students who decided to stay off water to jog five times around school track as a form of punishment. One of the major reasons for schools in Fukushima to push ahead with the decision to use outdoor swimming pools is to downplay the risk of radioactivity in order to stop people from leaving the region, and to use children for the campaign to encourage more people who have fled after the "3.11 accident" to return home. In order to put a stop to this campaign, members of Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation recently submitted a petition to Fukushima city government, demanding that the schools make sure those students, who choose not to take swimming lessons, will not be at disadvantage. The government pledged to advise each school to allow such children to study or play other sports inside. Due to the numerous requests made by teachers' unions and citizen groups, some schools have altered their policies so that children can choose to take swimming lesson out of many other options.