Susono Mayor Harukaze Murata told reporters Monday that he had also filed a criminal complaint against school principal Toshihiko Sakurai for allegedly covering up the abuse. He urged the police to expand their investigation.
In one case in June, one of the teachers is accused of holding a boy upside down. Another teacher punched a girl in the face, police said, and the third punched another boy on the head.
Their arrests followed a police search of the private school on Saturday in response to the city’s revelation last week of 15 alleged abuses between June and August.
The results of an internal investigation revealed that the three teachers routinely abused young children in their care, including slapping them on the face and head, forcing them to cry, threatening them with a utility knife and berating the children, calling them “ugly” and ” called “fat”. locking them in a restroom or storage room, the city said.
Murata, the mayor, accused the school principal of “covering up” by having other teachers sign a paper asking them to hide the problem and delaying an explanation from parents, calling his actions “disgusting”.
The three teachers, all in their 30s, reportedly told investigators their treatment of the young children was “discipline,” while the principal said he only had the document signed to protect the privacy of those involved and denied tried to cover up the abuse.
The city has been publicly criticized for sitting on the case for more than three months since a whistleblower first came forward in mid-August to uncover “inappropriate” cases at the school. Murata said he takes the criticism seriously and will take a pay cut for two months while punishing three senior officials.
Separate investigations into possible abuse were carried out in two other kindergartens.
In Sendai, northern Japan, officials are conducting an internal investigation after allegations children are being asked to strip into their underwear during mealtimes so they don’t get their clothes dirty. At a school in another city north of Toyama, police are investigating teachers on suspicion of locking crying children in a storage facility or stabbing them in the back with a stick to order them to move.
Experts say kindergarten teachers are typically poorly paid and schools face chronic staff shortages and a tough work environment.