KOBE – Multiple injuries prompted the local school board on December 20 to ban city-run primary and secondary schools from having pyramids and human towers formed at sporting events from 2020.
Amid opposition from Kobe Mayor Kizo Hisamoto, more than 90 of the schools under the Kobe City Council of Education called on children to perform the feat of gymnastics at sports festivals last fall.
After a series of related accidents, including cases of bone fractures, however, the board of education ruled on December 20 that student safety could not be guaranteed and notified principals of municipal primary and secondary schools.
According to the education council, programs called “kumitaiso”, or group gymnastics, will be banned, as will the formation of shapes, including pyramids and towers, where students must stand on top of each other. But schools will still be allowed to ask children to create fan shapes and other relatively safe designs.
The council explained that some of the reasons for the ban include the decline in athletic performance among schoolchildren and the heavy burden on teachers who coach the groups.
Between 2016 and 2018, 382 cases of kumitaiso-related accidents occurred in municipal primary and secondary schools. Of these, 123 cases involved fractures.
Mayor Hisamoto took the situation seriously and appealed via Twitter and other media in August to “immediately stop doing it (group gymnastics)”. However, the education council decided to continue allowing children to perform the demonstrations because “stopping it now would confuse schools”, among other reasons.
Although the school board took steps such as requiring schools to submit plans that included safety measures, there were 51 kumitaiso accidents in total during practice sessions at 30 of the 92 schools that did. organized the activities this fall. Six students suffered fractures.
The education council eventually set up an expert inquiry committee to discuss whether to ban schoolchildren from participating in group gymnastics.
In response to frequent accidents, many local organizations across Japan have reviewed kumitaiso. In June, the Osaka Prefectural Board of Education issued a notice generally prohibiting schools from having students that form pyramids and towers of three or more people.
(Japanese original by Kimi Sorihashi, Kobe Bureau)