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School principal fired and loses $133K pension after repeatedly stealing less than 50 cents worth of coffee

School principal fired and loses $133K pension after repeatedly stealing less than 50 cents worth of coffee

The principal admitted to stealing coffee from a convenience store on multiple occasions

The principal of a junior high school in Japan has been fired and stripped of his retirement pay after allegedly stealing less than 50 cents worth of coffee.

The board of education decided to fire the 59-year-old man after he was spotted taking more coffee than he had paid for at a self-service coffee machine in Takasago, Hyogo Prefecture, on 21 December.

The principal had paid 110 yen (74 cents) for a regular sized-coffee in the convenience store, but the store clerk then noticed that he filled his cup using the button for a large coffee, which costs 180 yen ($1.22).

The clerk confronted and called the police on the man, who admitted to taking more coffee than he'd paid for and to having done the same thing twice before at the same store.

He also admitted to having stolen coffee in the same manner four times from a different store, with his thefts amounting to an estimated total of 490 yen ($3.26).

After the principal was caught, police sent files to the Himeji branch of the Kobe District Public Prosecutors Office, where prosecutors acknowledged he had committed the theft.

The man said the theft was conducted 'on impulse'.

In an interview with officials from Hyogo Prefectural Board of Education, the principal said he stole the coffee 'on the impulse of the moment', and that he was 'truly sorry'.

Prosecutors decided not to indict the man over his crimes, but board officials opted to implement the most severe form of punishment used to discipline public servants: dismissal.

The board announced on 30 January that the principal had been fired, adding that his teaching licence had been revoked and that he had been stripped of his retirement pay, which has been valued at approximately 20 million yen ($133,000).

Critics have argued the punishment was too severe for the theft of the coffees, with alternative available forms of punishment including being reprimanded, receiving a pay cut and being suspended from work.

Takashi Sakata, a professor of public education at Japan Women’s University in Tokyo, told The Asahi Shimbun the losses the man caused to the store were small in comparison to the impact of his dismissal.

Critics have argued the punishment was too severe.

“The loss of a teaching license and retirement pay have significantly larger impact than the losses the principal was responsible for,” Sakata said.

“The board’s decision gives the impression that they just followed the formality of precedents."

In response to the criticisms, the board argued that it had determined that the man was responsible for the theft, citing the prosecutors’ judgment.

The Hyogo prefectural government's guidelines for disciplinary actions states the punishment for theft should be suspension or dismissal.

In a statement to The Asahi Shimbun, a board official commented: "We reviewed past disciplinary actions and concluded that dismissal is appropriate for a repeated offense."

Featured Image Credit: Cavan Images/Getty / Gpointstudio/Getty

Topics: Education, Crime, Food and Drink, Money, World News