Outrage grows over Shiga school's inaction over bullying
The junior high school in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, attended by a 13-year-old boy who committed suicide after suffering from bullying, held a meeting Thursday night for parents and guardians.
The high-profile case has sparked a debate in Japan over bullying and the role of schools, boards of education and the city government in protecting children from bullies. The school principal and Otsu Board of Education superintendent attended the meeting and apologized to around 700 parents for inadequacies in their investigation of the circumstances that led up to the boy’s death, Fuji TV reported.
However, parents in attendance complained that the people responsible for the investigation were not present at the meeting and that the information offered was not getting to the heart of the matter. In response, the city government has announced that it is to allow parents to peruse the results of two questionnaires that were distributed to students following the boy’s death, Fuji reported.
The questionnaires are at the center of a growing furor over the school’s lack of action to stop the bullying.
The boy leapt to his death last October from an apartment building in Otsu. Shortly after, it came to light that bullies routinely forced him to “practice” killing himself before he took his own life, and that his teacher brushed off the abuse as a joke.
After the boy’s death, the school asked students to respond to a questionnaire on bullying. Fuji TV reported that more than 60 students answered that they had seen the boy being bullied in the three weeks before he committed suicide. According to the answers, three bullies punched the boy in the toilet, forced him to eat dead bees, pulled down his pants and taped his mouth.
Initially, the school said it did not think the bullying was a direct cause of the boy’s death, but after news of the questionnaire was leaked, school officials conceded that bullying may have been responsible, Fuji reported. In the second survey, conducted in November, some students reported seeing the bullies forcing the boy to take part in a mock funeral.
Meanwhile, NHK reported that after the first questionnaire results came out last October, the school coerced the boy’s parents into signing a confidentiality agreement before it would let them see the results. The boy’s father signed the document but was outraged when he read the account of what had happened to his son, NHK reported.
Public indignation has grown over the case, resulting in a series of bomb threats against the school and the local government over claims of negligence in the case. A letter sent to the school earlier this week threatened that the building would be bombed unless the pupils and teachers involved apologize, local authorities said.
“The school called police Monday after receiving a threat in the mail, which demanded pupils and teachers involved in the bullying publicly apologize,” a local police officer said.
In a rare move, Shiga prefectural police visited the school on Wednesday and Thursday in an attempt to ascertain if there was a link between the bullying and the suicide, Sankei Shimbun reported. The police are questioning the boy’s classmates, as well as the three boys named as the bullies.
The father of the boy has also criticized police over the case. After the questionnaire results were made public, he went to the police but said they refused to accept the complaint on three occasions, claiming that complaints cannot be lodged in the event that the victim is deceased and was not murdered. They also said the boy left no suicide note indicating what might have driven him to kill himself.
National Police Agency Commissioner General Yutaka Katagiri said in Tokyo on Thursday that although it is difficult for police to prevent bullying, they need to be more vigilant and take bullies into custody in order to prevent injury or loss of life, TBS reported.