A school in Osaka has bowed to pressure from Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto to suspend its entrance exams for some departments following revelations that a 17-year-old student committed suicide in December after being repeatedly physically punished by the school’s basketball club coach.
The boy, who was captain of the school basketball team, hanged himself on Dec 23 after telling his friends and family that his basketball coach was carrying out a sustained campaign of physical assaults on him. The boy reportedly told friends and family that he wanted to confront the man about the bullying, but did not feel able to because he was afraid. He left letters to his parents and one addressed to the coach, who is currently under suspension.
Hashimoto first began calling for Sakuranomiya High School to cancel sports class entrance exams in response to the incident on Jan 19. According to a report on Fuji TV, an association of Osaka municipal middle school principals submitted a written request to the Osaka Board of Education, asking that the city allow the exams to be held. The association said that to cancel the exams would be highly detrimental to students. When asked to comment on the request, Hashimoto told a news conference Monday that the principals who formed the association were “the kind of principal we don’t need,” Fuji reported.
Hashimoto met Sakuranomiya high school and Board of Education officials on Monday afternoon. Local media quoted sources as saying that Hashimoto asked for the suspension of entrance exams for the physical education course, as well as the sports and health science course, threatening to withhold the remaining 1.3 million yen of the fiscal 2012 budget for the school’s exams. Afterwards, the school announced that it would cancel the entrance exams.
When asked to comment on the decision to cancel the entrance exams, Hashimoto told reporters Monday night, “I think the school has made an excellent decision.”
Meanwhile, Fuji TV reported Tuesday that the Osaka municipal government office has received hundreds of complaints from parents concerned that their children would be adversely affected by the decision. Around 200 comments were also posted on websites, including the city’s official page, expressing outrage at the decision.
Hashimoto has also admonished the school for allowing the basketball teacher to serve at the same school for 18 years. Assistant coaches, teammates and the boy’s family were all reportedly aware of the assaults, and yet failed to take any preventative action. The Osaka Board of Education advises moving teachers every 7-10 years to prevent any teacher wielding more power than the principal. Hashimoto said that he believed the rule was in place to prevent such abuses of power and that the school needed to be held accountable.
Hashimoto went on to request that the board replace all 70 teachers at the school. Referring to those who vehemently opposed his unilateral decision, Hashimoto said, “They can choose not to vote for me.”