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School failed to act on extortion of Fukushima evacuee bullied at school

YOKOHAMA -- Education authorities failed to react to financial and emotional damage incurred by a boy who was bullied at his school here after evacuating from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it has been learned.

The boy, who is now 13, was bullied at an elementary school in Yokohama after he transferred there from Fukushima Prefecture. Although the school and the Yokohama Municipal Board of Education were aware that the boy was forced to pay about 1.5 million yen to his classmates, they failed to respond proactively to the case. His parents had conveyed the amount to the school and education board after being informed of it by Kanagawa Prefectural Police.

According to attorneys for the student and other sources, the parents consulted with prefectural police in July 2014 about their son's classmates demanding money from him. After checking the footage of security cameras at a video arcade, prefectural police found that at least one of the bullies had squandered hundreds of thousands of yen of boy's money each time.

The money that the victim was forced to pay was spent on travel, dining and entertainment. The student was initially demanded to pay around 50,000 yen at a time, but the sum eventually snowballed.

The bully extorted the victim, saying, "You've got compensation money (for the nuclear disaster), don't you?" The victim could not confide the incidents to his parents and secretly paid the bullies using his family's money budgeted for living expenses.

The victim stopped attending school for a second time in June 2014, and his parents reported the prefectural police's investigation results to his school and the city education board. However, the school didn't deem the case a "serious situation" under the law to promote measure to prevent bullying, and shelved it.

At a Nov. 15 press conference, the city education board admitted that there was money trouble between the students. Superintendent of schools Yuko Okada said, "We should have recognized the case as serious as more than one month had passed since the student stopped attending school and the money and goods issues surfaced."

A third-party panel to the city education board criticized the school and the education board, saying, "There are no traces of their having given sufficient instructions to the parties who 'paid' and 'were paid for,' though (the education authorities) were aware of the exchange of monies in the tens of thousands of yen."

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