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Parents irate over tardy responses to Fukushima evacuee bullied at school

YOKOHAMA -- The parents of a boy who was bullied at his school here after evacuating from the Fukushima nuclear disaster expressed their anger at education authorities' slow responses to the case, as they met media representatives on Nov. 23.

"They were tardy in every way. They wouldn't listen to our complaints and our distrust in them only grew stronger," one of the parents said about measures taken by the elementary school the boy attended and the Yokohama Municipal Board of Education, which had ignored the case for over a year.

The boy, who is now 13, was bullied at an elementary school in Yokohama after he transferred there from Fukushima Prefecture. "Our son's right to receive an education was infringed upon. We regret that he couldn't have a good time together with his friends," one of the parents -- both in their 40s -- said.

Recalling the time their son was being bullied, one of the parents said, "The way our son was bullied would have made it look only natural if he had taken his own life. He was torn apart." They continued, "We'd like to let people know our son's words, 'You can't speak out if you die. There should definitely be adults out there who will help you.'"

The boy's classmates started demanding he give money to them in May 2014, saying, "You have compensation money (for nuclear disaster victims), don't you?" The boy's father studied the provisions of a law to promote measures to prevent bullying and demanded that the school respond to the case under the law, arguing that the transaction of some 1.5 million yen between children would constitute a "serious situation." However, the school didn't take the case seriously and even sometimes spoke on the premise that "the boy was paying the money (to the bullies) on his own initiative," the father said. "We had no way out. We just felt helpless."

A note the boy wrote when he was in the sixth grade reads in part, "I thought about killing myself time and again. But then I thought I would live on even though it's hard because so many people died in the quake disaster (in 2011)." The note, which was highly publicized after its release recently, was written in front of his mother in July 2015, according to the parents. The boy had already stopped attending school by then.

"I was at a loss for words" from being shocked at what he wrote, the mother said. "In case of a worst-case scenario, I made sure to stay with him always," she said. When he wrote the note, the boy tore pages from a notebook on a desk and took his mood out on them, resulting in the poor handwriting, according to the mother.

The boy's character and way of thinking changed after the nuclear disaster, the parents said. "He used to be an ordinary boy who would depend on his parents, but he started to put up with things. We guess he couldn't tell us what he was going through at his school after transferring there."

The school used to give consideration to children who evacuated from Fukushima voluntarily right after the boy started attending the school, but such measures stopped after he was in the fourth grade. "I asked my son's homeroom teacher if they had ever studied the psychology of children who underwent a disaster, and the teacher replied no.'"

The city education board has yet to disclose the details of the bullying case. "The school and the education board appear to be trying to put a lid on the problem just to protect themselves. We believe they are not only trying to avoid specifying the bullies and the victim," the mother said.

The boy currently attends an alternative school and has come to tell his parents that he wants to ride a bicycle on holidays. The parents quoted the boy as saying, "To those who are bullied like I was, I want them to live on no matter how much the pain."

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