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Kobe junior high girl's 2016 suicide possibly bullying-related: sources

KOBE -- The suicide of a 14-year-old girl here last year may have been caused by bullying, details uncovered by the Mainichi Shimbun's interviews with the classmates and mother of the late girl suggest.

    The third-year junior high school student took her life on the afternoon of Oct. 6, 2016 at a river in Kobe's Tarumi Ward. The note she left behind did not mention bullying, but the municipal board of education still set up a third-party investigative committee at the family's request. Questionnaires were distributed to all the students at the girl's school and inquiries are ongoing.

    According to statements given by her classmates to the Mainichi, from her second year of junior high school, classmates told her that her face was so ugly "it could hurt someone," and a baseless rumor that she was a "tattletale" spread through the school. Classmates also stepped on her feet and threw erasers at her during class, while they called her drawings -- which she did as a hobby -- as well as her clothes "disgusting." During practice for a school event, she was blamed for outrageous reasons. "It was done sneakily," one classmate commented. "She was gradually backed into a corner."

    When the girl entered her third year at junior high, she reportedly began self-harming, and admitted to a close friend in the summer of 2016 that she wanted to die and didn't want to go to school anymore.

    The harassment could fall under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology's definition of "bullying." The third-party committee is heavily weighing information -- similar to what the Mainichi has gathered -- to see if there was a direct connection between what reportedly happened at the school and the girl's suicide. A representative from the school education division of the Kobe Municipal Board of Education stated that they could not comment on the investigation as it was still being carried out by a third party.

    "If she had only continued living, there was so much more ahead for her. It's a shame," the girl's mother, 41, told the Mainichi, obviously shaken by the possibility that her daughter's suicide was the result of bullying.

    According to her mother, the student was a member of the art club, and loved to draw. Her dream was to become a fashion designer, and she wanted to move on to a high school that offered home economics department. Her mother noticed a change during the second semester of her daughter's second year in junior high. She was told by her daughter's homeroom teacher that the student was "having trouble with a classmate." In her third year, the girl was in a separate class from the other student, but she started to miss school more often.

    Immediately following her death, some media outlets mistakenly reported that the girl had written about family troubles in her suicide note, which only added to her mother's pain. In the bag that the girl had with her when she took her own life, her mother found a handmade accessory with the words "thank you" written in tiny letters.

    "I didn't notice (my daughter's cry for help)," her mother said. "I didn't have the courage not to make her go to school. It's painful every time I think of her..."

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