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Junior high school told parents it wanted to hide child's suicide

TORIDE, Ibaraki -- After a female student killed herself here in November 2015 due to apparent bullying, the school she attended falsely claimed it had been the wish of the bereaved family to conceal that she had taken her own life, it has been learned.

    The school informed the parents of Naoko Nakashima, who was 15 at the time of her suicide, that it wanted to hide the truth about the incident "out of consideration for other students in the same school year preparing for entrance exams" on the day Nakashima died in the hospital, on Nov. 11, 2015.

    Until now, the Toride Board of Education had stated that "the bereaved relatives had also taken this stance," with regard to concealing that the girl had died by suicide. However, in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun, the parents, 46-year-old Takanobu Nakashima and 47-year-old Junko Nakashima, denied this statement -- intensifying suspicions that the board of education had tried to hide the suicide from the very beginning.

    Following the publication of a Mainichi Shimbun article stating that the board of education had hidden the truth about the suicide, the parents investigated documents relating to their daughter's death. According to those documents, it states that the then vice principal of the school visited the parents' home during the afternoon on Nov. 11, 2015, shortly after the girl's death at a hospital.

    During the visit, the vice principal apparently told the parents, "Taking into consideration the fact that third-year students are currently preparing for examinations, I would like to tell them that your daughter died in an unforeseen accident. In many ways, this is an education-based judgment."

    Later, the vice principal told the parents that he would proceed with an investigation, including a questionnaire for students to fill out. In response, the mother tearfully begged him with the words, "I want you to ensure that my daughter's death was not in vain. Please carry out a thorough investigation," to which the vice principal responded, "I will investigate in a fully responsible manner."

    According to official documents that were obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun through a freedom-of-information request, the Toride Board of Education held an ad-hoc meeting in the evening on Nov. 11, and decided to hide the truth about the suicide and tell the students that it was a "completely unexpected sudden death." The school used these words when explaining the death to students at an assembly on Nov. 12.

    On Nov. 16, the parents found their daughter's diary, and demanded that an investigation into bullying be carried out. However, in the probe that was later conducted by the school, students were surveyed without being told about the girl's suicide, and without any mention of her specifically. The investigation concluded that the existence of bullying was not confirmed.

    The girl's father states that he never indicated that he wanted to conceal the suicide, as the school claimed. "It is clear that the school did not handle my daughter's death in a sincere way. I think it was solely intent on using the other students as an excuse to protect itself," he says.

    In response to this discovery, the Toride Municipal Board of Education and the then vice principal told the Mainichi Shimbun that they would refrain from taking part in an interview.

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