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Bullying by teachers, students linked to suicide of high school boy: 3rd-party panel

SHUNAN, Yamaguchi -- A third-party panel reinvestigating the suicide of a high school boy in this western Japan city in 2016 has recognized actions taken by students and teachers as bullying behavior, according to a final report submitted to Yamaguchi Gov. Tsugumasa Muraoka on Feb. 5.

The committee concluded that it was possible to prevent the 17-year-old boy from taking his life if the prefectural high school in Shunan had taken appropriate actions.

The current act for the prevention of bullying does not include provisions concerning bullying by teachers. According to the attorney representing the boy's bereaved family, it is extremely rare for bullying by a teacher against a student to be recognized.

The committee determined five actions taken by several teachers as bullying behavior. These included calling out the boy's name in front of all the students at the school causing everyone to laugh, asking him individually, "Did you do it properly?" during an exam and needlessly repeating his name during class. The committee judged these actions, which the boy said he "hated" in a tweet, caused him stress.

The panel also recognized 18 incidents as bullying by classmates and other students, like locking the boy out of the classroom and excluding him from a group chat on the Line free messaging application. The committee pointed out that the teachers' behavior may have encouraged other students to bully the boy. The final report stated that "many factors like alienation that occurred during the boy's school life contributed to the suicide."

The teenager in the second year of high school was fatally struck by a freight train at a station in the city of Shunan in Yamaguchi Prefecture in July 2016.

As a will-like note was found in the victim's smartphone, his bereaved family members urged the prefectural board of education to investigate the background of his death. This initial probe found in 2017 that the boy was bullied at school but did not specify the reason for his suicide. As the relatives sought a reinvestigation, the prefectural panel reopened the case in February 2018.

(Japanese original by Ken Maehira, Shunan Bureau)

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