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Ibaraki probe finds link between bullying by classmates, teacher and student's suicide

TORIDE, Ibaraki -- An investigative committee set up by the prefectural government here released a report on March 20 recognizing a causal relationship between bullying by classmates and the suicide of a female student in November 2015.

The report also acknowledged that Naoko Nakashima's homeroom teacher failed to give adequate instruction and drove the girl to suicide together with the students. It additionally pointed out that the response to the case taken by the Toride Municipal Board of Education, which conducted the initial probe, was illegal and extremely inappropriate.

Nakashima was a third-year student at a municipal junior high school in the city of Toride, Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo. The girl, 15 at the time, attempted suicide at her home on Nov. 10, 2015, and died the following day. She had written, "I don't want to be bullied," and, "I don't want to be isolated," in a diary that indicated apparent bullying.

Nakashima's parents subsequently found the diary and demanded that the school inform its students that their daughter took her life and an investigation into the truth about the incident be carried out. However, the school did not notify the students of Nakashima's suicide and treated the incident as a "fatal accident" rather than a "serious incident" based on the bullying prevention law. The education board's probe also concluded that the existence of bullying was not confirmed.

Unsatisfied with the investigation result, the girl's parents made an appeal to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The education ministry instructed the municipal government to do more, condemning the city's response as inadequate. The Ibaraki Prefectural Government began investigating the incident in December 2017 following a request by the municipal government.

The prefectural investigative committee identified four actions -- including several students writing derogatory remarks in Nakashima's graduation scrapbook and calling her by insulting nicknames -- as bullying.

As for the homeroom teacher, in one incident only Nakashima was scolded when she came in late with another female student. On the day she attempted suicide, the girl received guidance for being present at the time other female students broke a glass object. The committee pointed out such instruction by the teacher made Nakashima, who was already under psychological pressure from bullying, deeply sad and triggered her suicide.

(Japanese original by Sakae Kato, Takuya Yoshida and Kotone Nirasawa, Mito Bureau)

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