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Teacher lost note on bullying of boy who apparently took own life

Mineo Hayakawa, center, superintendent of the Gifu Municipal Board of Education, and other officials attend a press conference at city hall on the night of July 3, 2019, following the death of a junior high school boy in the city. (Mainichi/Ryusuke Takahashi)

GIFU -- A 14-year-old boy apparently jumped to his death from a condominium here after suspected bullying at his junior high school, it has been learned.

The boy, who was in the third year at a municipal junior high school in the city of Gifu, central Japan, was found unconscious in the condominium parking lot on the morning of July 3. He was rushed to a hospital but was confirmed dead.

According to sources close to the investigation, a note suggesting he had killed himself due to bullying was found at his home, near the condominium.

Last month, the boy's homeroom teacher had received a note from a student stating that the 14-year-old was being bullied. However, the teacher lost the note, according to the municipal board of education.

Following the boy's death, the city education board set up an investigative committee on July 3 comprising five outside experts to examine a possible link between his apparent suicide and bullying. The panel aims to report its results by the end of the year.

According to the education board, in late May students at the school had witnessed the 14-year-old being harassed during lunch break by a male classmate who was trying to force the boy to eat a vegetable he didn't like.

Upon receiving a report on the case, his homeroom teacher asked the 14-year-old about what had happened, but the boy reportedly told the teacher, "I didn't think I was being bullied. I was surprised to hear other students say it was bullying."

In a regular school-wide questionnaire on bullying and other issues conducted by the school in June, the 14-year-old reportedly did not complain about bullying. He is also said to have told his homeroom teacher, "I'm OK."

In response to the boy's death, the school and the education board held a briefing session for parents and guardians on the evening of July 4. During the session, one of the attendees pointed out that the homeroom teacher had apparently received the note from the boy's classmate reporting bullying, according to the education board. The school responded that the teacher had lost the note.

(Japanese original by Shinji Yokota, Ryo Numata and Ryusuke Takahashi, Gifu Bureau)

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