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Bullying teacher assaulted another instructor at Kobe school: education board

Kobe Municipal Higashisuma Elementary School principal Miki Nio, right, and other officials bow in apology over bullying incidents at the school during a news conference at the Kobe Municipal Government building in the city's Chuo Ward, on Oct. 9, 2019. (Mainichi/Koji Minemoto)

KOBE -- A female instructor at a public elementary school here is claiming that one of four teachers accused of bullying a younger colleague also assaulted her last year, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.

According to the Kobe Municipal Board of Education, the instructor in her 20s at the city's Higashisuma Elementary School told the board that at the school's sports festival last year a male colleague in his 30s grabbed her by the arm and dragged her, injuring her and leaving her clothes torn. The board said she is also claiming that he made a comment that could be considered sexual harassment.

The male teacher is one of four educators at the school who are accused of physically and verbally abusing their colleague in his 20s. The board is also looking into a claim that one of the four teachers made another female colleague eat super spicy ramen.

In addition, the Kobe Municipal Government said that around the summer of 2017, the school's former principal, who was the vice principal at the time, harassed the same male teacher who was bullied when he declined an invitation to an office get-together, trying to force him to attend. It has been pointed out that the former principal failed to investigate the bullying allegations even when another instructor at the school told him in February this year that the four teachers had gone too far in playing pranks on the male teacher.

The city government plans to set up an investigative team with experts possibly by the end of the week to find out facts surrounding the issue.

Meanwhile, school officials including current principal Miki Nio told their students' parents at a meeting on the night of Oct. 16 that four students were unable to come to school at least at one point due to shock from the bullying incident. According to a source who attended the three-hour-long, closed-door meeting, the officials said two of the four students were still missing classes as of that day. Many parents and guardians at the meeting asked the school to provide mental care for the students and demanded normal operation of the school.

The officials cited comments released by the four teachers, with one of them saying, "I am supposed to be the one who teaches children about what is wrong, but I have become a bully."

The education board published the comments by the four teachers following the meeting. Each apologized to their colleague as well as their students, with one stating, "What I did was shameful as a member of society and as a human." Another one read, "It's something that must not be tolerated."

(Japanese original by Kimi Sorihashi, Shota Harumashi and Kwanghoon Han, Kobe Bureau, and Motohiro Inoue, Hanshin Bureau)

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