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Kobe teacher says ex-principal pressured him to deny bullying by colleagues: lawyer

A male elementary school teacher who was reportedly bullied by four colleagues is seen with his arms pinned back while being forced to eat spicy curry, in this image provided by individuals connected to the case. (Image partially modified.)

KOBE -- The lawyer for a teacher at an elementary school here who was bullied by four colleagues says the teacher has accused the school's former principal of pressuring him to deny the harassment.

The teacher from Higashisuma Elementary School in Kobe has filed a victim's report with Hyogo Prefectural Police describing around 50 different forms of harassment he was subjected to, including being put in a hold and being forced to eat spicy curry and having his face pushed toward a kettle containing boiling water.

According to his lawyer, the school's former principal pressured the teacher to deny the harassment, telling him "You're not being bullied, right?"

The Kobe Municipal Board of Education says that the former principal has denied making the statement. However, a different teacher has also leveled a claim against him, and the education board is reportedly considering summoning the former principal to a committee meeting as an unsworn witness to confirm the facts.

The former principal, who is in his 50s, served as head of the school from the spring of 2018 to the spring of this year. Bullying of the teacher is said to have begun during this period. The former principal has since taken a leave of absence for health reasons.

Representatives of the bullied teacher and the municipal education board said another teacher complained to the former principal during the 2018 academic year that the actions by the four accused of bullying were "too much to tolerate." When the former principal called in the victim for an interview, he allegedly made a reference to the alleged perpetrators and told the victim, "They've been looking after you, right?" pressuring him to deny any bullying.

After the interview, the victim did not approach the school about the bullying until July this year.

According to the city's education board, in around the summer of 2017, when the former principal was serving as vice-principal of the school, he compelled the victim to attend a drinking party. Additionally, another teacher pointed out actions when he was serving as principal that could constitute power harassment.

At a Kobe Municipal Assembly committee meeting on Oct. 21, panel members considered summoning the former principal to testify as an unsworn witness, but they did not manage to make arrangements, and put off reaching a conclusion on the issue.

(Japanese original by Kimi Sorihashi and Shota Harumashi, Kobe Bureau)

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