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Report recognizes bullying in Japanese boy's suicide; teachers 'too busy' to pay attention

Third-party panel chairman Osamu Hashimoto, right, hands a report on a bullying-suicide case to Gifu Municipal Board of Education superintendent Mineo Hayakawa at a youth community center in the city of Gifu, on Dec. 23, 2019. (Mainichi/Ryusuke Hashimoto)

GIFU -- An investigation report on a 14-year-old boy's suicide in this central Japan city recognized 34 incidents of bullying in a period of about a month and a half leading up to his death, including when his classmates made him kneel down on a bathroom floor.

A third-party panel headed by Osamu Hashimoto, a part-time instructor at Gifu University specializing in education, submitted the report to Mineo Hayakawa, superintendent of the Gifu Municipal Board of Education, on Dec. 23. The board set up the panel after the boy, a third-year student at a municipal junior high school, jumped to his death from an apartment building on July 3. He had left a note at his home suggesting that he had been bullied. The education board requested the panel to give its findings and suggestions on facts surrounding the bullying, responses taken by the school and viable preventive measures.

According to a summary of the report, the panel recognized 34 acts inflicted on the boy between late May and July 3 as bullying, such as forcing him to kneel down on the floor of a bathroom in front of a Japanese-style toilet, slapping him in the face and making him choose between "pay them (the bullies) money, become a punching bag or kneel down every time they saw him." The bullies also demanded he pay them "1,000 yen every month even after they graduate."

The report also pointed out that a lack of information sharing and cooperation among teachers contributed to an escalation of the bullying, ultimately causing the boy to take his own life.

Panel chairman Hashimoto demanded the education board work on decreasing the excessive workload placed on teachers, telling a news conference that educators are too busy to pay attention to individual students. He also slammed how the school handled the situation regarding the case, saying that it responded to the matter completely out of line with the school's basic anti-bullying policy that it had set up based on Japan's anti-bullying law.

(Japanese original by Ryusuke Takahashi, Gifu Bureau)

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