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Sendai principal 'breached confidentiality' over bullying claims in murder-suicide case

A letter written by an 8-year-old girl to her mother stating, "I'm being bullied and there's nothing good," and "I want to die," is seen at Sendai City Hall in the city's Aoba Ward on Jan. 21, 2019. (Mainichi/Kaho Hayakawa)

SENDAI -- The principal of a primary school in this northeastern Japan city had handed over a copy of a note, in which a mother asked about how and why her daughter was being bullied, to the guardian of an alleged perpetrator without permission, before the mother and girl died in an apparent murder-suicide, it has been learned.

The mother, 46 at the time, and her then 8-year-old daughter, who was in the second grade of a municipal elementary school, died in November 2018.

According to the father, who is in his 40s, his daughter was bullied from around the spring of 2018, such as being excluded from a circle of friends by two of her classmates and threatened with violence. In July of that year, the girl's parents suggested to the principal they hold a meeting with the guardians of the two suspected perpetrators.

The mother then submitted to the principal a note she had created to receive advice on what to ask and expressions to use during the meeting, among other subjects. She also handed over a letter in which the girl wrote her saying she was being bullied and that she wanted to die.

But when the mother attended a meeting with the guardian of one of the alleged perpetrators at the end of August, she found that they were in possession of a copy of the note, which the principal had handed over without her permission. It was no use talking as the guardian had hardened their attitude. The mother grew distrustful of the principal, and retrieved the note and the copy as well as her daughter's letter.

The Sendai Municipal Board of Education acknowledged that the principal had given a copy of the note without permission in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun. The principal apparently explained that they handed over a copy because the guardian told them, "I'm worried what I will be asked in the meeting."

When met with protest from the girl's parents later on, the principal offered a verbal apology. However, the father says the bullying situation remained unchanged, and the health of both his wife and daughter deteriorated.

On Nov. 29, 2018, about three months after the meeting, he found the two dead at their home in Sendai's Izumi Ward. Police declared that it was a case of a murder-suicide by his wife.

The father filed a criminal complaint with the Miyagi Prefectural Police against the principal's action, which he says constituted a breach of confidentiality under the Local Public Service Act.

"My wife submitted the note because she believed in the principal, but she was betrayed. She was driven to despair because of this, and became isolated from the community. I want justice for my wife and daughter," said the father.

The municipal education board says it has set up a third-party panel, and is investigating how the girl was actually bullied, the connection between the handing over of the note and the murder-suicide, among other issues.

(Japanese original by Masaru Yoshida and Hana Fujita, Sendai Bureau)

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