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Teacher fired for physically, verbally abusing students at west Japan elementary school

The Hyogo Prefectural Government headquarters buildings, which house the prefectural board of education, are seen. (Mainichi/Motohiro Inoue)

HIMEJI, Hyogo -- An elementary school teacher was dismissed on disciplinary grounds by the Hyogo Prefectural Board of Education on Sept. 21 over 34 cases of physical and verbal abuse of six children in a special needs class.

    According to the prefectural board of education, Yusuke Yabuta, a teacher at Himeji Municipal Joyo Elementary School, repeatedly administered corporal punishment starting in the 2018 academic year when he became a homeroom teacher in the special needs class. His actions included knocking over and holding down male students who were then in the first and third grades. In addition, the 39-year-old teacher once pushed the face of a second-year student afraid of water into the school pool's surface during a swimming class.

    In April 2021, Yabuta told a fourth-grade boy who had not been able to dress himself: "You don't deserve to live. You have to die. You must transfer to another school as soon as possible." He scolded the same child in May, saying, "You're lower than s---." When the student informed him he was quitting school, Yabuta said, "Thank you. You really should quit." In June, the teacher got angry when the same child hid the tag for flower watering duty and reportedly said, "I don't need you. Get out of here."

    The teachers and staff supporting the homeroom teacher in the special needs class had reported Yabuta's corporal punishment and other matters to the principal at the time since the 2018 school year.

    The current principal, Yasuhiro Minato, 55, who was appointed to the school in 2020, also received two reports in April 2021 but only gave Yabuta verbal warnings. When Minato received a third report in June, he contacted the city's board of education for the first time. Yabuta took sick leave immediately after this, and reportedly told the prefectural board of education that he became angry and administered verbal and physical punishment to the children because they did not listen to him even when he strongly scolded them.

    Minato told the Mainichi Shimbun, "Yabuta worked diligently on his assigned tasks. But I was naive to think that he would change his behavior with verbal warnings." The prefectural board of education also imposed a one-tenth pay cut for one month against Minato, citing his supervisory responsibility.

    (Japanese original by Motohiro Inoue, Kobe Bureau, and Nao Goto, Himeji Bureau)

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