OTSU, Shiga Prefecture--Police searched a municipal junior high school and the Otsu government office on July 11 in connection with the suicide of a student who had been relentlessly bullied by his classmates.
Prefectural police seized 130 items, including a teacher’s daybook and documents on student guidance, from the principal’s room, teachers' office and the municipal education board’s office.
Specifically, they were trying to gather evidence for assault charges against three classmates of the 13-year-old boy over an incident at an athletics stadium in Otsu in late September last year.
“It is extremely regrettable that police searched the school. But we want to cooperate fully with the police investigation,” Otsu Mayor Naomi Koshi said in a statement released on July 11.
The boy killed himself on Oct. 11 last year by jumping from an apartment building that his family was living in. Six days later, the school conducted a questionnaire survey on all of its students to find the reason for the suicide.
Based on the results of the survey, the school admitted that the boy had suffered from bullying but concluded that a cause-and-effect relationship between the suicide and the bullying was unclear.
In February 2012, the boy’s parents filed a lawsuit with the Otsu District Court against the Otsu city government and the three classmates, demanding 77.2 million yen (about $965,000) in compensation. The city government indicated that it would fight the parents’ lawsuit.
Early this month, however, sources revealed the extent of the bullying against the boy by citing replies in the questionnaire survey, including, “The boy’s teacher turned a blind eye (to the bullying)” and “The boy was forced to do ‘practice’ suicide.”
The revelations prompted the Otsu city government to set up a third-party committee to reinvestigate the incident.
Police also came under fire after it was revealed that from October to December 2011, the boy’s father tried three times to submit a report to the Otsu Police Station about the classmates’ violence against the boy. Police refused to act on the report, saying the allegations cannot be confirmed.
The Shiga prefectural police and the Otsu Police Station became inundated with critical telephone calls and e-mail messages.
Twenty-four officers took part in the July 11 searches. They also received the results of the questionnaire survey and questioned several officials of the school and the municipal education board. They plan to question students, other teachers and education board members.
“It is rare for a school to be searched by police in relation to an investigation into bullying,” an education ministry official said.
Mayor Koshi said on July 10 that the Otsu city government now intends to reach an out-of-court settlement with the boy’s parents.
“I think the boy killed himself due to the bullying. We will investigate his case on the belief that there was a cause-and-effect relationship (between the bullying and the suicide),” Koshi told reporters.
According to the education ministry, 75,295 bullying cases were reported by schools throughout the country in fiscal 2010, up 2,517 from the previous fiscal year.
However, the ministry says the increase was not caused by a spread of bullying but by the schools’ heightened efforts to deal with such cases.
The ministry compiled the statistics by gathering reports from education boards throughout the country. Those subject to the survey were elementary, junior high and senior high schools and schools whose students require special assistance.
The fiscal 2010 figure did not include schools in the three prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, which were seriously damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
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