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Witness information about bullying should have been taken seriously

The Yomiuri ShimbunDespite receiving information about bullying, the recent death of a student means a tragedy was not prevented.

On Wednesday, a third-year junior high school student fell to his death from a six-story condominium in Gifu. A note had been left in his home implying classmates had demanded money from him.

The city government’s board of education has acknowledged that the student had been bullied. There seems to be a high possibility that the distress from being bullied led to the boy’s suicide.

It is regrettable that his life could not be saved despite some possibility of the incident having been averted.

In late May, a female student in the same homeroom handed a letter over to their homeroom teacher in which she claimed that the boy was being bullied. The letter cited such incidents as that he had been forced to eat things he did not like during school lunch breaks. In another case, his pencil case was hidden, according to the letter.

“Let’s fight this together. Please support me,” the student wrote in her letter. Refusing to turn a blind eye to the bullying, she seems to have mustered all her courage to speak out about the problem.

The homeroom teacher spoke to the students who had been cited as responsible for the bullying and questioned them about the matter. The teacher judged that the incidents were within the range of mischievous behavior. He is believed to have disposed of the girl’s letter.

In a survey conducted mid-June on students about their lives, another pupil in the same homeroom claimed the boy in question was being bullied. When the homeroom teacher sought confirmation, the boy who was allegedly being bullied said: “I’m all right.” He fell to his death two weeks later.

More than a few junior high school students do not admit that they are being bullied for various psychological reasons. That students in the same homeroom testified that the boy was being bullied should have been taken seriously.

Act at an early stage

It is regrettable that the information about the bullying was not shared among school administrators and others, and that they failed to organizationally deal with the problem.

After the boy’s death, various testimonies were given to the school about his plight, including that he had been kicked. Another testimony claimed that he had been forced to kneel on a toilet floor. If his school had conducted a fact-finding inquiry at an early stage, it could have grasped the realities of the case.

Based on the law on the promotion of measures to prevent bullying, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has repeatedly urged school administrators and teachers to make efforts to identify cases of bullying at an early stage and to take an organizational response to such problems. In many cases, however, these instructions have not been put into practice.

Another case involves a second-year junior high school student who committed suicide in the town of Yahaba, Iwate Prefecture, four years ago. He had complained to his homeroom teacher about bullying that he had suffered, but the information about the matter was not shared among teachers at the school.

In March, a third-party committee publicized a report on its probe into the suicide of a second-year junior high school student in the city of Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture. It was critical, claiming, “Her homeroom teacher neither looked at the information written about her problems with bullying in a questionnaire nor questioned the student and others for information.”

When students are facing serious problems, the sensitivity of teachers can act as a lifeline. To determine whether there are children in need of help, teachers directly dealing with students are urged to take look at them carefully once more.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 10, 2019)Speech



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