On Tuesday, the city of Otsu, Shiga Prefecture made its first admission that the suicide of a 13 year old boy in October of 2011 was caused by severe, ongoing bullying from his classmates. The acknowledgment came as a result of a 77 million yen (approx. $820,000) lawsuit from the boy’s family against the local government, as well as the three students whose abuse went so far as daily torture and forcing the victim to “practice” his own suicide.
In a case that has awoken Japan to its nation-wide problem of bullying in schools, the Otsu education board was seen as not only denying that there was a connection between the death and abuse, but also trying to hide evidence that teachers and other school officials were aware of the situation and had been sought for help by the victim. With criminal charges also pending against the three bullies, the city government has changed its official stance to one that says the suicide was “directly caused” by his bullying. An out of court settlement for the damages was also proposed by the city, but the 13 year old’s family has yet to respond to the offer.
When the initial lawsuit was filed last year, the education board tried to deny the presence of bullying, but quickly reversed that statement and apologized after evidence that surveys of the boy’s schoolmates revealed that the bullying was widely known about were found to have been hidden. The family has argued for not only acknowledgement of the relationship between the bullying and suicide, but also for the recognition that the school’s inaction also contributed to the tragic death. Among the abuses suffered and failed to be stopped by teachers include daily beatings in the boy’s bathrooms, being forced to eat dead bees, and made to steal and pay money to the tormentors.