On Tuesday, the Japanese city of Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, admitted that there was a connection between the severe bullying of a 13 year old student and his suicide last October, a reversal of its previous opinion. As part of a lawsuit filed in the Otsu District Court by the victim’s parents against the municipal government and bullies, an attorney has stated that city is now looking to negotiate for an amicable settlement. The city and its board of education not only denied knowledge of the boy’s abuse, but also tried to hide the evidence of accounts from students who witnessed the bullying.
A survey of students at the 13 year old’s school revealed that the daily tortures included repeated beatings, harassment, and even being forced to “practice” his own suicide. Most shocking was the fact that teachers were told of the situation, but didn’t do anything to help. Naomi Koshi, Otsu’s Mayor, reversed his stance recently, admitting the suicide was caused by the bullying, and offered an apology to the boy’s family. Court sessions have currently been postponed, as several investigations are to take place over the next few months.
Police are now questioning roughly 300 students at the junior high school to find out about the bullying that went on, and to what extent teachers and school officials were aware of the situation. Investigations will also include searching the offices of the school and board of education. It has already been revealed that some teachers spoke of stopping the bullies, but it was usually dismissed as playing or harmless. Shortly after an October 5th incident that involved the victim getting into a fistfight, several teachers recognized that bullying “may” be present, and agreed to keep an eye on the students in question. Six days later, the 13 year old killed himself by jumping off the rood of an apartment building. The Otsu Board of Education had repeatedly stated that the school’s teachers were unaware of any bullying.
The school’s principal, Ichio Fujimoto, is also among those who have quickly reversed their stance, apologizing for not taking any action to prevent the terrible tragedy. The victim’s 47 year old father has commented that bullying continues to go on, even now, and that teachers should know when it’s happening and be able to take action. The parents are suing the city and the bullies for 77 million yen (approx. $973,000) in damages. There were reports of bomb threats made against the school last week from someone demanding an apology from those responsible, however nothing has come of it and police are still investigating that situation.