Three boys were questioned by the Shiga Prefectural Police on Wednesday about their accused bullying of another 13 year old student who committed suicide in October of last year in the city of Otsu. Investigators say that two of the accused deny the bullying, and claim they were only playing around, and that the treatment wasn’t that bad. Police have also begun interviewing the other students at the victim’s school, along with their parents, and on a voluntary basis, to understand the extent to which the school and its teachers were aware of the boy’s abuse.
A series of questionnaires given to the students shortly after the 13 year old’s suicide revealed that 15 or more witnessed the victim regularly getting beaten in the bathroom, having his pants pulled down daily, forced to eat dead bees, ordered to steal for those doing the abusing, and worst of all, being made to “practice” his own suicide. The victim, as well as several other students, brought up the bullying to teachers, yet it was repeatedly dismissed as play, or not taken as serious as it really was.
Until this week, the school and the Otsu Board of Education have maintained that they and the victim’s teachers were not aware of the bullying, and denied that it could be directly connected to the boy’s suicide. However a police search of the school and education department’s records have revealed that only days before the suicide, several teachers spoke of there “maybe” being a problem, and that they should keep an eye on the boys to see how things develop. After an ongoing lawsuit from the victim’s parents brought the student surveys to light, the city government has now reversed its stance, and acknowledges that the bullying and suicide were connected. The school’s principal has also issued an apology for not stepping in.
The parent’s lawsuit is against the Otsu municipal government and the parents of the three bullies, but the victim’s father has repeatedly gone to police since last year to convince them to open a criminal case. The police had previously refused, but are now questioning the three boys on the basis of the father’s criminal complaints about assault, extortion, and theft.