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EDITORIAL | Schools' Bullying Cover-ups Victimize Students Twice Over 

By turning their backs and reinforcing coverups, schools are multiplying the tragic consequences of bullying by students and its toxic consequences in society.



The Sapporo Board of Education called a press conference on February 14, 2024. (© Kyodo)

(Trigger Warning: This article about bullying contains references to suicide.)

If schools overlook bullying, they may fail to save the lives of students at risk. And if they fail to clarify their responsibility, they may further wound the hearts of bereaved parents. How long will such terrible mistakes continue to be made? 

Fukuoka Prefecture plans to reinvestigate the March 2021 suicide of a second-year high school student. He was a member of his school's kendo club. The boy was attending Tokai University Fukuoka High School in Munakata City, which is affiliated with Tokai University. His family had complained that the school's investigative report was inadequate. 

Kenji Tsuyama (left), principal of Tokai University Fukuoka High School, and others bow their heads at a press conference, on February 20. (© Kyodo)

What Happened

When he was a freshman, the boy suffered bullying by several of his seniors in the kendo club. They went so far as to film him being stripped of his underwear and post the footage on social media.

A teacher serving as advisor to the club had partial knowledge of what was happening. In this case, the bullying in question rose to the level of a crime. However, the teacher did not report it to the school or provide appropriate guidance to students.

Subsequently, a third-party committee investigated the problem and provided a report, confirming that a total of 10 instances had taken place. However, it concluded, "The direct cause of the suicide could not be determined." The school released the report in February. 

Even after the student's suicide, the school allowed the teacher in question to continue to serve as club advisor. 

The need for the prefecture to reinvestigate the case is obvious. Judging from the unwillingness of the school to recognize the seriousness of the incident, it is questionable if the interviews they conducted with club members were adequate. 


Hopefully, the prefecture will now thoroughly review the issues in question. That includes the high school's response. These steps are necessary to resolve the distrust of the bereaved family. 

Moreover, the school must change its previous conclusion regarding the case. It should provide unstinting cooperation with the reinvestigation. 

Black painted parts stand out in this report on the investigation into the 2021 bullying-related suicide of a Sapporo municipal first-year junior high school girl. (© Kyodo)

Not an Isolated Problem

Unfortunately, the Fukuoka suicide is not an isolated case. For example, a female student in her first year of junior high school in Sapporo committed suicide in October 2021

The city's board of education subsequently issued a report that blacked out investigation findings. Those reportedly described how, when still in elementary school, the girl had been beaten and treated like a "slave." 

That in turn caused a new problem since the deletions hurt the bereaved family of the child. 

Nevertheless, in February 2024, the city board of education reissued the same report. This time, they restored most of the blacked-out portions, saying that the initial report had been "inadequate from the perspective of preventing recurrence, etc." 

If it did nothing to prevent recurrence, what was the use of the "investigation report"? 

There was yet another case in Hokkaido. In March 2021 a second-year junior high school female student in Asahikawa City froze to death in a local park. That was after being horribly bullied by senior students. The school was slow to acknowledge that she had in fact been bullied. The city's board of education was also criticized for initially announcing that it was "unclear" if bullying was a factor in the youngster's death. 

A copy of an internal document used by the City Board of Education to explain to then Mayor Masato Nishikawa regarding the bullying issue at Asahikawa Junior High School. (© Kyodo)

There is a Law Against Bullying

The Act for Promotion of Measures to Prevent Bullying, which took effect in 2013, broadly views bullying from the victims' perspective. Explained in English and Japanese, it requires schools to adopt systematic measures to prevent bullying. Everyone actually dealing with school children should take the purpose of the law to heart. 

If you are having trouble with mental health due to bullying or for any other reason, someone is ready to help you in English in Japan at +810352869090.
Someone is also ready to help you in Japanese
Outside of Japan, if you are in North America, please seek help at Freedial 988. Or check your national health authorities for guidance in your own country.  



(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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