SENDAI – Parents of four children killed when their kindergarten bus was engulfed by the March 11 tsunami filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the school in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, seeking compensation for its failure to ensure the children’s safety.
The suit is likely the first of its kind questioning the responsibility of schools with respect to evacuation guidance after the twin disasters, the plaintiffs’ lawyer said. The parents are demanding ¥260 million in total compensation from Hiyori kindergarten and its principal at the time.
The complaint filed with the Sendai District Court said the school bus carrying 12 children left the kindergarten, which was located on high ground, about 15 minutes after the massive earthquake on March 11 for their homes along the coastline — despite a tsunami warning having already been issued.
After dropping off seven of the 12 children along the way, the bus was swallowed by tsunami that killed the five children still on board. The plaintiffs are the parents of four of them.
They accuse the kindergarten of failing to gather appropriate emergency and safety information via the radio and other sources, and for not adhering to agreed safety guidelines under which the children were to stay at the kindergarten, to be picked up by their parents and guardians in the event of an earthquake.
According to the plaintiff’s lawyer, Kenji Kamada, another bus carrying other children had also departed from the kindergarten but turned back as the driver heard the tsunami warning over the radio. The children on that bus were not harmed.
“I want a sincere apology from the kindergarten,” said Mika Sato, 36, who lost her 6-year-old daughter, Airi. Urging the kindergarten not to hide any facts, she also expressed hope that no other parent would have to go through the same suffering.
Similarly, Yasushi Saijo, 42, who lost his daughter, Harune, also 6, said: “By having the truth revealed, I hope that through this (lawsuit) children across the nation will be better protected by their educators. This is all I can do for my daughter.”