Police asked to intervene in more bullying cases

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Amid growing public criticism of the way schools and boards of education handle, or allegedly ignore, cases of bullying, more children and parents are turning to the police, filing criminal complaints or asking for reinvestigations of previously reported instances of physical abuse.

On Monday, a 16-year-old boy in Sendai filed a criminal complaint against three of his classmates, claiming they physically abused him.

The sophomore at a private high school in the city was allegedly forced by classmates to burn his arm with a lit cigarette in May in a “courage test.” They then burned his arm over 20 times, leaving welts on his skin.

Among some teens, these burns, called “konjo yaki,” are considered marks of courage.

An administrator at the high school was quoted in a news story as saying the boy initially reported he had asked his friends to make the marks on his arm. At the school’s request, the boy dropped out on July 31, according to media reports.

On Tuesday, a high school student in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, asked police to reinvestigate an assault by his classmates, in which they allegedly broke his nose when he was in junior high. The police investigated the case about two years ago, but were unable to find evidence of bullying, according to media reports.

The following day, a 13-year-old boy’s parents filed a complaint at the Higashimurayama Police Station in Tokyo, claiming their son was pushed hard from behind into a wall by his classmates. The resultant injuries to his shoulders and legs required about a month of treatment at a hospital. The Metropolitan Police Department said it will investigate the case.

The series of complaints follow the widely publicized revelation in July that the Otsu board of education in Shiga Prefecture failed to disclose the results of student surveys last year after a bullied 13-year-old boy leaped to his death last October.

Amid the public uproar over bullying, the education ministry reported calls to its 24-hour bullying hotlines more than doubled. Between July 4 and 16, it received 1,191 calls, more than the number it receives in an ordinary month, the education ministry said.

According to a report by the National Police Agency, between Jan. 1 and June 30, the number of bullying cases involving juveniles taken into custody increased to 65 from 47 in the same period last year. It said 125 students were detained: 103 junior high schoolers, 13 high schoolers and nine in elementary school.