OSAKA – A 17-year-old high school boy in Osaka hanged himself after being physically punished by his basketball coach in late December, the Osaka municipal board of education said Tuesday, noting abuses attributed to the same coach two years ago were denied by the school but may have been frequent.
A questionnaire carried out on students at Sakuranomiya Senior High School after the Dec. 23 suicide found that most of the victim’s teammates saw the 47-year-old coach physically punish their colleagues and many were abused as well.
The unidentified coach, who has also been described as an adviser, admitted punishing the boy and apologized to his family, the board said.
Osaka Prefectural Police said they have questioned the health and physical education teacher about the death of the boy, who was the captain of the team. He left a letter stating he was being physically punished by the adviser.
The board of education said a team of lawyers will investigate the possible link between the physical punishment and the suicide.
It said the student may have been slapped “very frequently” during basketball games.
The student was found hanging in his room on the morning of Dec. 23, after telling his mother upon his return from a training match the previous night that he was “punched many times again” by the coach.
The board quoted the mother as saying her son’s cheeks were swollen and his lip was cut. His father said through the intercom at his house, “I’ve just seen the news and can’t put my thoughts in order yet.”
Out of 50 basketball club members, including both males and females, who completed a school questionnaire on Dec. 27, 48 said they had witnessed the adviser physically punish other members and 21 claimed they themselves had been physically abused.
The board of education said the city was informed two years ago of alleged physical punishment inflicted by the adviser, but it subsequently received a report from the school denying there had been such abuse and thus no students were interviewed at the time.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto on Tuesday ordered a thorough inquiry into the case. “I have to admit physical punishment was a factor behind the suicide. This is a far more serious case than those suicides caused by bullying,” he said at a meeting with senior city officials.