OSAKA – The student in Osaka who hanged himself last month after enduring repeated beatings by his basketball coach at Sakuranomiya Senior High School told his mother he had been struck 30 to 40 times the day before he died, the local board of education revealed Thursday.
“I was hit many times again today, probably about 30 to 40 times,” the 17-year-old teen told his mother after returning from practice on Dec. 22, according to the Osaka municipal board of education.
The 47-year-old coach, whose name has not been disclosed, admitted slapping the teen in the face when he made a mistake and said it was intended to “stir him up,” the board said. The teen was captain of the team.
The coach said he only slapped him “several times,” contradicting the student’s remark. Osaka police are investigating the incident as a case of assault. The board of education is meanwhile conducting its own probe with outside lawyers.
Two assistant coaches in their 20s witnessed the attacks but didn’t try to stop the coach, the board said. The two are alumni of the school and were coached by the same man.
“We could not say anything against him, we couldn’t intervene in the way he trains the team,” one of them was quoted by the board as saying.
According to the board, the student, at his brother’s advice, wrote a letter to the coach on Dec. 19 in which he said he was being punished for mistakes that other members of the team would not be punished for, and that he was having a difficult time dealing with the physical abuse.
However, the student never handed the letter to the coach, although he showed it to his teammates. According to a source at the board of education, they may have told him the letter would only anger the coach further.
The student was found hanging in his room on the morning of Dec. 23.
The boy frequently told his family he was having a hard time conveying his feelings to the coach because he would get nervous when trying to talk to him.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said Thursday he will launch a special investigative team of 100 people under his direct control to check whether physical punishment is being condoned at city-run schools, including elementary and junior high schools.
Hashimoto also criticized the city for allowing the teacher in question to remain at Sakuranomiya Senior High School for 18 years.
“Anyone staying for as long as 18 years at the same school would wield more authority than the principals. We have to stop this situation where this kind of ‘boss’ sticks around,” Hashimoto said.
The board has a basic policy of transferring teachers at municipal schools every seven to 10 years. But the coach at Sakuranomiya has been allowed to stay there since 1994 — apparently because he gets good results. The high school is known for its elite sports teams.
On Wednesday night, the school held an emergency, three-hour meeting with some 300 angry parents, and the principal, Yoshihiro Sato, addressed the suicide and the abuse.