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Probe details coach’s abuses against boy who killed himself

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Details of the brutal physical and verbal abuse an Osaka high school boy suffered at the hands of his basketball coach before committing suicide in December have been revealed in a report compiled by an external panel.

The 17-year-old captain of the Sakuranomiya Senior High School basketball team was struck multiple times in the face by coach Hajime Komura simply because “he failed to go toward a loose ball” and “allowed the opponent to steal the ball due to a lack of concentration” during games, said the report submitted Wednesday to the city of Osaka.

The panel examined the corporal punishment and verbal abuse that took place during two games the team played, on Dec. 18 and 22. The boy committed suicide Dec. 23.

In the first game, Komura hit the boy several times during the game and after the team lost to a college women’s team. “Why did you lose against a girl’s (team)?” Komura berated his captain, according to the report.

During the Dec. 22 game, Komura again struck the teen and told him, “Doing (what you have to do) after being slapped is the same as animals trained in a circus or a zoo.” The coach also slapped the boy after he made a mistake in practice the same day, yelling, “Are you going to do it or not?” He kept striking the boy until he said he would, the report said.

The report also shed light on how the student had been increasingly showing signs of dreading further abuse from Komura, including a letter in which he complained that he was the only member of the team being physically abused because he was the captain.

“I don’t know what I should do,” the boy wrote Dec. 18 in a notebook that he regularly submitted to his coach.

The boy’s mother claimed that her son at times came home with bloodstains and a swollen nose after practices. He was named captain of the team in late September, but Komura threatened to strip him of the title if he failed to live up to expectations.

The outside panel concluded that Komura had used “relentless violence” against the student and said the repeated and unjustified physical and verbal abuse “clearly caused the boy to suffer deeply.”

The incident caused Sakuranomiya Senior High School to cut its slots for physical education majors and triggered a nationwide debate on corporal punishment in the education system. Komura was fired from his post Wednesday, with the Osaka board of education acknowledging that he “routinely slapped, kicked and threw objects” at his students.