School apologizes for clerical error that led to student’s suicide


The principal of a junior high school in Hiroshima Prefecture apologized Wednesday after a boy killed himself over an incident stemming from a clerical mistake.

The school last year refused to support the graduating student’s high school entrance application because its records wrongly showed that he had a petty theft record.

The 15-year-old killed himself on Dec. 8 after the school informed his parents that it would not issue a personal recommendation to his chosen high school because his student file stated he had been caught shoplifting during his first year at the school.

The school later investigated the matter. It found that the allegation was false.

The boy had hoped to take a private high school’s entrance examination, but applicants were accepted for the exam only upon receipt of a recommendation from their junior high school.

Principal Hiroshi Sakamoto appeared before a school assembly and apologized for the error and for lying about the reason for the boy’s death.

Despite knowing the boy had committed suicide, a day after his death the school falsely stated that he had suffered acute heart failure.

A review of the case of the boy’s death found that a teacher who entered the shoplifting charge into the school’s records had been informed of it verbally by another faculty member. The actual culprit was a different student, but the record was attached to the name of the boy who later killed himself.

The administrative mistake was noticed during an October 2013 meeting at the school, located in the town of Fuchu, shortly after the theft. The faculty members who attended the meeting made the necessary corrections in the documents they had, but the changes were not reflected in the school’s computer system.

Sakamoto told reporters Tuesday that the school had no one in charge of vetting computer data at the time.

The boy skipped a meeting with the school and his parents scheduled for Dec. 8, and killed himself that day.

The town education board said in cases of student misconduct, a teacher should have compiled written records such as a statement from the student addressing the incident and the opinions of guardians, but in the boy’s case, there were no such records.

“Our child would never have taken his life if the school’s data management had not been sloppy and the school had not made the mistake,” the boy’s family said in a statement.

The board said it will set up a third-party panel to investigate a possible causal relationship between the career guidance and the student’s suicide.

  • Firas Kraïem

    I think previous reports indicated the boy couldn’t take the HS entrance exams because his recorded grades were too low, which could be attributed to innocent typographical errors when entering grades in the system. This, however, is a serious error on the part of the responsible teacher, whom I hope will be punished anyway (the student’s suicide notwithstanding).

  • hk

    as a european, i don’t know how they react to this in japan, but if i was to look at this in my perspective, the teacher is to be fired and sued for the death of someone. I don’t know how the rules run, but this is how the majority of people would think. whatever heart diseases he had ( which was a lie to begin with ), the kid killed himself and someone is behind it.
    i mean this is nonsense, the child literally lost his life to some ridicules lie, false report, that absolutely ruined his life. just imagine his parents going home, and accidentally call for their son, and then remember that he won’t answer them, why? because he isn’t there to answer them.

  • carol watanabe

    Yeah. What happened in 2013 after the reported incident when the faculty member in charge of the student should have reported to his parents about the incident, to make sure of its veracity? How can this apology ever replace the loss of a young student’s life? Everyone related to it including the teachers who made the wrong report and those who failed to follow up needs to be held up publicly and made to acknowledge responsibility with restitution to parents, who would have later depended on their son in their old age. What a horrible oversight!!

  • Dave Barton

    We see so much of this in Japan, suicides because of educational pressures. That pressure is so extreme for these young people. Whether it’s taking entrance exams for getting into college or a private high school it is so sad. Society has told these individuals that without the proper education they cannot succeed in life. I’ve always found it so remarkable that the results of testing are actually posted publically on boards for all to see. Talk about pressure and embarassment if your number isn’t displayed. In the case of this unfortunate incident the question needs to be asked why the school didn’t verify the false information at the very beginning instead of after the suicide. And to make matters worse lying about the real reason for the death. The fault certainly lies with the school, but also the unrealistic pressures that society places on these adolescents to “succeed”. Education is obviously very important in any society but it should not be a cause for any individual to say to themselves that “I am a failure and embarassment to my family, I must atone.” What a sad ending to a sad story.

  • JimmyJM

    If you were a middle school pupil and needed a document from your principal for one reason or another (but very important to you) and the principal said she wouldn’t give you that document because you have a shop lifting charge on your record, what would you do knowing the charge to be false? I would go to my parents and tell them everything. I know my parents would have supported me and contacted the school to find out what was going on. Teachers at this school knew the accusations were false (and corrected their own records according to the story) but no one corrected the computer record. Once the parents had brought this to the school’s attention, it would have been a simple matter to correct the computer record and provide the young man with his recommendation. So why did the boy actually take his own life?

  • Jollo Jakar

    A normal child isn’t going to resort to suicide over a shoplifting allegation. More likely, the incident was one of many factors that drove him to this tragic outcome. I wonder what his home life was like? His parents? There’s more to this story than a clerical mistake.