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

Kyodo

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).

  • http://andwaeee.tumblr.com 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.

    • 151E

      This sloppy clerical error certainly led to serious consequences, and the teacher should definitely be punished, however, it wasn’t malicious nor deliberate. But now you want to ruin a second life ( i.e. that of the teacher and possibly their family)?

      The boy could have challenged the school record. He could have written an exam for another school. He could have done any number of things and gone on to lead a productive and fulfilling life, but instead he chose to kill himself over some minor setback. As sad as these events are, the only one responsible for the boy’s death is the boy himself.

      • Dave Barton

        Give me a break. You mentioned it a few times in your response to this article; a BOY. An immature high school student who was wrongly accused of doing something he did not do. Whether you think as a BOY he should have been able to work through this accusal is not the point. The point is the BOY felt disgraced and no one was there to help him through this situation. We, the schools and society have to recognize that those impressionable young people don’t have the maturity to see anything other than failure.

      • 151E

        I agree 100% that society can put undue pressure on kids to ‘succeed’ and that we should instead aim to foster an attitude that ‘failure’ is not a disgrace but a learning opportunity. However, I don’t see why you say there was “no one to help this boy through the situation”. Weren’t his parents and the school scheduled to meet on December 8th to discuss the situation?

        And yes he was a boy, but at 15 he was more a young man than a child. I understand my opinion won’t be popular with a certain type who seem to believe in coddling adolescents and denying their moral agency, but I simply do not agree that his relative youth makes him any less responsible for his poor choice. Yes, society can put too much pressure on kids. Yes, the teacher fucked up. Yes, it was grossly unfair and there is lots of blame to go around. But the fateful decision to end his life was his and his alone.

      • Dave Barton

        I can appreciate your thoughts on the tragedy, but the fact remains that a young man is dead because the system failed him. If this had been a sudden rash act I could possibly agree with your view of his fateful decision. However, what was being done since Oct 2013 to remedy the situation? Evidently not enough to counter this boys depression. And irregardless of your measurement of maturity in a 15 year old he is an adolescent and does not have the defenses to react logically to lifes disappointments.

      • Dave Barton

        I can appreciate your thoughts on the tragedy, but the fact remains that a young man is dead because the system failed him. If this had been a sudden rash act I could possibly agree with your view of his fateful decision. However, what was being done since Oct 2013 to remedy the situation? Evidently not enough to counter this boys depression. And irregardless of your measurement of maturity in a 15 year old he is an adolescent and does not have the defenses to react logically to lifes disappointments.

      • 151E

        I agree 100% that society can put undue pressure on kids to ‘succeed’ and that we should instead aim to foster an attitude that ‘failure’ is not a disgrace but a learning opportunity. However, I don’t see why you say there was “no one to help this boy through the situation”. Weren’t his parents and the school scheduled to meet on December 8th to discuss the situation?

        And yes he was a boy, but at 15 he was more a young man than a child. I understand my opinion won’t be popular with a certain type who seem to believe in coddling adolescents and denying their moral agency, but I simply do not agree that his relative youth makes him any less responsible for his poor choice. Yes, society can put too much pressure on kids. Yes, the teacher fucked up. Yes, it was grossly unfair and there is lots of blame to go around. But the fateful decision to end his life was his and his alone.

      • h4x0rz

        “Minor setback”
        I’m not sure if you know how Asia works and how to disembark from a horse.

      • 151E

        I think I got some idea how at least Japan works. I just don’t go in for histrionics.

        Now I know it’s not perfectly analogous, but I have a sempi/friend – a senior manager at a large well-known Japanese corporation – for whose kid the ‘pressure to succeed’ is quite real, and the kid has done nothing but study these past three years – both at school and at an expensive juku. Unfortunately, he didn’t pass his university entrance exam. That rejection was certainly a blow to his self-confidence and pride but, instead of killing himself, he’s going to an intensive preparatory school (yobiko) and trying again next year. I admire this kid’s tenacity.

        And no, although I used to do a bit of jumping and have been thrown from a horse or two (the image of which I’m sure will give you a degree of pleasure), I do not know how to ‘disembark’ from a horse : )

      • CLJF

        Not being able to get into university because you didn’t pass the university entrance exams (as in the above case) is a very different – salvageable – situation to not being able to get into university because of a (in this case, erroneously attributed) criminal record, which is usually unsalvageable.

      • 151E

        It was a junior high school student who killed himself because (based on an erroneous school record, NOT a police criminal record) he wasn’t eligible for a recommendation from the principal for ONE private high school he had hoped to attend. There are some 17 prefectural, 8 municipal, and 20 private high schools within just Hiroshima City itself. The situation was more than salvageable right up until the boy killed himself.

      • CLJF

        No need to shout.

      • 151E

        Sorry about that : ) I just meant to stress the fact that it was only one school.

      • h4x0rz

        I don’t think I expected more than a vague analogy followed by the classic “this guy did it, so can everyone else” argument. As an Asian I felt compelled to respond to your callous disregard of how we view education.

        However, I do not feel as compelled to repeat what I elucidated in my reply to your other post. It does not take a sociologist to understand the importance of biography and history.

      • 151E

        You have accused me of arrogance and of making a truckload of assumptions, but seem blithely unaware of your own.

        I understand quite well the importance of education here in Japan. I also understand the importance of ganbari (頑張り), nintairyoku (忍耐力), and konjou (根性) – values with which you (self-appointed representative and defender of all Asia) don’t seem as well acquainted. And while I have much sympathy with the boy’s plight, I have none for how he chose to handle it.

        It’s clear that neither of us will persuade the other to change their mind on this matter. You seem to think it’s quite reasonable for a young man to kill himself in response to stress and for people to blame any and everyone else. I disagree.

      • http://andwaeee.tumblr.com hk

        the reasons to the majority of kids committing suicide in Asia is because of harsh school work and the all the ridicules over work. The kid was so pressured not being able to transfer to another school that he took the path of killing himself instead of just calming down and taking another path, i mean the teacher totally ignored the students worries and didn’t look into the issue more deeply.

        where is the support to the student, that teacher does not qualify to teach, or help students, the last student the teacher was suppose to help killed themselves. if you’re going to tell me that the teacher was not at fault, then i think you don’t even know what has happened. the student was wrongly accused for shop lifting by some anonymous person, and there was no evidence for such event. wasn’t that suppose to be noticed before the parents arranged a meeting with the school??
        the teachers life is going to be ruined, and his life is going to be ruined, just like that kid who was just about to not get into high school because of some false report, but those are the conciseness for accusing someone (especially a student/ child) for something they have not done and ruining their life, and in Asia that is their whole future. high school applications and graduations is prioritised in East Asia, and that is something that teachers obviously know.
        not allowing someone to be able to at least step into high school is something everyone should worry about in East Asia.
        and whats more suspicious is that the principle then admits that they reported false report and that they lied about the death of the student.
        if you’re going to argue with me that the teacher is not to be punished, then i think you have no clue of what has happened.

      • 151E

        I agree that the teacher should be punished, but I don’t think it is in anyone’s interest to fire her IF her job performance has been otherwise satisfactory. There are still many unanswered questions concerning this incident. I don’t know all the details, and I doubt you do. But I do know, mentally well adjusted kids don’t kill themselves just because they didn’t get into their high school of choice.

      • http://andwaeee.tumblr.com hk

        “job performance”?? a teacher is not a teacher just because they can teach a class, being a teacher means taking the responsibility of taking care of the students and where they want to go in the future, NOT FALSELY accusing a student of shop lifting when they haven’t.

      • 151E

        I don’t know where you’re getting your information, but many of your comments don’t seem to agree with what I’ve read here on JT and Mainichi.

        The facts as best I can currently ascertain are:

        > On October 6, 2013 a boy from Fuchu Midorigoaka JHS was caught shoplifting.

        > As is customary in Japan, a teacher from the school was called to the store.

        > The next day, the same teacher orally informed the school’s guidance counsellor who subsequently entered the wrong name into the school’s computer.

        > The school would normally have had a consultation with the student and their legal guardians but failed to do so since staff where distracted with a violent incident at the school on October 7.

        > At an October 8 staff meeting, a teacher pointed out the the wrong name had been recorded in connection to the shoplifting incident, but the data was never corrected.

        [ Note: It would seem unlikely then that the boy knew until only recently that he had this erroneous charge on his record. ]

        > Last year the principal initiated a change to school policy regarding ‘suisen’ recommendations. Whereas previously only delinquent behaviour in a student’s finally year was taken into consideration, this was expanded to cover their entire 3 year history.

        > In November, his homeroom teacher told the boy that the principal would not be able to give him a recommendation for the private high school he wished to attend because of his shoplifting record. According to the homeroom teacher, the boy did not deny the allegation which she then took as tacit confirmation of the incident.

        > The boy skipped a scheduled meeting with the school and his parents and instead killed himself on December 8.

        There remain many unknowns:

        > why the boy’s record wasn’t immediately corrected
        > when exactly the boy became aware of his erroneous record (though my guess is during his Nov. 16 consultation with his 3rd year homeroom teacher)
        > what if anything the boy did to challenge this erroneous charge (it seems little to nothing)
        > what kind of relationship the kid had with his homeroom teacher
        > how caring and nurturing his homeroom teacher is
        > if his 3rd year homeroom teacher was present at the October 7th, 2013 meeting
        > if the teacher who initially responded to the shoplifting incident in 2013 was still at the school
        > what kind of relationship the kid had with his family
        > when his family became aware of the shoplifting allegation
        > what kind of student the boy was
        > what other stress the boy may have been under
        > if the boy had previously shown any suicidal tendencies

        You wrote that the homeroom teacher falsely accused the student of shoplifting. That does not appear to be true based on what has been reported. It would seem she simply accepted at face value what was on his school record when the boy didn’t challenge it. Really, for that you think she should be fired?

        You wrote too that the homeroom teacher totally ignored the student’s worries and didn’t look into the issue more deeply. What do you base this allegation on? Do you know if the boy expressed any worries to his homeroom teacher? Do you know the details of what she discussed with the boy? Do you know what preparations she made for the December 8th meeting? If so, how are you privileged to such inside information?

        Lastly you wrote, “not allowing someone to be able to at least step into high school is something everyone should worry about in East Asia.” Let’s just ignore your conflation of Japan with all of East Asia. The fact is, regrettably, due to a clerical error, the boy was denied suisen recommendation for ONE school; he was not denied the chance to attend all schools. There are 17 prefectural, 8 municipal, and 20 private high schools within just Hiroshima City itself. The kid had many paths open to him but he chose to end his own life.

      • http://andwaeee.tumblr.com hk
      • http://andwaeee.tumblr.com hk
      • http://andwaeee.tumblr.com hk

        first of all i think you should put a link to where you found all this information.

        second, if i was to response to all of this, then i would tell you that all of this i just weird and suspicious, the thing the school did first was

        “Despite knowing the boy had committed suicide, the school had falsely stated the boy died of acute heart failure a day after the tragedy.” –

        japantoday

        and then all of this information you gave me just lead to some more weird ideas that come to mind, is the school covering something? i mean why would the student act so normal when the teacher mentions that he is accused about shoplifting and then kill himself?

        and lets not forget the lack of responsibility the school has.

        “> The school would normally have had a consultation with the student and their legal guardians but failed to do so since staff where distracted with a violent incident at the school on October 7.

        > At an October 8 staff meeting, a teacher pointed out the the wrong name had been recorded in connection to the shoplifting incident, but the data was never corrected.”

        ^^this is the information you told me, and you said that the teacher went there and checked the store themselves^^

        but this is what i found,

        “A review into the case of the boy’s death found that a teacher who entered the shoplifting charge into the school’s records had been informed verbally by another faculty member that it was a different student who had shoplifted, but mistakenly wrote the name of the deceased boy.

        The administrative mistake was noticed during an October 2013 meeting at the school, located in the town of Fuchu, shortly after the theft had occurred. 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.”-japantoday

        i honestly have nothing more to tell you until more information comes out about this situation.

      • mayday

        >but instead he chose to kill himself over some minor setback.

        What if his parents didn’t trust him, what if he’s mentally depressed afterward? There’s alot of other possibilities that led to his suicide aside from a single “minor setback” in school.

  • 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.

    • JimmyJM

      I agree there’s more to this story. But getting into the right high school is just as important as getting into the right college to young Asians in general and Japanese in particular. I’m sure the denial of a recommendation was important to him. To me, the really sad thing is that he didn’t feel he could go to his parents for support.

    • cloa513

      I’d say it was because there a long line of bullying by school teachers and school staff in that school. Japanese get obsessed over school.