Osaka City’s Board of Education announced Jan. 8 that a 17-year-old, second-year senior high school boy hanged himself at his home on Dec. 23. He was the captain of a basketball team at the municipally run Sakuranomiya Senior High School.
Apparently behind the suicide was the physical punishment inflicted on the boy by a 47-year-old male teacher — the coach and adviser for the team. A letter the boy left for the teacher mentioned the physical punishment he had received from him, and his mother quoted her son as saying the day before his death that he had been struck 30 to 40 times by the teacher that day. This kind of incident should never happen again.
The coach may have had the habit of inflicting corporal punishment on members of the team. A Dec. 27 survey of 50 members of the team conducted by the school showed that 21 of them — 12 boys and nine girls — said they had received physical punishment from the coach. The board of education and the school should find out in detail what was going on and take steps to prevent the recurrence of such acts.
School authorities and teachers and sports people across the nation should not view what happened at the Osaka high school as an isolated case. It is known that violence is often used in coaching at every level of education — from elementary schools to universities. Coaches should be strictly instructed not to use violence on students.
More importantly, parents, school authorities and teachers and students should make efforts to create an environment that will not allow bodily punishment in sports training.
It is suspected that there is even a tendency to praise as “dedicated” those coaches who use violence in training. If people turn a blind eye to such violence, it won’t go away.
According to the board of education, on the night of Dec. 22, the student told his mother upon his return from a training match that he was punched by the coach for making an error during the match. The board quoted her as saying that her son’s cheeks were swollen and his lip was cut. The student was found hanging in his room on the morning of the next day.
The Osaka Prefectural Police said the boy left a memo stating that the coach’s guidance was very severe and that the basketball team’s activities had become a burden.
It also surfaced that the board of education and the school did not act properly earlier. In September 2011, the Osaka city government received a tip that physical punishment on basketball team members was prevalent and told the board to investigate.
The board, in turn, told the school to investigate. Without conducting a survey, the school later replied to the board that there were no cases of physical punishment. As a result, the board took no action, taking the school’s report at face value. The board and the school clearly showed insensitivity to the possibility that corporal punishment was being applied.
The Japan Sports Association and the Japanese Olympic Committee should start a full-scale campaign to eradicate violence from the sports scene by involving various sports associations across the nation.