The attack on schoolchildren on June 28 by a knife-wielding man in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, again underlined the difficulty involved in protecting children from dangers. School authorities, parents and the police need to jointly consider ways to enhance the safety of children on their way to and from school.
On the afternoon of June 28, after school lunch and classroom cleaning were over, several dozen first-graders were about to cross a road in front of Oizumi Daiichi Elementary School when a man got out of a car and began charging toward them with a knife. The children cried and tried to flee.
Fortunately a 71-year-old man was at the scene serving as a crossing guard. To protect the children, he resisted the attacker by using the flag he was holding. The assailant fled in the car after injuring three boys, who had cuts on the neck and arms.
The assault took place in a residential area about 2 km from Oizumi Gakuen Station on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line. The police arrested a man believed to be the attacker about an hour later in Miyoshi, Saitama Prefecture, about 10 km northwest of the attack scene. He was in a car that had the same license number as the car the attacker fled in. Two fruit knives, each with a blade about 9-cm long, were found in the car. One of them had blood stains, which later matched the DNA of the injured children.
The police must investigate the background of the suspect and find out what his motive was for the crime. A recent survey of the school’s 377 students showed that about a half of them remain uneasy or are suffering from insomnia since the attack. The school should provide counseling.
A June 8, 2001, attack by a man at Ikeda Elementary School in Osaka Prefecture, which killed eight students and injured 13 others as well as two teachers, prompted many schools to develop manuals for dealing with suspicious intruders and to strengthen school ground security.
Still, the protection of schoolchildren on their way to and from school remains a difficult issue. In Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, residents escort children both ways and also patrol the areas. This practice started after a first-grade girl went missing in Imaichi (now part of Nikko) on Dec. 1, 2001. Her body was found in a mountain forest in Hitachi Omiya, Ibaraki Prefecture, the next day.
Education authorities and local governments should devise a way to involve the whole community concerned in efforts to protect children. The police and local governments should consider recruiting retired police officers to help local residents organize such efforts.