• Kyodo

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The family of an elementary school principal who hanged himself in March demanded compensation Monday over his death, saying the suicide was a result of his official duties.

Kazuhiro Keitoku, 56, principal of Takasu Elementary School in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, hanged himself March 9 on the school grounds after suffering from depression, according to a police investigation.

Keitoku, who previously worked as a banker, was hired as a principal in April 2002 as part of a prefectural project to recruit more principals with a private-sector background. However, he was troubled by the lack of trust between himself and the teachers and had been suffering depression, according to the investigation.

Keitoku’s wife, Yuko, submitted documents Monday demanding compensation from the elementary school.

The school is required to submit the documents to the Hiroshima branch of the Fund for Local Government Employees’ Accident Compensation via the municipal board of education and the Hiroshima Prefectural Government.

According to an investigative report by the prefectural board of education on Keitoku’s death, he had reported to the city board of education he was seeing a doctor regularly since last August and was put on medication for depression.

The prefectural board said earlier he consulted the municipal board about school operations after the school’s vice principal left on sick leave on Feb. 15. Another vice principal took sick leave in May last year.

It said Keitoku had asked the municipal board of education in May for sick leave, but the board did not grant the request.

A report by the prefectural teachers union said Keitoku’s overtime is believed to have been about 160 hours, or seven hours and 16 minutes a day on average, between Feb. 15 and March 8, the day before he killed himself.

The union blamed the municipal board of education for Keitoku’s death, saying it was a result of overwork and the board’s decision not to grant him leave.

On March 9, Keitoku had planted a flower bed on the school grounds with about 10 parents and left their company two hours before he was found hanging from a stair rail outside the school building. A suicide note was found in which he wrote, “I made a wrong choice . . . I don’t have enough abilities.”

In a related incident, Shokichi Yamaoka, 55, deputy head of the city board of education who was in charge of advising Keitoku, committed suicide July 4. Yamaoka helped prepare the documents submitted Monday, according to the board.

The number of people who previously worked in the private sector and who are currently serving as heads of public schools stood at 56 as of April 1, up by 35 from the previous year, according to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

The increase in such principals at elementary, junior high and high schools is based on expectations they will bring fresh ideas to education, which is often criticized as being narrow-minded.

The school education law was revised in 2000 to allow people without teaching qualifications to become principals.

Some education experts have criticized the concept.

They say caution is needed, because a school principal needs expertise in areas such as talking to children and teaching classes, and the job is quite different from managing a company.

The ministry said earlier this month it will continue with its policy of employing people from the private sector as school principals, despite the suicides.