On Aug. 15 police in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, arrested a 19-year-old man for trying to kill the head of the local board of education. The suspect was reportedly angry at the board’s failure to properly investigate the suicide of a male junior high school student last October. After the parents of the boy demanded an investigation the school conducted a survey of students to find out if the boy had jumped from the roof of a condominium because of bullying. Later, the board concluded that bullying had nothing to do with it, but the parents weren’t satisfied and in February brought suit against the city as well as the three suspected bullies and their parents. The responses in the survey were disclosed in court, showing that many of the victim’s classmates reported seeing instances of bullying and that some had even told their teachers. The suspect presumably felt that the school’s failure to protect the student from violence warranted violence against the school.

The board now admits that the suicide was caused by bullying, and that it tried to cover up the survey results. In a recent three-part series, the Asahi Shimbun reported that surveys are schools’ usual means of “investigation,” but according to an expert quoted in the series they are a bureaucratic dodge, a way for schools to appear to be doing something. The respondents are anonymous and the schools rarely release details. The father of the Otsu victim, however, was insistent, and the board gave him the survey responses on condition that he not reveal them publicly. He was reportedly “disgusted” by what he read, and then sued.

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