National / Crime & Legal

Court orders city of Osaka to pay damages over 2012 suicide of student

Kyodo

A court on Wednesday ordered the city of Osaka to pay about ¥75 million (about $670,000) in damages to the parents of a 17-year-old high school student, recognizing that the student killed himself in 2012 due to beatings by a teacher at a city-run school.

The parents of the Sakuranomiya Senior High School student had sought ¥170 million in damages, claiming physical punishment by the teacher, who coached the school’s basketball team, pushed their son to his limits and that the school failed to take the necessary steps against it.

In handing down the ruling, the presiding judge, Nobuaki Iwai at the Tokyo District Court, said the student “killed himself as the physical punishment made him feel trapped,” adding the coach could have foreseen the suicide.

The student, who was captain of the basketball team, killed himself at his home on Dec. 23, 2012, after then-coach Hajime Komura beat him around a dozen times as a punishment for mistakes he made during training matches several days earlier.

The parents filed the suit with the Tokyo court in December 2013 after moving to the Kanto region from Osaka.

The case prompted the state and local governments to rethink the use of physical punishment at schools.

Toru Hashimoto, the then-mayor of Osaka, said at the time the way education was administered was flawed and called for a legal judgment in the case.

But during the trial, the city of Osaka argued the student’s death was unforeseeable and denied it was linked to the physical punishment by Komura. Instead, it said the pressure the student faced as captain of the basketball team was the main cause of his committing suicide.

In a hearing in Tokyo last year, Komura, 50, admitted to beating the student regularly but said he did not think the boy would commit suicide.

He was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for three years, for assault by the Osaka District Court in a criminal trial in September 2013.

The education board for the city of Osaka dismissed Komura on disciplinary grounds in February 2013 for his history of beating members of the team.