National / Social Issues

Yokohama mayor wants school board to probe why it failed to help bullied Fukushima evacuee boy

Kyodo

Yokohama’s mayor said Wednesday she has instructed the city’s board of education to investigate the reason behind its poor support in a case involving a 13-year-old boy from Fukushima Prefecture who had evacuated to the city in the wake of the March 2011 nuclear meltdowns and was bullied because he was from the radiation-devastated prefecture.

Mayor Fumiko Hayashi said in a press conference she ordered the board to look into the reason why it was so slow in launching its investigation into the case.

The board only started its investigation last December while the bullying started immediately after the boy moved to the city in August 2011 when he was a second-grader student.

“Although laws and systems to address bullying at school have been developed, there’s no point if they can’t be effectively utilized by teachers and schools,” Hayashi said, adding she will make the result of the inspection public.

The order comes after a third-party panel of the board of education compiled a report earlier this month that recognized bullying of the boy took place and criticized the delayed response by the board and the elementary school he attended.

The board asked the panel to investigate last December only after the boy’s parents addressed the board about the bullying, although it had recognized that he was in trouble at least in June 2014 when it received a report from his school.

According to the third-party panel report, the bullying included calling him names such as “germ,” referring to the nuclear contamination in Fukushima, and physical assaults. The boy eventually started missing school when he was in the third grade, the report said.

The bullying developed into extortion of money when he was in the fifth grade. He had some ¥50,000 to ¥100,000 in cash each taken on about 10 occasions by about 10 classmates. The boy gave the classmates the money as they claimed his family was receiving government compensation for the nuclear disaster, according to the report.

The report criticized the elementary school for failing to address the bullying sooner while recognizing it, saying it amounts to an “abandonment of education.”

The city board of education said it has sent part of the report to the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education at its request.

Kyodo News recently obtained a full text of the boy’s notes on the bullying, which were written when he was in the sixth grade.

“I feel terrible as I’m treated like a germ and I know it’s because of the radiation,” the notes said. “I thought the people of Fukushima would always be bullied.”

He had told his teachers about the bullying but they “did not believe” him and “ignored” him, he wrote in the notes. “I thought of killing myself many times but I decided to live because so many people have died” in the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.