YOKOHAMA – An elementary school in Yokohama ignored a police report that a transfer student from disaster-hit Fukushima Prefecture was possibly being bullied and extorted by classmates, sources said Thursday.
The local police notified the school in November 2014 that other students were demanding money from the 13-year-old boy — some ¥1.5 million ($14,000) in sum. But the school and the Yokohama Municipal Board of Education both failed to fully respond, the sources said.
The case is sparking a reaction on the internet, where some say adults who spread rumors about nuclear radiation are to blame for the impetus for the bullying.
According to a board of education report, the bullying started immediately after the boy moved to Yokohama in August 2011 while a second-grader.
The boy was called names such as “germ,” an apparent reference to the nuclear contamination caused by the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster that started in March 2011. He eventually started missing school when he was in the third grade, the report said.
In July 2014, the boy’s parents reported to police that grade school classmates were extorting money from their son, and when police questioned him, they found the boy was forking over ¥100,000 at a time, which the bullies spent at game arcades and on other things.
The following month the police notified the school and the board of education about what they had been told.
In 2013, Japan enacted a law to curb bullying at schools, making it obligatory to report to the education ministry and municipalities cases deemed “serious situations,” or when a student is thought to be suffering physically, mentally or economically as a result of bullying.
In this case, the school did not judge that the situation constituted a “serious situation” and did not convene a school meeting to deal with the situation. The board of education also failed to act promptly.
A board official said Thursday: “We should have acted before the Kanagawa Prefectural Police intervened in this case. The school was not fully aware that bullying was taking place and it did not think about (taking actions based on) the law.”
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