The education ministry has urged national universities to quickly respond to bullying cases at affiliated schools to prevent repeats of a recent case at a Tokyo high school that left one student severely injured after requests for action were ignored.
On Tuesday, Tokyo Gakugei University Senior High School, one of Japan’s top national high schools, admitted to mishandling of bullying incidents that left a student with severe injuries including a bone fracture and concussion.
Tokyo Gakugei University said it took disciplinary action against the head of the high school, located in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, and four other teachers for failing to report the case for six months.
A law enacted in 2013 to curb bullying requires schools to report to the education ministry and municipalities cases deemed “serious situations,” such as victims sustaining grave physical injuries or mental harm.
The Metropolitan Police Department, which has been investigating the case after receiving a report from the victim, sent two teenagers attending the high school to the local public prosecutors’ office in May for allegedly assaulting the student.
The university disclosed a report compiled by a third-party panel set up to look into the bullying case, which said that the bullying occurred multiple times between May and September last year when the students were practicing for a sports festival.
The report said one student shoved the victim down, leading to a fractured wrist, and another student threw the victim onto the ground causing a concussion. The panel also revealed that the bullies forced the victim to lick cicada nymphs. The names, sex, and ages of the students have not been disclosed.
“Students have the right to enjoy school life without fearing for their safety, and schools are obliged to protect those rights,” university President Toshisada Deguchi said at a news conference. “I’d like to express my heartfelt apologies to the student who was harmed.”
The victim reported having experienced bullying in a survey the school conducted in June last year. In September the same year, the victim’s parents urged the school to take action.
But despite the victim’s claims and the parents’ appeal, the school did not report the case to the education ministry until this March.
The third-party panel called out the school for negligence, saying in its report that the situation had been grave enough and met legal requirements for reporting to the ministry as of September 2015.
Deguchi also said the high school “treated the boy’s situation too lightly.”
The school has a reputation as one of the best public high schools for getting into elite universities.
In the message sent out to national universities, the education ministry called the incident at the Setagaya Ward high school “a regrettable outcome” and called on authorities to respond in accordance to government guidelines.
“Schools affiliated with national universities in particular are supposed to serve as a model for local education institutions, and mishandlings like this should never happen,” read the ministry’s notice.
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