National / Social Issues

In-person and online bullying led to 2016 suicide of 13-year-old Aomori girl: report

Kyodo

The 2016 suicide of a 13-year-old girl in the city of Aomori was caused by bullying carried out in person and online, a panel looking into her death reported to the local government Thursday.

The final report on Rima Kasai’s suicide was compiled by a new third-party panel, set up in December 2017 by the local board of education, after the original group ended its term without completing its work due to opposition from the bereaved family.

Kasai’s family thought the draft report failed to address bullying and led them to question the panel’s independence from the school.

Kasai, a student at city-run Namioka junior high school, killed herself by jumping in front of a train at a station in Aomori Prefecture on Aug. 25, 2016, leaving a note on her smartphone saying she “cannot stand being bullied.”

The latest report said Kasai “became a target of bullying not just in person but also on social networking sites,” and she “came to believe she couldn’t escape.”

Her schoolmates abused her with remarks such as “you are disgusting” and “why don’t you die,” from around June 2015, while spreading false rumors about her on the Line messaging app, the report said.

It also said her school “did not take organized and specific measures” against the bullying.

“We apologize for failing to protect (her) precious life,” Hifumi Narita, chairman of the local board of education said while handing the final report to the student’s family.

The girl’s father, Go Kasai, 40, praised the latest report, saying he could “feel my daughter’s wish to eradicate bullying” in the document, which includes preventive measures. He also said the investigation had been conducted in an appropriate manner.

The original panel said in its draft report that bullying could not be determined as the direct cause of her death and mentioned she suffered from juvenile depression, a finding that infuriated the girl’s family.

The new panel’s report states Kasai fell into a state of depression due to bullying, dropping the reference to juvenile depression.

It also describes some 20 cases of attacks against her, including abusive language online, and how her psychological suffering accumulated in the lead up to her death.

Police made a rare intervention in such a case and referred several children involved in the bullying to a child counseling and consultation center in December last year.

The case attracted additional public attention in October 2016 after the city canceled a local photography award for the winner’s artwork after finding out the subject was Kasai, who died 10 days after the photo was taken.