National

Kobe elementary school embroiled in bullying scandal as teachers turn on one of their own

Kyodo, Staff Report

Four teachers at an elementary school in Kobe have been removed from their positions and are facing further disciplinary action for allegedly rubbing hot soup into the eyes of a colleague and forcing him to drink alcohol, among other acts.

A teacher in his 20s at Higashisuma Elementary School went on leave last month after saying he was harassed by the four senior colleagues, the city’s education board said Friday.

He accused the four of pinning his arms and rubbing curry on his body, as well as rubbing “fiery hot” ramen soup into his eyes over the course of the last year, the board said.

The co-workers — three men and a woman in their 30s and 40s — have admitted to bullying the teacher as well as three other co-workers in their 20s.

The board said it removed the four — who were all involved in the school’s bullying prevention program — from their teaching positions earlier this week and is considering further disciplinary action.

The male teacher also claimed the four paddled him, and forced him to drink alcohol, send obscene text messages to a female teacher via Line, get in his car and spill drinks, the board said.

The other three victims — a man and two women — said the four subjected them to verbal abuse as well as sexual harassment, the board added, noting that the man said they nicknamed him “pon-chan,” coined from the word ponkotsu, meaning “piece of junk,” according to media reports.

The alleged bullying of the first man was reported to administrators by other teachers in June, but the school’s explanation to the education board the following month was that there had been “trouble among staff members but it was solved internally.”

In September, a relative of the first man informed the board of the bullying.

The school briefed students’ parents about the matter on Thursday night.

Some expressed concern about the school missing five teachers and how it will be managed in the future.

The board said three substitute teachers will be transferred to the school on Monday.

The news immediately drew harsh reactions on social media.

“Seriously? Is this something teachers are supposed to do? They are supposed to teach children,” wrote Twitter user @ain0ar1ka. A Twitter post from @take7700gh5fs said the revelations are shocking not only because it allegedly involved four senior teachers, but because of the fact that the school apparently tried to sweep the cases under the rug.

“It is very questionable if this school had provided decent quality of education to its pupils,” the post said.