Worst nightmare for parents

The attack on schoolchildren on June 28 by a knife-wielding man in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, again underlined the difficulty involved in protecting children from dangers. School authorities, parents and the police need to jointly consider ways to enhance the safety of children on their way to and from school.

On the afternoon of June 28, after school lunch and classroom cleaning were over, several dozen first-graders were about to cross a road in front of Oizumi Daiichi Elementary School when a man got out of a car and began charging toward them with a knife. The children cried and tried to flee.

Fortunately a 71-year-old man was at the scene serving as a crossing guard. To protect the children, he resisted the attacker by using the flag he was holding. The assailant fled in the car after injuring three boys, who had cuts on the neck and arms.

The assault took place in a residential area about 2 km from Oizumi Gakuen Station on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line. The police arrested a man believed to be the attacker about an hour later in Miyoshi, Saitama Prefecture, about 10 km northwest of the attack scene. He was in a car that had the same license number as the car the attacker fled in. Two fruit knives, each with a blade about 9-cm long, were found in the car. One of them had blood stains, which later matched the DNA of the injured children.

The police must investigate the background of the suspect and find out what his motive was for the crime. A recent survey of the school’s 377 students showed that about a half of them remain uneasy or are suffering from insomnia since the attack. The school should provide counseling.

A June 8, 2001, attack by a man at Ikeda Elementary School in Osaka Prefecture, which killed eight students and injured 13 others as well as two teachers, prompted many schools to develop manuals for dealing with suspicious intruders and to strengthen school ground security.

Still, the protection of schoolchildren on their way to and from school remains a difficult issue. In Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, residents escort children both ways and also patrol the areas. This practice started after a first-grade girl went missing in Imaichi (now part of Nikko) on Dec. 1, 2001. Her body was found in a mountain forest in Hitachi Omiya, Ibaraki Prefecture, the next day.

Education authorities and local governments should devise a way to involve the whole community concerned in efforts to protect children. The police and local governments should consider recruiting retired police officers to help local residents organize such efforts.

  • Ron NJ

    Violence? In MY safety country?

    • WithMalice

      Well… there’s no such thing as a violence-free society. Comparatively, it is a “safety country”.
      I assume you’re from NJ Ron – this should be abundantly apparent to you.

    • Gordon Graham

      Random and rare, troll

  • Joseph Jaworski

    Is the author certain about the 2001 date of the abduction case? I found an article that matches the details from the Japan Weekly Monitor, even down to the December 1 date, but the year is 2005, not 2001. There was a child abduction case in Tochigi in 2001, but it involved a second-grade student, and she was released, not murdered.

  • 151E

    While I have nothing but the utmost sympathy for all the children and parents involved, and I understand the editorial staff have only the best intentions at heart, I don’t see what measures could realistically be put in place to avoid this kind of random violence. Life entails certain risks – some easily preventable, others not. I can’t help but feel that the present attention given this incident is disproportionate to the actual risk involved. Statistically (from 2009 mhlw data), the largest threats to children (aged 0-14) in Japan are “transport accidents” (177 deaths), “accidental threats to breathing” (127 deaths), and “accidental drowning” (123 deaths) – none of which about I can recall reading any editorials (but that may just reflect my own availability heuristic, as I’m too lazy to Google it).

    • 思德

      Ban knives so people will have a harder time killing each other.

  • Elementary school kids are accidentally killed or injured by vehicles far more often then they are the victims of assaults.

    The danger is in not being able to see them in the rear-view mirror, as well as their energetic obliviousness to road crossings.

    If you’re going to be concerned about the well-being of school kids, the focus should not be on incidents of “crazy people out to get them” which are extremely rare, it should be on the dangers of accidental injury or death by members of the community driving around and near schools.

    • Starviking

      There’s also the problem of inadequate (or no) pavements for the school walk, and the foolish pedestrian crossing here: painted ones where pedestrians seem to have to defer to drivers, and signaled ones where cars and pedestrians can go at the same time, but pedestrians have priority.

      • It doesn’t help that the roads are so narrow, and often entrances at school gates are on an incline, so it’s impossible to see short students in the mirror if you were backing out. There was a primary school student killed in Koriyama, Fukushima last year because of that reason.

        Unfortunately, no one wants to publish stories like that because it requires some painful introspection, which (theoretically) doesn’t sell well since there would be calls to “respect the grief of the community” or “privacy of parents” or whatever other evasion that ensures that there will be more grieving parents in the future. The sad reality that we could exercise more control over these accidental deaths than we ever can with assaults becomes obscured.

        If the full context isn’t reported, people are being misled. And that is when reporting like this article counts as sensationalism.