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Bereaved Families in Japan Speak Out on Bullies
Nichi Bei Times Weekly February 15, 2007

TOKYO (Asahi) ? Bereaved families of children who took their own lives after being bullied urged teachers and other education officials Feb. 10 to release details of their cases to deter schoolyard bullying.

Mika Mori, whose 13-year-old son committed suicide in October, revealed her son?s name and photo publicly for the first time since his death, speaking strongly against school officials who she said neglected to thoroughly investigate her son?s case. At a Tokyo symposium, the 36-year-old from Chikuzen, Fukuoka Prefecture, said she hoped speaking up about the loss of Keisuke would raise public awareness.

?He was a boy with a gentle heart,? she said. ?I think he wanted us to create a society free of bullying.?

Mori said she at first chose not to release a photo of Keisuke or other details surrounding his death out of concern for her surviving children. One of Keisuke?s younger brothers in April will enter the same junior high school Keisuke attended.

Mori changed her mind after her younger son said he was not afraid to attend the school because he believed his brother did nothing wrong. In a suicide note, Keisuke said he could no longer handle his classmates? repeated taunts. A subsequent investigation into his death by school officials was insufficient and did not answer the family?s questions, Mori said. She added that the report backtracked on previous school explanations that bullying had been a factor in Keisuke?s death.

?It hurts me to find out why my son had to end his life, but, with the help of that knowledge, I am hoping to take a meaningful step,? Mori said. About 110 people, including grieving family members, attended the forum organized by the Gentle Heart Project, a Kawasaki-based nonprofit group against bullying.

Mori was not the only parent critical of the way school officials handled child suicides. A man from Warabi, Saitama Prefecture, whose 14-year-old daughter killed herself in June 2004, lashed out at teachers for initially refusing to disclose to the family the results of an investigation surrounding the girl?s death. The school told the family the report was a ?private memo.?

?How could the school do something like that to us?? said the man, 46.
Kimie Hirano, 50, from Kanagawa Prefecture, won a court decision in 2001 that ruled the 1994 suicide of her son, then 14, was a result of bullying. She said she has seen no change in attitudes of school officials and boards of education on the issue.

Until her son?s death, she had no idea how seriously he was being victimized. She only learned about it through later media reports. Takashi Onuki, 50, from Tokyo?s Suginami Ward, agreed that schools often were not forthcoming on details. ?School officials invariably tend to suppress evidence,? he said. Onuki?s son committed suicide in 2000, when he was a second-grade student in junior high school. He took his life a day after being scolded for eating a snack in class.
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