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Ibaraki school, education board hit for concealing girl’s bullying-linked suicide when probing classmates

Jul 31, 2017, 10:52:06

School officials in Toride, Ibaraki Prefecture, looking into the 2015 death of a 15-year-old schoolgirl concealed the fact that she committed suicide while surveying her classmates and parents, it has been learned.

The family of Naoko Nakashima, who was a third-year student at a junior high school in Toride, claims that the concealment of such key information led the school and the Toride Board of Education to wrongly conclude she had not been bullied.

According to the board of education, Nakashima hanged herself at home on Nov. 10, 2015. Her diary had an entry that read, “I don’t want to be bullied.”

On the following day, the principal of the school and the board of education decided not to tell other students and their parents that Nakashima had committed suicide, “out of concerns over the impact on the students, who were facing high school entrance exams,” a board official said.

The official added that her family had consented to not making the fact of her suicide public. At an all-school meeting on Nov. 12 that year, the school said Nakashima had suffered an “unexpected, sudden death.”

But her father, Takanobu Nakashima, 45, said the family feels this skewed the results of the school’s probe into his daughter’s death.

Beginning in December 2015, the board and the school conducted a questionnaire on all students and interviewed the victim’s classmates.

In March 2016, the board concluded there was no bullying involved and deemed the case as not tantamount to a “serious circumstance” as stipulated under a law requiring measures against bullying. At the same time, the board set up a third-party panel to investigate the incident and made public for the first time that Nakashima had committed suicide.

“We feel that we were taken advantage of, that they used the confusion right after her suicide,” the father said. “We feel that (the officials) were trying to cover up the facts, and this influenced the conclusion of the probe.”

The parents formally complained to the education ministry in May that the panel lacked neutrality, prompting the board to reverse its earlier conclusion and disband the panel.