Japan Times: MEXT in line to deliberate on ijime after Uemura Akiko suicide


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Hi Blog. The uproar on the Uemura Akiko Suicide has led to ministerial-level action. Good news, in that something is being done about bullying in Japanese schools. Bad news is that somebody has to die before something is done (and these crackdowns on ijime are periodical things anyway; once the furore dies down, well… let’s just wait for the next victim and we’ll have another cry and outcry).

Of course, the elephant in the room is the racially-motivated nature of the bullying, which does not seem to be being addressed. If you don’t address one of the root causes (a racial background being used as ammunition), you aren’t gonna fix things. Duh. Doesn’t anyone out there in ministry land have a degree in education?   Arudou Debito


The Japan Times Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010
Suicide prompts major bullying study
Kyodo News, courtesy of DK

The education ministry will conduct a nationwide survey of bullying in schools following the suicide last month of sixth-grader Akiko Uemura, in Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture.

Uemura’s mother found the 12-year-old hanging by a scarf from a curtain rail in her room Oct. 23. It is believed the girl took her own life due to bullying at school that apparently started sometime last year after her mother, who is from the Philippines, visited the school for an event.

After an initial denial, Niisato Higashi Elementary School admitted Monday she had been a frequent target of abuse by classmates.

The education ministry said Tuesday it has told prefectural boards of education to conduct periodic surveys on bullying.

The ministry also urged schools and local-level authorities to cooperate with families of schoolchildren to deal with the problem.

Rest of the article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20101111a6.html


The Japan Times Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010


Cause of a girl’s suicide

On Oct. 23, Ms. Akiko Uemura, a sixth-grade girl in Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture, died after hanging herself. On Nov. 8, Kiryu’s board of education made public a report saying she had been psychologically bullied. It denied a cause-and-effect relationship between the bullying and her suicide. But on Oct. 25, Mr. Yoichi Kishi, principal of the municipal Niisato Higashi Primary School, said school authorities had known that the girl “was not in good condition as indicated by her isolation at lunch time.” We wonder why the school could not act soon enough to prevent her suicide…

Why does the board of education deny a cause-and-effect relationship between the bullying and her suicide? It appears as if the board and school authorities refused to squarely deal with the tragedy and their responsibility in the case.

Whole Editorial at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ed20101111a2.html


10 comments on “Japan Times: MEXT in line to deliberate on ijime after Uemura Akiko suicide

  • Someone always has to die or something has to happen to someone so that something can be done.

    What I find worse in this particular case is that the school at first denied any kind of bullying happened. I think a degree in education isn’t enough, be it in ministry land or not.

  • The people at the school who failed at handling her bullying properly and those denying bullying at all at first, all should be going to a local ハローワーク at the least, looking for new work. Is there no criminal punishment for neglience on the school’s part in all this? Not to mention denying it at first, which must have involved lying to police? I definitely cannot do so in the US, surely Japan has a similar law to that.

  • This is worse. They’re going to talk about it. They will end up doing absolutely nothing practical to cure any ill, and eventually we’ll be back here having the same discussion.

  • OurManinGumma says:

    I know that you have said there hasn’t been enough coverage of the racism as the root cause for the bullying. However, the Daily Yomiuri has covered it. They interviewed a member of a Gumma-based NPO who works to combat bullying, especially racially motivated bullying. However, the interview was only included in the local Gumma edition.
    HP for the group below.

    — Thanks for this. Great group.

    I think this actually reaffirms my point.

  • Good thing the government has this distraction called “two boats collide at sea and…” so this kind of news can be buried even more than it would have. Definitely will not hear of any of the racial context that led to this suicide, because you know, the number of islands Japan calls its territory is far more important (that is sarcasm you smell).

  • When I worked as an elementary and junior high teacher in Hamamatsu (which at the time at least was heavily populated by Brazilian families), I noticed that some Brazilian kids were getting picked on for being foreign, while others *in the same class* were incredibly popular. Same went for fat kids – some would be picked on for being fat, others would be popular. Same for kids with glasses, same for kids that weren’t good at sports… This is purely anecdotal, but it seems that unpopular kids will have whatever makes them stand out in the slightest used against them when it comes to bullying, but the differences themselves (foreign parents or whatnot) far from being a cause, aren’t even a correlation. The only pattern I could see was that kids who didn’t naturally fit in with the herd were the ones who’d get singled out, for any reason.

    No question, Japan needs to act positively on its apparent commitment to fight racism, but I honestly don’t think the foreign parent issue was any more than a detail the bullies picked up on here. It’s the bullying aspect that needs to be dealt with. Otherwise we find ourselves in the territory of “it’s OK to bully somebody because they’re fat or wear glasses or wear strange clothes or have embarrassing parents, but don’t dare mention their foreign heritage.”

    — That’s not what we’re saying. It’s not okay. We’re just focusing on the NJ aspect because we’re Debito.org.

  • There was a bullying incident (related to ethnic origin) at my school a few months ago. It happened during class, but after class the JTE and I dealt with the issue immediately. (I should point out, this JTE is nicknamed “The Colonel.”) The bully broke down into tears after her scolding, and we’ve been problem free since.

  • Michael Weidner says:

    Being a teacher in elementary school, I can see ijime on a daily basis. It’s not something that is easy to deal with; the teachers that I work with and myself try to be attentive and do the best that we can to be open to all reports and such, but there is only so much we can do. I’m not saying that as an excuse, but Ijime is something that is built into the Japanese Psyche, or at least it seems to be. Or perhaps it is just human nature. Anyway, the reason that I had a point of contenture with this stance is that MEXT has been taking action on Ijime for the last 2 years. They HAVE been doing something about it. Training teachers to be more receptive to the signs, having counsellors in place so the kids have someone to talk to, among other systems and the like that they’ve implemented. While I can’t say for sure about Racial discrimination as being a part of that program, I can tell you that they have been trying to actively stop Ijime over the last few years.

    So it doesn’t take the death of someone for something to be done; it just takes someone to die for the News Media to make a big deal about it and blow everything out of proportion and to take notice of what the heck is really going on in the world.

    — Thanks for the input from the front line. As far as Debito.org goes, not being able “to say for sure about racial discrimination being a part of that program” is precisely one of the problems. As has been made a case here several times, the official stance has been, “there are no other races in Japan; except for that ethnic minority of the Ainu“, and data that would contradict that is not being collected. The possibility of race as a factor must specifically BE one of the warning signs to caution against as Japan’s youth population becomes more ethnically diverse.

  • Michael Weidner says:

    Just to clarify, the reason I can’t say whether race is examined in Ijime training is because I’ve never taken part in it personally; I can only report on these programs tertiarily. If there was someone who reads this that could perhaps comment on that, it would be great.

    I do however, honestly think that this case, while still tragic (don’t get me wrong) was just used to exploit the issue and to have a sensational new story. There’s a reason why the news media buried a lot of the racial aspects of the problem, and why they ran with it the way they did.

    I know this is going off track here, but I do think the Japanese Media needs to be taken to task for how biased and uninformed it is. I’m honestly thinking that Japan has no free press left and that all news media is Japan is run as a propaganda machine.


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