Hi Blog. Just got finished translating the following for a friend. Debito in Sapporo
THE U HODEN CASE
HEISEI 16 (WA) DAI 247-GO SONGAI BAISHOU SEIKYUU JIKEN
YOKOHAMA DISTRICT COURT KAWASAKI BRANCH, CIVIL COURT B
SEEKING DAMAGES FOR POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
Writeup based on Japanese original dated July 20, 2006, available at http://www.debito.org/kawasakiminzokusabetsu.htm
Translation by Arudou Debito (firstname.lastname@example.org, www.debito.org)
COURT CASE: HEISEI 16 (2004) (WA) DAI 247-GO SONGAI BAISHOU SEIKYUU JIKEN
PLAINTIFF: U HODEN et.al (Faculty, Japan Women’s University (Nihon Joshi Daigaku)
DEFENDANTS: SATOU Naoki, SATOU Tomoko, MORITA Masako.
COURT: YOKOHAMA DISTRICT COURT KAWASAKI BRANCH, CIVIL COURT B, reachable at Ph: 044-233-8171
I THE GIST OF THE CASE
“The results of the Board of Education Survey are as follows: For approximately one year starting from April 2000, a third-grade female student, who has a Chinese father and a Japanese mother, was the victim of bullying of both a violent and insulting nature, grounded in ethnic discrimination (minzoku sabetsu). We recognize that this bullying, even taking into account all other cases in our district (zenshi teki ni mite mo), is rare and extremely malicious example. We are deeply aware of how great the responsibility of the school board has to show guidance both in the case of schools in their district in general, and the Kawasaki City Minamisuge Primary School in specific.”
The above is a paragraph from “RE Bullying Connected to Ethnic Discrimination: Statement of awareness and what schools should do from now on”, which was announced by Kouno Kazuko, Director of the Kawasaki City Board of Education, and directed at the principal of Kawasaki City Minamisuge Primary School.
One of the perpetrators was a male classmate of the Plaintiff’s daughter, who began taunting the victim in first and second grade with calls of “Chinky” (chuugokujin, or “Chinese”). In third grade, this boy was put in her class, and led a gang of three boy and three girl classmates to taunt her. They carried out this bullying in the open, in front of the teacher. From around May 2000, on a daily basis they began calling her “dimwit” (noroma) and “shithead” (unko), and held their noses whenever they came close to call her “stinky” (kusai). Moreover, the ringleader of this bullying gang (“A-kun”) began to inflict repeated violence, such as hitting her head, kicking her legs, and pulling on her hair. Even in class, when the victim stood up to answer a question, A-kun would heckle her, and terrorize her with public comments like “Everyone in this class hates an asshole like you!” (omae wa minna kara kirawarete iru).
Thus from the tender age of eight, Plaintiff’s daughter was plagued with thoughts such as, “Does the Chinese blood I have flowing inside of me make me such a bad person? Am I a sullied person (kitanai ningen) because of it?” During the first year of bullying, the victim’s body stopped growing and developing. Her health deteriorated from the fear she felt, and she regressed mentally back to an infantile state and became isolated and withdrawn (kankaku shougai). A doctor diagnosed her with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and prescribed her with daily tranquilizers to help her sleep, which she still takes to this day.
The bullying and mental duress the victim received did not affect her alone–it affected her family as well profoundly. Her father, a university professor, felt from all the stress as if something was lodged in his throat, and became unable to speak properly. Her mother was unable to keep her mind on her cooking, and her siblings were unable to get a good meal for so long that they ended up receiving medical treatment. Eventually the father decided to move his family away. Afterwards, however, Defendants steadfastly refused to cooperate with Kawasaki City Board of Education investigations to confirm the facts of the case, even though the Defendants confirmed for the record (see Affidavit) that their son’s bullying drove the father to distraction.
The parents of the victim have since brought suit against the parents of A-kun and also against the parents of a female classmate, “A-chan”. However, they have never acknowledged the existence of bullying. Also, rumors have been flying around the school that the victim was a problem child and thus deserved the bullying, that the victim’s father is violent, that her siblings also got bullied [and thus she hasn’t been singled out], and that the victim’s family is doing this for money. Plaintiffs also suffered from phone call harassment at the workplace and the new Yokohama apartment. This kind of malicious and anonymous protest towards the victims has continued to this day without letup.
II THE BACKGROUND TO THE ISSUE
What makes this case particularly egregious is not only the malicious nature of the ostracization by A-chan, nor the behavior of the bullies, but rather the fact that this happened repeatedly in front of the teacher. When the bullying began in the spring of 2000, the teacher was aware that bullying was going on, but just passed it off as “playfulness” (fuzake ai) or “a snit” (kenka). Whenever the bullying happened, the teacher either just told them to knock it off, or worse yet, turned a blind eye. When the victim told the teacher that she was feeling unwell, the teacher halfheartedly said, “What, again?” “Okay, go to the nurse’s office,” and thus further encouraged the abuse.
The parents of the victims filed complaints about the teacher’s negligence, and in December the issue was talked about in a school meeting. However, the mother of A-chan said “Doesn’t the problem somehow lie with your daughter, not mine?” This statement had no basis in fact, and just confused things further. The school’s administrators used this argument as justification for avoiding further responsibility.
Even after the school administration said it was aware of the bullying, it did not officially inform their schoolteachers about what was going on, nor did they caution the parents of the bullies what they should do about it. Because of this delay in formally dealing with it, the abuse continued. The Board of Education’s notice to the principal of Minamisuge Primary School opened with the following:
“A school must be a place where all children can have a relaxing, healthy, fun, and secure lifestyle. However, this time, the school’s teachers and staff did not take appropriate measures, and did not take care of the mental state of the victim. Also, the fact that the school did not caution the children in question made the bullying lengthy and repeated. As a result, the victim’s mental state deteriorated to the point where she could not come to school, and the parents had to move out of the school district. There is no possible way to explain away these facts of the case.”
III INVESTIGATION INTO THE CIRCUMSTANCES BY THE BOARD OF EDUCATION
In May 2001, the principal of Minamisuge Primary School reported the bullying to the Board of Education, and the BOE launched an investigation into who was responsible.
The investigation centered on the victim’s classmates, questioning the faculty, and asking for the cooperation of other classmates to back up the victim’s testimony. However, the parents of the bullies vigorously objected, saying, “The victim may have suffered, but so have the children around her. This investigation will only reopen old wounds.” They tried to drive a wedge between the BOE and the children, with some teachers’ support. However, the BOE’s investigators faced up to the difficulties, continued their investigations tenaciously, and managed to get testimony from classmates who witnessed several cases of bullying. They also managed to get written diaries about the events from the bullies, which led to reinvestigation and the eventual outing of all of the facts of this cruel, unbelievable case.
The investigation was launched in 2001, but thanks to the obstruction of schoolteachers and parents to the bullies’ diaries, it was not until September 2002 before it was concluded.
On January 19, 2003, the Director of the Kawasaki City BOE sent the results of the investigation to the Minamisuge Primary School principal and the BOE. On January 28, the Director apologized in a press conference. On March 11, the BOE issued a punishment (shobun) to the teacher involved, but ironically he had by now already quit the school and moved on to a private-sector job.
IV STEPS TO A LAWSUIT
Even though the bullies’ parents caused great harm to the victim, and even after the victim had changed schools, the vicious rumors and the obstruction to investigations continued. Although the school and the BOE apologized to the victim and her family, the bullies and their parents steadfastly refused to. This is why we took the step of launching a Civil Court lawsuit against two of the families.
At the press conference announcing the start of our lawsuit, the lawyers of the parents said, “Bullying is a problem lying with the bullies, and something they should not evade responsibility for. We will make it clear that there is no possible way to justify bullying.” The father of the victim added his opinion: “The head of the BOE and the school apologized, but not the bullies or their parents. This is unbelievable and not something I will just forgive and forget. I want a fast resolution to this situation for my daughter who suffered so much.” The mother: “The ethnic discrimination (which is the undercurrent of this bullying) is something I as a Japanese wish to appeal to society.”
What the Plaintiffs want out of this is: A society and a legal system which conscientiously tries to root out the causes of bullying. A society where parents who will not teach their children right from wrong are made to take responsibility and stop their children bullying. A society where bullying is justifiable under no circumstances.
Parents of the bullying children are still trying to twist and cover up the facts of this case, and claim that the BOE’s investigation represents only one side of the story–the Plaintiffs’. They also refuse to believe that the victim’s PTSD has anything to do with bullying, and have demanded the Plaintiffs make public her medical records. Defendants even deny the very existence of violence or verbal harassment. They claim in court that the problem lies with the bullied victim. But there is a contradiction between those classmates’ parents who claim that the teacher did enough to stop this bullying, and those who say the bullying did not exist at all. These divisions are causing the court case to be drawn out, and the victim and her family to face even more social opprobrium.
It is now 2006, and the phone calls still keep coming in. Plaintiff’s place of employment receives anonymous calls saying “Fire that guy.” “He has the evil character of an foreign country.” (hidoi kokuminsei da).
However, on the other hand, after we filed suit, we now have a support group with 120 names listed. Also, our standing up for ourselves has helped others do the same, and we meet with other bullied families to share our grief and solidarity. This case, which seeks to protect the dignity of the human spirit, is being widely watched.
PLAINTIFF U HODEN et al.
yuxinghong AT msn.com