SAITAMA--A 15-year-old boy who attended a middle school in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, has been in a coma since January after he was punched and kicked by three of his classmates, according to investigative sources.
The then second-year student had reportedly been a target of chronic bullying by the trio since enrolling in the middle school in 2010. The municipal school had acknowledged frequent troubles between the boy and the trio, but failed to recognize them as bullying before the incident, according to the sources.
The incident occurred on Jan. 5 during a winter recess. After finishing morning activities related to a sports club that the boy and the trio belonged to, the three told the boy to come with them to a city park where they allegedly punched and kicked him repeatedly. Noticing that the boy had stopped moving, one of the three called for an ambulance.
Prefectural authorities arrested the three later that day on suspicion of injurious assault. They were later sent to a juvenile reformatory.
The trio reportedly told the police they punched the boy because they "disliked the boy's attitude," claiming the be*ting was the result of a "one-on-one fight" rather than bullying by the group. Further investigation, however, led to the suspicion that the three likely assaulted the boy in turn while surrounding him.
The school did not acknowledge the boy had been bullied until it conducted a questionnaire-based survey among its students in January after the incident. Up to that point, the school had recognized altercations between the boy and the trio on eight occasions from April 2011 to December 2011, including a fight that broke out in class after the boy was teased by the trio. At that time, the teacher reprimanded both the boy and the trio, possibly unaware the boy had been bullied.
The survey, conducted among about 130 second-year students in mid-January at the request of the boy's family, revealed alleged chronic bullying by the trio. Respondents reported they saw the boy frequently be*ten by the trio and others immediately after they enrolled in the school in 2010. There were also reports of the boy being verbally abused with phrases such as "kimoi" (creepy) and "Don't come near me."
The boy also was forced to wade into a pond to retrieve a ball the trio threw into the water, The Yomiuri Shimbun learned Thursday.
According to the municipal board of education, the incident occurred in the second term from September 2011 to December 2011. The trio threw a ball into a pond near the school, then ordered the boy to retrieve it. As the boy waded into knee-deep water, the three taunted him and took pictures with a cellular phone. They later showed the images to their friends for amusement.
The board of education also found the trio forced the boy to play a game involving money dubbed "the home run game," in which the boy pitched a ball for the trio to hit. According to the rules established by the trio, the boy had to pay 500 yen every time they successfully hit the ball. The education board said it could not confirm whether the boy actually paid money.
The board of education now believes malicious bullying of the boy, including the above instances, occurred repeatedly.
Just after the January incident in which the boy fell into a coma, the board of education said there had been no bullying. It claimed to be unaware of the bullying until it conducted the survey later that month.
"Because we did not realize it was bullying at the time, we addressed the series of incidents on a case-by-case basis, as if it were an issue such as a quarrel. We apologize for our lack of awareness," an official from the municipal board of education said.
Mother demands probe
The boy's mother demanded the municipal board of education and the school conduct a thorough investigation, saying she "wanted to ask my son, but he can't speak now."
"Why couldn't the school prevent the incident from occurring when it was aware of the troubles [between my son and his classmates]?" she said.
The boy has been hospitalized in a coma for eight months since the January incident. He has suffered cardiac arrest twice--just after the incident and again this spring. He was weaned from ventilatory support, but is still being fed through a tube. His mother goes to the hospital every day after work to take care of her son.
The mother recalled the boy had complained of a stomachache around last April and often missed school. Now she wonders if that might have had to do with bullying. But the boy started going to school again the following month because he "loved the club" he belonged to, according to the mother.
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