School Safety: Prevent Recurrence by Sharing Information on Accidents

Ensuring the safety of children is the most important issue for schools. When an unforeseen accident occurs, it is essential to determine the cause and share that information with schools across Japan to prevent a recurrence.

From the 2016 through the 2022 school year, at least 456 fatal accidents occurred in elementary, junior high and high schools across the country, 70% of which were not reported to the central government. These figures come from a Yomiuri Shimbun analysis of data from the Japan Sport Council, which pays out compensation and other benefits for accidents at schools.

Guidelines established by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry in 2016 require schools and boards of education to report serious accidents, including fatal ones, but the guidelines were not thoroughly implemented. It is believed that this was because the purpose of the guidelines was not adequately conveyed to the schools.

Schools may have wanted to keep anyone from knowing that accidents had occurred on their premises. But if the facts about accidents are unclear, there is no way to take proper measures.

It is imperative that awareness of the crisis be raised at the boards of education and schools that failed to report the accidents, as well as at the education ministry, which has not fixed the problem of underreporting.

The ministry intends to revise its guidelines as early as the end of this school year to ensure thorough reporting and investigation. It is hoped that the ministry will work to provide thorough explanations and implement the guidelines in an easy-to-understand manner so as not to confuse busy schools.

It is surprising that so many fatal accidents have occurred at schools.

Cases of children being pinned under a fallen soccer goal post or hitting their heads hard when diving into a swimming pool have occurred in various parts of the country. And there are many other accidents as well, such as traffic accidents on the way to and from school and falls from school buildings.

Why were the goal posts not fixed to the ground? Were there proper inspections to ensure the safety of commuting routes for students? Is there any possibility that some of the falling accidents were suicides caused by bullying?

These tragedies must be reduced in number as much as possible by applying the lessons learned from past accidents. Hopefully each school will be fully aware that accidents are not someone else’s problem, and will use such lessons to improve the safety of their facilities and guidance provided to children.

Recently, a first-year boy at an elementary school in Fukuoka Prefecture choked on a quail egg in a school lunch and died. Risks lurk everywhere.

It is hoped that schools will do as much as possible to deepen cooperation and share information with the police, who investigate accidents.

Regular inspections of facilities are essential to prevent accidents. However, there are some problems, such as metal corrosion, that cannot be identified by teachers, who lack expertise in such areas. It is also important to seek the help of experts.

A child could leave their home in the morning in high spirits, only to pass away in an accident at school, which is supposed to be a safe place. Efforts must be made to prevent as many of these sorts of events as possible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 7, 2024)