Bullying recognized over girl’s death in Hokkaido

ASAHIKAWA, Hokkaido (Jiji Press) — A 14-year-old girl found frozen to death in Asahikawa, Hokkaido, northern Japan, in March last year, had faced bullying, a third-party panel set up by the municipal board of education said in a report released Friday.

In the report, the panel said that Saaya Hirose, the junior high school second-grader, suffered six known cases of bullying in April-June 2019, including being asked for a long time to send a sexual video.

Seven students from her school and elsewhere were involved in the bullying, the report said.

The bullies also had touched her for sexual purposes, called her at midnight, made her pay repeatedly for goods such as confectionaries and continued to make fun of her, the report said.

The Asahikawa city government had initially said that Hirose did not face anything equivalent to bullying. But the panel reported later on March 27 to the bereaved family of Hirose that she had been bullied.

“We apologize deeply to the bereaved family for failing to detect the bullying,” said Shinichi Kurowarabi, head of the board of education. “We needed to conduct in-depth hearings with related students.”

Asahikawa Mayor Hirosuke Imazu said, “We take the facts seriously and will consider preventive measures to avoid another tragic situation like this.”

Hirose’s mother said in a statement released through a lawyer that the bullying “was finally recognized.”

“It’s really tough to remember her suffering until the very end of her life. I wanted (authorities) to recognize the bullying at that time,” she said.

In February last year, Hirose disappeared after claiming on social media that she had been bullied. A month later, she was found frozen to death in an Asahikawa park.