Schools are there to help children develop their potential. There should be no more repeat of the error whereby schools, on the contrary, deprive children of their futures.

Excessive guidance by teachers have driven some students into taking their own lives. Bereaved family members have given a name to the painful incidences: “deaths from guidance.”

A second-year junior high school student killed himself in March on the premises of his school in Fukui Prefecture. He had been reprimanded strongly on many occasions for being late in handing in homework and late in preparing for an event of the student council.

An investigation report by a panel of experts shows there was a major, obvious flaw in the way school officials handled the matter.

The student’s homeroom teacher scolded him so loudly that those who were around shuddered with horror. His deputy homeroom teacher advised him dismissively to quit the student council, where he served as vice president.

Both the homeroom teacher and the deputy homeroom teacher were only used to reproaching him. Nobody was there to encourage him.

The student had no escape or avenue to turn to. Just imagine how badly his self-esteem was trampled on and how bitterly he was tormented by a sense of helplessness.

The school’s managerial staff and other colleague teachers had an inkling of the problem, but none came forward in trying to seek a solution. They even failed to share information, which is such an essential thing.

The school principal was never informed that the student, driven into a tight corner, had started hyperventilating and had visited the school’s sickroom to say he wanted to go home early.

The classroom that he attended could only have been called a living hell.

Distorted situations of the kind, however, are not unique to this school in question.

A league of parents bereaved by deaths from guidance and other sources said there were about 70 cases of deaths from guidance, including nine attempted, during the past 30 or so years, the count limited to instances in which media reports are available. Those cases have several common features, the sources said.

The teachers involved typically forgo the steps of asking a student in question about facts and listening to what the student has to say. They place the student under restraint for a long time. More than one teacher surrounds and closely questions the student. All those descriptions are reminiscent of interrogation rooms where false charges are laid.

Most of the aforementioned behavior is not about physical violence but about verbal, psychological abuse. That means any given teacher has a chance of becoming an abuser.

The education ministry and boards of education should draw on teacher training sessions and other occasions to let uninvolved schools and communities learn about the tragic instances so that lessons from them can be shared.

It goes without saying there is a need, in so doing, to gain the understanding of bereaved family members.

Investigation reports usually contain elements that have to do with the dignity and privacy rights of the deceased students. It is essential to listen attentively to what bereaved family members have to say and build a relationship of trust with them.

The education ministry is weighing the prospective introduction of “school lawyers” to deal with bullying and various other problems.

School lawyers would not be called upon to serve as a shield for schools. They are expected to play the role of a bridge between households and communities on one hand and the front lines of school education on the other.

School lawyers, if they are to be introduced, should dedicate themselves to pursuing the truth and seeking the best solutions on the basis thereof.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 29