Associated Press, May 8, 1998

Bully Sent to Reformatory for Prompting Suicide of Boy

TOKYO (AP) A family court today sent a 17-year-old to a reformatory for tormenting a younger boy into hanging himself, ruling that schoolyard bullies can be held responsible if their victims commit suicide.

Chiba Family Court Judge Keiko Iijima said the older boy assaulted and extorted money from Yoshiyuki Suzuki, a 14-year-old student who killed himself in his family's home in Narita, just east of Tokyo, in March.

Iijima was quoted by national broadcaster NHK as saying that the bully's "persistent threats" drove the younger boy to suicide. The boy was allegedly threatened with a knife, punched and burned with a lit cigarette.

Bullying is a major concern in Japanese schools, where children face immense pressures to perform well in competitive tests and conform with their classmates. Awkward children can be taunted mercilessly by peers.

For many victims, the bullying and isolation are too much. According to the National Police Agency, nearly 500 teen-agers committed suicide in 1996, and experts say many of the deaths are related to bullying.

Suzuki killed himself March 20. In a note, he detailed the abuse and said he would rather die than face more bullying.

The bully, whose name is withheld under Japan's juvenile law, was arrested in late March and has been at juvenile detention center since. He was also accused of trying to extort $750 from Suzuki.

Under Japanese law, the bully's name was not released. He can be held at the juvenile reformatory until his 20th birthday.

"I hope the boy will make up for his crime and someday become a good person," said Yoshie Suzuki, mother of the victim, in a nationally televised interview on NHK.

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