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December 6, 2006 3:00 AM

Schoolyard bullying in Japan leads to rash of student suicides

The sixth-grade girl was found early one morning hanging from an overhead screen in her classroom. She left seven separate envelopes for her classmates, mother and school authorities, each decorated with a teddy bear, balloon or other cute picture. Did you guys hate me? Was I weird? asked one letter to her classmates. I could not trust most of you people. The letter said classmates had ignored her for years. Somehow, no people are ever around me, it said, adding that bullying had escalated for the past three years. Suicides of children who are bullied have been in the news in Japan recently as the nation grapples with what to do. Nagano, which hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics, has a group of activists trying to stop school bullying. Nationwide, the government has taken action to prevent schools from turning a blind eye when children and teens are tormented by their peers. The 12-year-old who left the decorated notes was carried unconscious from Ebeotsu Elementary School on the northern island of Hokkaido to a local hospital. She never recovered and died four months later on Jan. 6.

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