Young teacher’s 2004 self-immolation caused by job stress, court rules

On-the-job stress is what pushed an elementary school teacher here to commit suicide in 2004, the Shizuoka District Court ruled on Dec. 15.

Siding with plaintiff Kenji Kimura, 62 — father of teacher Yuriko Kimura, who was 24 at the time of her death — the court ruled against the Fund for Local Government Employees’ Accident Compensation, which had refused to recognize the suicide as a “job accident.”

According to the decision handed down by Presiding Judge Tsutomu Yamazaki, when Yuriko Kimura was hired in April 2004 and put in charge of an unruly class of fourth graders, she was “exposed to continued extreme stress and did not receive appropriate support,” causing her to develop symptoms of depression. Furthermore, “the students’ problematic behavior continued to occur frequently, and disrupted classes became the norm.” The court ruled that the severe depression caused by these circumstances led to her self-immolation later that year after receiving a written complaint from a parent.

The accident compensation fund argued that Kimura had abandoned class discipline and let the students run wild, and otherwise demonstrated a lack of social skills, claiming her subsequent depression was partly her own fault.

The court ruling also stated that the teachers and school administrators who criticized Kimura for poor teaching should have been more supportive, saying the lack of that support was “a very large problem.”

At a press conference after the trial, Kenji Kimura told reporters, “I want a thorough check on what’s going on at the school and measures to be put in place so this doesn’t happen again.”

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