Death by violence and heat stroke, club coach never subject to civil liability 

Ryo Uchida, Associate Professor, Nagoya University, Graduate School of Education and Human Development (Yahoo! Japan News, August 1, 2015)


“It was part of learning” was the justification

A long and painful battle in the court ended, leaving the family of the victim angry and bitter.

In August 2009, at the kendo club in a high school in Oita Prefecture, the captain of the team Kenta Kudo (a 2nd year student) died from heat stroke while receiving abuse from the coach. To my knowledge it was one of the most appalling cases of violence between a teacher and a student during school activities.


It was reported that on July 28 the Supreme Court rejected the appeal by the parents of the victim. (Oita Press, Asahi Shimbun) The Supreme Court stated that no matter how gruesome the act of the instructor, as long as it was part of educational activities he will not be civilly liable. “Part of educational activity” serves as a justification, hiding the details of the case. This is a typical example of what I have been proposing as the “disease of calling it education”. 


What happened to Kenta Kudo in August 2009

Kenta’s parents have already won the civil trial. The prefecture and other parties have been ordered by the court to pay 46 million yen. Then why did the parents continue to fight in the high court and finally the Supreme Court?  Their battle was for the civil liability of individual teachers in public schools.

The brief review of Kenta’s case will explain why his parents stuck to the civil liability of teachers. The description will be based on the neutral information presented by the Third Committee and in the decision of the civil trial.


This is the events of that day:

  1. Practice started at 9 o’clock on August 22.
  2. All members practiced attack training. Around noon Kenta was the only one who failed to get a “pass” from the coach and continued to practice attack. He was already staggering.
  3. Kenta told the coach, “I can’t do it anymore.”
  4. Kenta dropped his shinai (bamboo sword) when his partner had knocked it out of his hands, but Kenta held up his arms as if he was still holding the shinai. When the coach saw Kenta posing as if he was holding a shinai, he said, “Good performance”, kicking the side of his breastplate.
  5. As practice continued, Kenta fell down a number of times. Another student who thought Kenta would pass out poured water over his men (helmet). Kenta seemed to regain awareness, but he staggered toward the wall, hit his head, and fell down
  6. The coach straddled Kenta saying, “He’s performing, don’t worry,” and slapped his face about 10 times.
  7. Kenta was disoriented and water was given to him. When he vomited all his water, an ambulance was called to take him to the hospital.
  8. He fell into a coma after 4pm and before 7pm he was confirmed dead. 

Kenta was made to continue practice even after he became unstable and was slapped by the coach when he collapsed. Finally he died of heat stroke.

When Kenta pleaded to the coach that he could not practice any more, his request was not accepted and eventually he died. The cause of death may be heat stroke, but he died by risking his life to keep practicing while receiving attacks from the coach.


The wall of the Law Concerning State Liability for Compensation

In a civil suit, a teacher of a public school who is employed to conduct public service will not be liable for losses based on the Law Concerning State Liability for Compensation. This is the wall of the Law Concerning State Liability for Compensation. The wall has never been broken, leaving many victims or their families in agony.

Article 1 of the law states that “When a government official who is in a position to wield government powers of the State or of a public body has, in the course of performing his duties, illegally inflicted losses upon another person, either intentionally or negligently, the State or the public body concerned shall be liable to compensate such losses.” When a fatal accident occurs, as long as it was part of education, the State or the public body will pay the compensation, not the teacher.


In private schools individual liability will be deliberated

Two points need to be discussed.

Firstly, Kenta’s parents are not completely against the Law Concerning State Liability for Compensation. Teachers are required to look after a variety of activities for students for long hours while they are at school. Teachers may fail. Therefore the law protects teachers conducting their work that can be full of uncertainties. However the parents believe that cases where teachers implement appalling acts, like abusing students, should be exempted from the protection of the Law.


Secondly, if the teacher is employed by a private school, his/her liability will be enacted. A teacher’s liability will be treated differently in similar serious cases depending on the type of school the teacher is employed at, either a private school or a public school.

A private school teacher will be subject to liability while a public school teacher will be exempt from liability if the event happened during his public duty.


Preventing the next victim

The appeal of Kenta’s parents is not unreasonable. In a case with marked cruelty, even when the defendant is a public school teacher, his liability should not be paid from tax money. The person himself should accept the liability.

During the deliberation the victim’s family presented 18000 signatures to the Supreme Court. “Kenta no Kai (Kenta’s Group)”, a grass roots campaign managed by the family, is widely known and receiving support around the country.

Through “Kenta no Kai” the family will continue to appeal the issues of the Law Concerning State Liability for Compensation and the abuse by teachers. The trial has ended, but they will continue to spread awareness to prevent the suffering of another victim and their family.


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