Incense burns in the corner of the Nakai family living room – part of an altar to their daughter Yumi, who committed suicide seven years ago. Yumi was just 12 years old when she took her own life, jumping from a condominium building.
“We never saw this coming,” says her father, Shinji. “She was a daddy’s girl, we went swimming and skiing together and loved to take trips. I was convinced there had been a mistake.”
Her mother, Setsuko, lights another candle at her daughter’s altar and says a prayer for her, as she does every day. She is convinced bullying at school was one of the main reasons Yumi killed herself. In the months preceding her suicide, Yumi told her mother she was being taunted by some of her classmates.
“I called the school and spoke to her teacher,” she says. “The teacher said, ‘I’ll deal with this problem’ and never got back to me, so we assumed it was solved.”
Yumi hinted at bullying in the note she left behind, writing that her decision to take her life “may be because of some of my classmates, studies and exams.”
But the parents are still fighting a legal battle with the school and the Kitamoto Board of Education. The family alleges the school was negligent in bully prevention and investigating her suicide. Shinji Nakai claims the school only showed him a fraction of the investigation they carried out — a claim the board of education rejects.
In a statement to CNN, the Kitamoto Board of Education said it was “co-operatively investigating the cause of her suicide, hearing from her parents, collecting as much information as possible including the possibility of bullying.”
The school also spoke to students, but school officials found no information that connected to her suicide, they said. A recent court case ruled in the school’s favor. Yumi’s parents filed an appeal to a higher court on Monday.