Warnings about “the dangers of social media” have critics saying his statement appallingly misses the point.

Many people in Japan are still trying to wrap their heads around an incident that occurred on September 28 at Hakata High School in Fukuoka Prefecture, in which a student violently assaulted his teacher after the educator confiscated a tablet on which the boy had been watching movies during class time. As the other students looked on in silence or giggled, the boy kicked the 23-year-old teacher in the back multiple times, threw a punch, and grabbed the man by his shirt.

Video of the incident was initially uploaded to Twitter and sent shock waves through Japanese social and mass media. The student has since been arrested, and the first thing visitors to Hakata High School’s website currently see is a written apology from the school’s principal, Kazuhiro Ayabe. However, some critics are calling the principal’s statement a tone-deaf gesture that diverts attention from the real problem.

The statement reads:

An apology regarding the behavior of one of our students, and our response going forward

During class on September 28, an incident occurred in which one of our school’s first-year students comitted an act of violence upon a new teacher. The incident was recorded and uploaded to social media, and knowledge of the event spread throughout the Internet.

We deeply apologize to our current students, their guardians, alumni, and all other individuals connected to our school for the discomfort caused by this incident and information that has been spread on the Internet.

Our school has always promoted moral education and taught that violence is absolutely unacceptable. We have also informed students on the dangers of using social media. Regardless, we regrettably failed to prevent this incident. Our guidance was imperfect, and this is truly inexcusable.

We are taking this incident very seriously, and are planning ways to further improve the manner in which we educate students on IT morality, and also to enact a thorough system of faculty coordination and follow-up procedures in order to create a proper educational institution.

We apologize for the disturbance and distress we have caused our current students, their guardians, alumni, and others connected to our school, and ask for your understanding and cooperation going forward.

Polite platitudes aside, some online critics are taking Ayabe to task for his multiple references to social media issues in what they argue is a plain-and-simple physical assault. Complaints have included:

“This apology misses the point in so many ways.”
“It’s like he’s saying Twitter is the real villain here.”
“Does he think the student who uploaded this to Twitter did something bad?”
“Trotting out the ‘the dangers of social media’ story line here is too stupid for words.”
“Social media is just really good at exposing hidden injustices.”
“The incident doesn’t have anything to do with IT morality.”

There’s at least a bit of traditional Japanese cultural values at play in the principal’s choice of words. As a group-oriented society, a stain on a school’s reputation can turn into a stigma that all of its students are saddled with as they continue their educational or even professional careers. It’s possible that Ayabe felt the need to include reminders on the effects of social media to encourage students to reflect on the possible ramifications of uploading such videos to the Internet, where they can be seen by anyone in the world without context, as opposed to presenting them to the faculty or authorities first. None the less, the fact that social media technology is mentioned more times than violence in his statement can definitely be construed as him shying away from the more direct message of “It’s wrong to kick teachers in the back because they took away your toys.”

Source: Hakata High School
Featured image: Twitter/@otaku_news
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