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Sunday, June 10, 2001

AFTERMATH OF OSAKA KILLINGS

School takes steps to combat intruders


Staff writer

IKEDA, Osaka Pref. — The senior vice education minister and the principal of Ikeda Elementary School announced Saturday that they are taking a series of steps immediately to increase security, including the stationing of guards around the school beginning Monday, and providing counseling to parents and students.

The measures, announced after a meeting of nearly 800 parents and concerned local residents, come one day after a knife-wielding man entered the school and stabbed to death eight elementary school students and injured another 21. Police arrested Mamoru Takuma, a 37-year-old unemployed man, in connection with the killings.

Fumio Kishida, senior vice education minister and head of the emergency committee set up to deal with the case, said the ministry would make funds available for counselors to visit the families of the victims.

"We will pair up counselors with school teachers and both will visit the victims' families," Kishida said.

He added that a review of security measures at all Japanese elementary and junior high schools, both public and private, is now under way and would be finished by June 14.

School principal Yoshio Yamane said that, as a short term measure, 11 security guards will be posted around the school complex beginning Monday and that they would remain indefinitely.

"This number is not sufficient, but we have to take the feelings of the families into consideration and this is something they want," he said.

Other security steps that can be taken in the longer run remain unclear. Many local residents said they favor a full-time security guard and video surveillance cameras near the school gates as a way to keep intruders out.

"Japanese parents need to know that when they send their child to school, the child's safety is being taken care of. Installing video cameras and having security checkpoints is a good idea," said Misako Nakamoto, a local resident.

Asked about the possibility of introducing video surveillance cameras, Kishida said that it was something that some parents had requested.

Yamane also said that, while the school had originally hoped to reopen on Wednesday, discussions with parents, police and counselors revealed concerns about rushing the children back to class to soon. As a result, he said, no date has yet been decided upon.

"We have to think seriously about under what conditions we should reopen the school, taking into account the mental stress the reopening might cause," he said.

The school has also proposed a joint funeral service for those who were killed. The eight children pronounced dead at nearby hospitals Friday evening were seven second-grade girls aged seven and eight, identified as Yuka Kiso, Kana Tsukamoto, Yuki Hongo, Ayano Moriwaki, Maki Sakai, Mayuko Isaka, Rena Yamashita, and a first-grade boy, Takahiro Totsuka, aged six.

Takaharu Tsukamoto, father of Kana, said Saturday morning, "My daughter will never come back whatever I do. I feel deeply sorry, that's all."

Beginning late Friday evening, local residents visited the gate of the school, leaving bouquets of flowers and incense sticks and offering prayers for the victims.

A 53-year-old man said tearfully, "If I were a parent of one of the victims, I would kill the criminal."



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