Antibullying bill on multiparty agenda

JIJI

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and two other opposition groups plan to submit legislation to the ordinary Diet session from January aimed at preventing bullying in schools, and intend to unify their draft bills after the Lower House poll.

The four parties are weighing the possibility of submitting combined legislation sponsored by a cross-party group of lawmakers, including some from other political groups.

The move comes as bullying cases have drawn increasing public attention following the suicide of a junior high school boy in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, in October 2011 that was buried by the local board of education and only began to be probed by police this summer after it erupted into a major scandal.

A team from the DPJ has compiled a draft bill that would oblige the education minister to devise a basic plan for the early detection and prevention of bullying in schools. The plan also calls on the minister to take into account the opinion of a council consisting of victims of bullying, their parents and academic experts.

The legislation would also urge each school and municipal board of education to set up a permanent task force to study reported incidents of bullying and consult with victims to investigate and seek solutions. The envisaged task forces would consist of teachers, parents, lawyers, retired police officers, doctors and civil liberties commissioners.

Cases resulting in suicides and other serious incidents would be handled by a special committee to be created by the school in question or the local board of education.