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Antibullying bill targets Web posts, punishment by teachers

Kyodo

With public interest rising in laws aimed at preventing bullying, now being viewed as an endemic problem, the Liberal Democratic Party on Saturday compiled a draft bill on measures to prevent bullying at school.

The bill considers corporal punishment by a teacher a form of bullying and would require schools to report serious cases to local governments.

In one high-profile case involving only students, a 13-year-old junior high school student killed himself in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, in October 2011.

Last month’s suicide by a 17-year-old high school student in Osaka, who was physically abused on a regular basis by the basketball coach, has also prompted the LDP to expedite legal measures to prevent recurrences.

The LDP is seeking opposition support to pass the bill in the Diet session starting Monday.

The bill defines bullying as physical and psychological attacks on students that inflict physical and mental pain.

In addition to physical punishment by teachers, the bill also defines cruel online posts as bullying.

The gist of the bill says schools are obliged to inform local authorities, including municipal mayors, when bullying results in death, serious injury or a long absence, to prevent coverups by school authorities. The draft bill also calls for establishing an internal investigative body.

In the Shiga case, the school and municipal school board were heavily criticized for initially failing to acknowledge a link between the boy’s suicide and bullying by classmates.

Several students at the school had earlier reported that bullies had forced the victim to even “practice” killing himself.

The draft bill states that schools must report immediately to police if bullying is endangering a student’s life and suspend the bullies.

Among steps to stem bullying, the state and local governments are urged to strengthen counseling services, while the central government will draw up a basic policy to prevent bullying, according to the draft bill.

  • Edohiguma

    The problem is, it won’t prevent anything. It’s a piece of paper, nothing else. How are they going to take care of anything at a school? You can’t put LEOs into every school to watch over the students. Cyber patrols aren’t really efficient either, and I doubt they’d install an NSA-style super computer to search the web for bullying.

    The counseling services sound great. But here’s the problem: what if the bullied student won’t talk about it? I was bullied in school, back in the 90s, even by a teacher. I told no one, because I didn’t trust anyone with that knowledge, not even my parents. We didn’t have a counselor, but seriously doubt I would have used the service had it existed. It all comes down to trust and not every bullying victim will trust an existing service.

    It’s not a bad step. It’s certainly better than doing nothing, but let’s face it, ultimately this is really just a PR stunt, to make the government look as if they’re doing something. It all ultimately rests primarily with the parents and if the parents don’t do their duty and fulfill their responsibility towards their children no bill will change anything. All the bill can do is really go after abusive teachers, as long as they’re not protected by somebody higher up the food chain. But student on student bullying? Not going to change a thing, because that can only be changed by the parents.

  • Ray

    @Edohiguma, a law is only as good as the penalties that back it up. If they have criminalized this action, backed it up with stiff penalties, educate students and teachers and make examples of some miscreants like those at Shiga, then it will work.