Bullying cases reported by elementary schools hit a record 122,721 in the 2014-2015 school year, up by 3,973 from a year earlier, according to an education ministry survey released Tuesday.
Combining elementary, junior high and high schools, the total number of bullying reports stood at 188,057 for the year to March, up 2,254 from the previous year, the ministry said.
The study found a dramatic rise in reports involving younger children. Compared with the 2010-2011 school year, the figure for elementary schools was 5.8 times higher for first-graders and 4.3 times higher for second-graders.
The ministry attributed the increase to greater efforts by schools to tackle and report bullying, praising them for “acting quickly to catch even the light cases.”
The figure for elementary schools was up by 3,973 from the previous year, while that for junior highs stood at 52,969, down 2,279, and for high schools at 11,404, up 365.
Bullying was detected at 56.5 percent of all schools.
In response to a multiple-answer question regarding types of bullying, ridicule and slander topped the list at 121,248 cases. Cases of online defamation via computers or mobile phones were down 890 from the previous year’s record high to 7,898, but the ministry said it was having difficulty determining the full picture of online bullying because harassment via phone apps such as Line are hard to detect.
Meanwhile, the ministry said the number of bullying cases per 1,000 students increased in 34 prefectures.
Violent acts resulting in physical and psychological damage — or “serious cases” as stipulated in a 2013 law aimed at preventing bullying — totaled 156, down 23 from the last school year.
Close to 100 percent of the schools said they had set up an investigative panel to examine bullying cases as of Oct. 1, as required by law.
A ministry official, however, said the panels need to be closely monitored, citing a case in which a panel did not respond adequately prior to a suicide involving a male high school student in July in Yahaba, Iwate Prefecture.
Following the suicide, the ministry asked schools and local boards of education in August to conduct an additional survey after their first tally in June, and they turned up an additional 30,000 cases.