A record 40,374 cases of violence were reported at public schools across Japan in the school year ending in March, the education ministry said Friday.

The figure, up 10.4 percent from the previous year, is the largest recorded since the ministry began including data from elementary schools in the statistics in the 1997-1998 school year. The previous record of 36,578 was set in the 1999-2000 school year, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said.

According to the latest preliminary data, there were around 20,800 cases of violence against other students, 11,900 cases of vandalism, and 5,800 violent acts committed against teachers. There were also around 2,000 cases of violence against people outside of schools, according to the data.

Violence against teachers was up 16.2 percent from the previous year.

About 1,500 cases took place in elementary schools, 31,300 at junior high schools and 7,600 at high schools.

Bullying, which showed a 1.4 percent decline to 30,918 cases, has been on the wane for the past five years, according to the data.

Of the bullying cases, about 9,100 were at elementary schools, 19,400 at junior high schools and 2,300 at high schools.

However, Sayoko Ishii, a lawyer working on various juvenile problems, said she is doubtful if the figures show a real decline in bullying at schools.

Violence against teachers can be easily grasped by school authorities, but bullying can take place in a form invisible to the teachers. For example, so-called violent kids who attack their classmates may in fact have been bullying victims trying to defend themselves, Ishii said.

According to Ishii, many children who engage in violent activities have been subjected to physical violence by their parents or teachers.

Problem kids’ teams

The education ministry intends to set up expert support teams nationwide for problem children, ministry officials said Friday.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology will request funds in its fiscal 2002 budget to set up bureaus for such teams in every prefecture and in large cities, the officials said.

The teams will consist of schoolteachers, officials from child-counseling centers, psychiatrists and police officers. They are intended to detect early signs of problems, such as violent acts that could lead to serious crimes, and to support such children in their reform efforts in the early stages of delinquency.

The ministry decided after analyzing recent serious crimes involving juveniles that such signs were apparent early on. It decided that these signs must be detected and that people who deal with problem children should share information and give guidance to kids as soon as possible. The teams will also give guidance to children suspended from school.

because they are disrupting classes or bullying others.

The ministry aims at setting up such teams in every municipality in the future, the officials said.

Shiki to limit students

SAITAMA (Kyodo) The city of Shiki in Saitama Prefecture will limit the number of first- and second-grade pupils in each class to around 25 from the next fiscal year, city officials said Friday.

The officials said the measure is chiefly to forestall increasing cases of bullying by creating smaller groups of students. The city will discuss the advisability of the plan with the prefectural education board and others.

Since regulations on the size of public elementary and junior high school classes were eased this spring, 20 local governments nationwide have cut class sizes to around 30 from about 40.

The officials said it is extremely rare for a class to comprise just 25 students.

If the city proceeds with the plan, the number of first- and second-grade classes at eight elementary schools in the city will have to be increased by 10, bringing the total to 39.

Ten more teachers will also be needed.

The city intends to cope with the new situation by filling vacant schoolrooms in the city with substitute teachers hired mainly through the prefectural education board, they said.

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