National

Diet passes anti-bullying legislation

Kyodo

The Diet enacted a law Friday aimed at preventing bullying in elementary, junior high and high schools by basically compelling the institutions to report serious cases.

The legislation was established after widespread reporting on incidents in which bullying led to students taking their own life, including the October 2011 suicide of a junior high school boy in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, who had been severely bullied.

Both the city and the school, shortly after the death was belatedly reported, denied that bullying led to the suicide. They grudgingly later admitted it was the cause and apologized.

The new law stipulates bullying that leads to serious physical and mental damage or forces victims to be absent for long periods constitutes a “serious case” that must be reported.

Elementary, junior high and high schools are now required to report to the education ministry as well as their local government if such serious cases are confirmed, while investigative panels must be set up under schools and boards of education to examine the details and provide sufficient information to the victims.

The law stipulates that the central and regional governments must closely monitor the Internet for online bullying and cooperate with police if such harassment is considered criminal.

The father of the Otsu boy told a news conference that he hopes the new law leads to a complete change in the way bullying is dealt with in schools, which have appeared in the past to turn a blind eye to such torment.

Members of the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc and opposition parties, including the Democratic Party of Japan, voted for the bill in Friday’s Upper House plenary session. The Lower House had already passed the bill.

Initially the ruling bloc filed its own bill, while three opposition parties — the DPJ, Seikatsu no To (People’s Life Party) and the Social Democratic Party — submitted a separate bill.

The two camps eventually unified the bills, which were supported by two other opposition parties — Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party.

The bullying victim in Otsu, a second-year student at a municipal junior high school, committed suicide at his home on Oct. 11, 2011.

In a statement issued after the passage of the legislation, his relatives asked local government heads, boards of education and school staff not to overlook acts of bullying and to protect victims.