Diet passes anti-bullying legislation


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.

  • JS

    The bill should also have included provisions against bullying in the workplace. Workplace bullying, especially against foreign workers, is very common at Japanese companies.

  • Sho Takeda

    Am I the only one who think it is so sad to rely on legislative power to resolve the problem? Am I the only one who think it is not resolving any radical problem? Am I the only one who think that there still is a huge gap between decision making department and real educational scene?
    Exactly how many Japanese youth’s lives were sacrificed for Japanese traditional educational system? Exactly how many of them were concealed by surrounding power?
    We need to think about it. The insularity need to be finished.

    • kyushuphil

      You’re right to connect the bullying with traditional education.

      During the shogun centuries bullying helped prop up all the conformity expectations. While the shoguns have gone, a new set of conformity pressures has taken their place — all the cleverly-marketed subliminal desires built into consumerism advertising.

      Yes, the schools could help build resistance to the new, more cute and smiling forms of bullying, along with resistance to the older, cruder forms still here. But to do that, the schools are going to have to start rewarding individual skills in seeing others. More writing. More speeches, debate, and other problem-solving activities. And more theater arts, so kids get to role play, and see the various sides of various characters even if, as young, they don’t quite have fully-developed characters of their own yet.

      Is it sad that legislators now take the initiative? Maybe — only if teachers all still collect paychecks only for repeating the status quo.

      • The social bullying of workplace gossip is absolutely toxic here. iIt’s always done with a smile. No amount of legislation will cure “it”.

        That’s because most “bullying” is just a consequence of a more systemic problem. Outlaw one behavior, and the underlying reality will manifest itself in another toxic way.

        Students are eventually shamed into toeing the line. The cause is that the teachers fear the parents and all accountability only goes in one direction. Government schools are built on being a day-care for kids until they turn 16, where failure to comply means strong discipline. As they are treated this way, the kids become conditioned into believing the worst about themselves. Then they go ahead an fulfill the expectations of their teachers. And we have an endless cycle.

        This type of “what you should be doing” rigid behavior outline, spreads to all relationships. And when one person steps “out of line”, or is not performing in the way desired by up on high, others are doing the morally appropriate thing, by bringing him back into line —physical bullying being only one means to accomplish this.

  • tim

    Any movement towards the removal of bullying should be welcomed and publicised, however, I pose that any story (such as this) that does not contain any insight on elevated punishment for bullying will carry little weight with the paper fists of those responsible.
    Tim. Takamatsu.

  • Ben

    it’s a bit one-sided. education should include skills to enable kids to be more resilient. also this opens the door to spite cases, just how will it be determined if the distress a student claims to feel is genuine?

  • A M Corbett

    I know they define what they consider `serious` here but it`s a bit more complicated than that. Will a child be dismissed in his/her complaint because their school doesn`t think it`s `serious` enough? Agreeing with Sho that it should not be down to legislation to tackle bullying and anyway who is actually going to have time to monitor these schools? Unfortunately it has come to that i.e. bringing in legislation. You have to rely on the children reporting it in the first place. Most children are afraid to report bullying and one reason why is that they believe it will not be taken seriously or they will be bullied even more. And they appear to be right about it not being taken seriously because many schools deny that it is happening. Any bullying cases made out of spite will just make a mockery of the legislation (and the feelings of those who really are being bullied). As for teaching your kids to be more resilient, well even the seemingly tough looking kids can end up being bullied for the most stupid reasons. If you are thinking `sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me` well sometimes actual sticks and stones are used and do hurt people but name calling on a daily basis will affect a person for a long time. I think it is a parent`s responsibility first and foremost to teach their child to have respect for other children, to stick up for themselves when needed (if they end up being picked on) but to feel confident that they can tell their parents or another older person (not necessarily in school) and a parent should make sure they make the time to look into it and help their child before it goes too far. By the way I`m not blaming the father of the dead child for not doing anything – some parents have the best intentions but their children somehow still don`t have the confidence to tell them they are being bullied (maybe it is a misplaced concern that they will only bother their parents). Other parents genuinely have no idea their kids are bullying someone but others might hear about their kids being bullies but don`t want to think that they are and so turn a blind eye hoping it will `resolve` itself. Parents need to be informed that if their child is found to be bullying someone then they will be punished and the parents should be prepared for it. Some schools are afraid of parents. If someone is found to be bullying, they should definitely be punished in some concrete way (as Tim points out). Sending them to the school counsellor (the bullies I mean) is a cop out as they will only pretend to be regretful and they are probably happy to be able to miss class (or some other benefit unknown to the authorities). As for the bullied, they will also probably deny to the counsellor that they are being bullied to avoid having to talk about it. Having a school counsellor is good for students dealing with a range of problems but bullying is one which will just be denied by all.

    JS I had no idea that bullying foreigners was so common in Japan. Bullying in the workplace in general I can imagine as unfortunately it is in a lot of workplaces around the world. But against foreigners, how does it take shape? Either way, yes legislation needs to come in and force companies to deal with it whether it is towards foreigners or Japanese.