Bullying cases reported at schools across Japan totaled 543,933 in fiscal 2018, up 31.3 percent from a year earlier and the highest level on record, according to an education ministry survey released Thursday.
Of the schools surveyed, 80.8 percent said they had identified at least one case of bullying in the reporting year, up 6.4 points, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said.
The number of “serious” cases involving things like broken bones and school absences totaling 30 days or longer rose to a record 602, up 128, it said.
The survey covered state, public and private elementary, junior high and high schools, as well as special schools for children with disabilities. Ministry officials said teachers’ “active recognition” of even minor cases in their early stages was behind the surge in cases.
The officials said they regard such developments positively as the first step in the fight against bullying.
Referring to the increase in serious cases, an official said the ministry “takes it seriously and will continue studying further countermeasures.”
Of the roughly 544,000 cases, 425,844 involved elementary schools, up 108,723, with marked increases seen among first- to fourth-graders, the survey said.
Bullying cases at junior high schools meanwhile stood at 97,704, up 17,280, while cases at high schools came to 17,709, up 2,920.
Those at special schools totaled 2,676 cases, up 632.
Ridicule and slander accounted for about 50 to 70 percent of the bullying in each school category, the survey showed.
Online bullying via computers and mobile phones rose to 16,334 cases, up by 3,702, accounting for about 20 percent of the bullying in high schools. A total of 332 students committed suicide in the period, up 82, but only nine involved bullying.
The ministry plans to place school counselors at all public elementary and junior high schools and promote efforts to encourage children to send distress messages.