Japan must make relentless efforts to protect children from bullying

Thanks; Yomiuri Shimbun
Publication Date : 27-06-2013

The enactment of a new law represents one step forward in the fight against bullying. The legislation should help deter malicious bullying that traumatises children.

The Diet recently passed a law to promote measures to prevent bullying. It will come into effect as early as autumn. The ruling and opposition parties integrated bills they separately submitted to the Diet and had the law passed because they both recognised measures to cope with bullying need to be strengthened.

The new law calls on local governments and schools to establish counseling centres or rooms, and regularly conduct surveys on bullying. It urges each school to continually deal with bullying by forming an antibullying team of teachers and counselors.

Progress at last

Many of these steps have been called for in the past, and it is significant that they are now stipulated in the new law. Society as a whole should take this opportunity to share the recognition that bullying must never be tolerated.

Needless to say, these measures alone will not be able to solve the problem.

The father of a boy who committed suicide in Otsu due to vicious bullying said, “If teachers can’t detect bullying, the law will have no effect.”

It is important that all teachers keep an eye on every child and never overlook any possible sign of bullying.

The new law defines slandering someone on the Internet as bullying. Harassment by posting messages on an online bulletin board and e-mail spoofing is insidious and causes serious psychological damage to the children they victimise, but it is hard to grasp the actual situation.

The new law appropriately calls on the central and local governments to develop a system to support private organisations that monitor bullying on the Internet.

Slandering someone by their real name online can be considered an illegal act, such as defamation. This point must be drilled into school students.

Victim must come first

To deal with bullying problems, it is essential to take the viewpoint that the most important thing is to fully protect victimised children. Active use of a system to suspend students who bully others was one punitive step incorporated in the new law. Schools should take an unbending attitude against students who continue bullying even after being instructed to change their behaviour.

It is also understandable that the law emphasises that good behaviour should be taught at home and obliges parents to make efforts to ensure their children to develop an awareness of proper social norms.

It is noteworthy that the law spells out how education boards and schools should respond to a serious bullying case that endangers a child’s life. The law obliges schools to conduct an investigation to find the cause of the incident and explain to the bullied students’ parents about the facts it uncovers.

The closed nature of schools, which has often been a target of criticism, must be changed. As a supplementary resolution to the new law says, it is important to ensure fairness by having a neutral third party with no ties with the school participate in an investigation into bullying.