Schools Should Seek Cooperation Rather Than Keeping Problems to Themselves

Heinous bullying is a criminal act. This must be thoroughly understood at schools, and teachers and other staff must protect children who are victims of bullying by taking firm action in cooperation with the police.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has made a list of acts of bullying at schools that should be treated as criminal acts and has notified boards of education nationwide to urge them to consult with or report such cases to the police.

For instance, forcibly stripping a person of their trousers could be considered criminal assault, while posting remarks on the internet about physical characteristics, with words such as “gross” or “ugly,” could be considered defamation or insult, according to the ministry’s list.

Serious bullying can severely harm the victim both mentally and physically and can lead to the worst possible consequence of suicide. It is highly significant that the ministry has instructed boards of education and schools not to hesitate to seek police cooperation in serious bullying cases, rather than taking it lightly simply because it is the act of a child.

The Law for the Promotion of Measures to Prevent Bullying originally called for cooperation between schools and the police. However, so much emphasis is placed on educational guidance at school that teachers are said to have a strong tendency to hold on to problems and avoid the involvement of outside parties.

In the cases of the suicides of female students in Kobe in 2020 and Nonoichi in Ishikawa Prefecture in 2021, both junior high schools that they attended were aware of the fact that they had been bullied by their classmates. However, the schools failed to take actions, such as consulting the police.

In recent years, there have been many cases in which bullies abuse their victims and make them send indecent images via the Line free communication app and social media. In such cases, the images are easily spread, making it difficult to identify the perpetrators.

It is important for schools to make decisions on their own initiative, but delays in responding to bullying can endanger children’s lives. With the support of the police, which have investigative powers, schools should accurately identify serious bullying cases and deal with them at an early stage.

With the involvement of the police, the perpetrators will realize the seriousness of the situation, possibly preventing them from continuing to cause harm. This should also lead to a sense of reassurance for victims.

In order to ensure smooth cooperation, schools and the police must communicate with each other on a regular basis and build a relationship of trust. It is ideal if the police can develop a cooperative system, such as involving retired officers.

It is also important for parents, teachers and other adults around children to reiterate to them on a daily basis that bullying is not to be tolerated.

Bullies may think it is merely an extension of a prank, but how much would they be hurt if they experienced the same thing themselves? At home and at school, children should be taught the importance of putting themselves in the other person’s shoes before taking action.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 20, 2023)