Japan to Support Local Govts’ School Bullying-Prevention Measures

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo

The government will provide financial support to gubernatorial or mayoral departments at local governments from next fiscal year to help prevent and deal with school bullying, government officials said.

Currently, school bullying cases are dealt with by local boards of education, which have administrative jurisdiction over the schools concerned. The central government’s move reflects its intention to act quickly to prevent and respond to bullying by giving more authority to local government chiefs, rather than leaving the matter purely to boards of education.

The financial support will be distributed in about eight municipalities selected by the government following the April launch of a new government agency to deal with child-related policies. The departments headed by governors or mayors will appoint officials to helm bullying-prevention initiatives and cooperate with local boards of education, boosting the formulation of a system to handle bullying holistically — from receiving initial information to resolving problems.

Measures being considered by the government include establishing consultation desks for people to report and talk about bullying. The government will ask research organizations and other entities to create training materials for local government project heads with an eye on expanding the program nationwide.

The government has included about ¥200 million in expenses for the project in the initial draft budget for next fiscal year.

The new agency will appoint research advisors who will advise respective local governments when serious cases of bullying emerge. The advisors are expected to be chosen from among lawyers and academic experts well-versed in welfare administration.

Observers have flagged concerns about bullying cases being investigated by boards of education members who previously worked as teachers, over fears that they may sweep the incidents under the carpet or conceal relevant information to protect the school in question.

Some gubernatorial or mayoral departments already have a school bullying-response division and good results have been noted in some cases. For example, Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture, established a bullying-related “inspection section” in a mayoral department. The section’s staffers meet victims, offenders and teachers as early as possible. In fiscal 2021, the section dealt with 183 cases and the reported bullying ceased within a month in all cases.