Bullying countermeasures spreading at education boards after suicide in Otsu

Posted on August 20, 2012. Filed under: Bullying | Tags: , , , , , |

Click here for the original Japanese story

Moves to curb school bullying are spreading across Japan in the wake of an incident in which a bullied second-year junior high school boy in the Shiga Prefecture city of Otsu committed suicide.

In the Otsu case, the boy’s school came under criticism for failing to detect signs of bullying, and conducting a sloppy probe after his suicide. By reinforcing intervention by prefectural and municipal education boards, education officials hope to curb bullying at an early stage.

The Mainichi Shimbun surveyed education boards in all 47 of Japan’s prefectures and in 20 major cities on their response to school bullying. In July, the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education informed some 2,200 public elementary, junior high and high schools under its jurisdiction to report the number of cases of bullying at schools — including suspected cases — as well as their response to these cases. Previously schools would report only the number of confirmed cases, three times a year.

“In light of the problem in Otsu, we felt it was necessary to expand our scope to avoid overlooking any signs of bullying,” an education board representative said. “We will follow up on cases in which bullying is suspected from September onwards, responding firmly.”

Previously at the Shizuoka Prefectural Board of Education, only serious cases of bullying were reported to board members, but in July, Superintendent of Education Toru Abe declared that all future cases would be reported. It emerged that in one case, bullying at a prefectural high school had continued for about a year, and the perpetrator was suspended, but the prefectural education board office didn’t deem the case serious, and refrained from reporting it. This sparked calls for greater transparency.

“We had restricted the number of reports to avoid an information overload, but as we reviewed our response to bullying cases, we decided that this wasn’t appropriate. If there are any insufficiencies in the office’s response we want board members to give us instructions from a broad perspective,” a board representative said.

To encourage a speedy response from schools, the Nara Prefectural Board of Education has produced a quick response manual for educators, while the Kyoto and Tottori prefectural education boards and the Fukuoka Municipal Board of Education are revising their past manuals.

The Shiga Prefectural Board of Education has instructed schools where past cases of bullying were detected to conduct new inspections. The Ibaraki Prefectural Board of Education, meanwhile, has confirmed that it will actively report criminal behavior to police.

Eiichi Kajita, former president of Hyogo University of Teacher Education, commented, “Education board secretariats should properly share information, and board members should be aware of their responsibility and frankly discuss the problems together, each member fulfilling his or her role. It’s important that teachers and schools don’t bottle up their problems, but maintain the awareness they are raising children together.”

August 20, 2012(Mainichi Japan)

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