Bullying leaves a deep scar on children’s minds. The memory does not disappear and some people continue to suffer from such traumatic damage even as they become adults. It is important to nip bullying in the bud at an early stage.
In the 2019 school year, more than 610,000 cases of bullying were confirmed at elementary, junior high and high schools nationwide, a record high, according to a survey by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. The number of cases increased by nearly 70,000 from the previous school year, with a marked increase at elementary schools.
The education ministry analyzed that this highest-ever figure was a result of its efforts to actively confirm bullying at an early stage, such as teasing and ridiculing. As the first step toward eliminating bullying, it is commendable that the people involved in the survey on the front line paid close attention even to petty quarrels that are hidden and thoroughly grasped the actual situation surrounding bullying.
The number of bullying cases has been increasing since the law on promoting measures to prevent bullying came into effect in 2013 in response to the issue of a suicide caused by bullying in Otsu. The purpose of the law, which requires schools to take prompt action, seems to have become widespread.
It must be taken seriously that the number of cases classed as “serious situations,” meaning they caused physical and mental damage and long-term truancy, increased by 121 from the previous school year to a record 723. Ten children among these grave cases have committed suicide. The reason why things deteriorated in these cases must be thoroughly analyzed.
In recent years, there have been many cases in which people are spoken ill of or ostracized on social media, making the situations difficult to grasp. The challenge is how to catch urgent signs of children crying out for help before they fall into a serious situation.
Many schools regularly conduct a questionnaire on bullying with all their students. In addition to assigning counselors and social workers, the education ministry is also expanding the number of consultation counters. It is necessary to strengthen preparedness to detect children’s unusual behavior from various angles.
How children behave in their daily lives can easily become evident during breaks between classes. It is desirable that teachers share information on children’s words and deeds that they are concerned about. It is important for teachers to improve their sensitivity and respond carefully to each case.
The education ministry plans to ask schools not only to respond swiftly to bullying but also to give guidance to students so that bullying does not occur.
At a junior high school in Aichi Prefecture, where a student committed suicide as a result of bullying in the past, students hold meetings every year to discuss why bullying is bad and how to stop it. It is hoped that an environment will be facilitated in which children can think for themselves and take the initiative in tackling the issue.
Recently, cases have been reported in which children of medical workers were bullied due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
It is vital to see things from the other person’s perspective and stop doing things to others that they do not like. It is also important to teach children about consideration toward others at home and schools.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Oct. 23, 2020.