A growing number of suicides by students in Japan and inadequate attempts by schools to address the issue have prompted the drafting of new legislation to help teachers spot and prevent bullying in schools.
The education ministry is also considering setting up permanent investigation teams throughout the nation to look into suicide cases involving school children. A common theme in the legislation and ministry committee debates is the need for more independent experts apart from the school to be involved in identifying the causes of bullying and suicides and measures needed to prevent them.
The issue has drawn renewed national attention following a 2011 case in the western city of Otsu in which a 13-year-old boy killed himself after being repeatedly bullied by three classmates. The Otsu Board of Education was criticized for turning a blind eye to the boy’s plight and conducting a careless investigation after the fact. For months the board even denied that bullying was linked to the boy’s death. In February, Otsu city officials formally admitted that bullying contributed to the suicide, according to local media reports.
Suicides among students up to high school age increased by nearly 30% in 2011 from the previous year, according to the latest data available from the education ministry.
A teacher at Cherry Hill East who allegedly bullied her freshman English students is out of the classroom, replaced by a long-term sub, but parents who first brought the concerns to school administrators say the situation still isn’t completely resolved.
Kimberly Real, who parents say insulted her freshman students and used discriminatory and insensitive language in the classroom, was yanked about three weeks ago, more than a month after a group of parents brought their concerns before the school board.
Though it’s a step in the right direction, more remains before they consider the situation closed, they said.
“I think it’s a win, absolutely,” Susan Levy Warner said. “Our children are not being subjected to the harassment and bullying any longer…but it’s not over—it’s not been completely resolved.”
A local mother says she was in disbelief when she found out what happened to her son, an eighth grade student at Northeast Regional Catholic School in Philadelphia.
“I couldn’t believe that this is still going on in this day and age,” said the woman, who did not want to be identified. “Especially at a religious school.”
The woman says her son, who is African American, was the target of racist bullying back on Feb. 27. According to the woman, two white students took her son’s notebook and wrote racial slurs on it.