Japan Looks to Address Bullying, Suicides at Schools

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.

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