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2013年5月20日 (月)

いじめ対策法案 社会全体で取り組む契機に

The Yomiuri Shimbun May 20, 2013
Bills must get entire society involved in antibullying fight
いじめ対策法案 社会全体で取り組む契機に(5月19日付・読売社説)

It is time for society as a whole to squarely face up to the challenge of eradicating school bullying by understanding that bullying can never be acceptable.

On Thursday, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito jointly submitted to the Diet a bill on antibullying measures. Three opposition parties--the Democratic Party of Japan, People’s Life Party and Social Democratic Party--earlier jointly presented a bill to much the same effect.

The bills submitted by the ruling and opposition parties both incorporate steps for addressing such tasks as the early detection of bullying and a range of possible ways to resolve bullying incidents.

Proper definition of bullying

The planned legislation of a new law to prevent bullying is highly significant. It will force the central government, local authorities and schools to step up efforts to constantly clamp down on bullying.

The ruling and opposition camps should quickly find common ground to ensure the proposed legislation can be enacted soon.

The ruling bloc’s bill defines bullying as “circumstances under which a pupil [at primary school] or a student [at middle or high school] feels physical or psychological pain.”

The bill deserves praise in that it sets this criterion from the standpoint of children being victimized by bullies.

The bill also quite rightly provides a clear definition of bullying using the Internet.

Cyberbullying--such as harassment through e-mail sent under a fake e-mail address or name, and posting many slanderous messages on online bulletin boards--has been on the rise in recent years.

To enhance measures against bullying, the bill sponsored by the ruling parties referred to the responsibility of not only schools but also the central government and local entities. The bill also calls for boosting counseling at schools for bullying victims, improving teachers’ training programs for dealing with bullying, and securing more school counselors to handle bullying and related problems.

It is also reasonable that the bill places more weight on children’s discipline at home. It straightforwardly states that parents or other guardians should be responsible for instructing children to respect social mores.

Every time a serious bullying case comes to light, problems emerge at school authorities and boards of education, such as their closed nature and failure to deal promptly with such incidents.

It is obvious that resolving bullying problems cannot be left up to schools and boards of education.

In the event of a serious incident such as a student committing suicide because of bullying, one important task is how to clarify the causes of the bullying. Pinpointing why and how the bullying occurred could help prevent further similar incidents.

The catalyst for the bills was the suicide of a viciously bullied middle school student in Otsu in October 2011. A third-party panel of lawyers, education critics and others was set up to investigate the case. The panel conducted a transparent probe and even briefed the bereaved family on how its deliberations were progressing.

3rd-party panel essential

As a result, the panel uncovered the true state of affairs: There was a dearth of communication among teachers and the board of education had been reluctant to look into the incident.

An independent third party that has no stake in a school or board of education can be effective in investigating and clarifying causes of bullying. This is because investigations by people directly concerned with bullying cases are prone to be lenient with fellow insiders.

In this regard, the bill by the opposition parties includes clearer provisions than the ruling parties’ bill about the effective use of third-party panels. This will likely be an important point of contention in Diet deliberations over the competing antibullying bills.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 19, 2013)
(2013年5月19日01時11分  読売新聞)


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