In light of increasing acts of abuse that have become causes of public concern for Japanese elementary and middle schools, Japan’s education ministry has put out a list of specific acts of bullying that could and should be reported promptly to police. The ministry has communicated this list to prefectures and boards of education of large cities through an official notification, this after a second-year middle school student committed suicide in Otsu in 2011 after he was apparently bullied. Since many schools have said that there is confusion over what type of behavior could be considered as reportable to the police, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry stepped in with this list to provide concrete examples and to encourage prompt response from school authorities on cases similar to those in the list.
Among the acts mentioned in the list is “hitting and kicking,”which the list clearly says is equivalent to assault, which is charge-able in Japan’s penal code. Other common acts of bullying, like “putting fecal matter in a person’s mouth and threatening to inflict harm if he or she tries to spit it out” will be considered as extortion according to the very specific list. “Intentionally wrecking a bicycle” is comparable to property damage. The notification gives very specific examples of cyberbullying, which has become rampant among young people who are very much connected online. Cyberbullying carries with it criminal charges as well, including online behavior like “sending an e-mail threatening harm if a student comes to school,” or “calling a classmate a ‘shoplifter,’ ‘creep’ or ‘annoying person.’” The last two specific actions are marked as blackmail and defamation, respectively.
Together with the notification, the education ministry has requested that school boards should conduct their own a fact-finding investigations on bullying practices and reported cases for the 2012 school year. This notification is the first time that the ministry has asked the boards to provide details on the number of bullying cases reported in their schools. This is due to a marked increase in bullying complaints and cases, including a recent report of some senior members of a soccer team hurting and bullying the team’s junior members at a Yamanashi high school.
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