Cellphones and the Internet make school bullying even more harmful than it used to be. In the photo, a still from the Japanese movie Confessions, a group of classmates take revenge on the leading character, herself a former bully. (courtesy of iFilm Taiwan)
Is school bullying news?
Not really. It's been a common problem for a long time. Widely depicted in cartoons and TV shows, every-one knows bullying happens.
Many of us grew up watching Doraemon, a Japanese cartoon that often has the character Nobita being bullied by Gian. Nobita's friend Suneo sometimes intervenes, but usually does nothing. Nobita's only reliable source of succor is Doraemon, a robotic cat from the future who has advice and a gadget for every situation.
The bullying we see on TV isn't all that different from the bullying that takes place on real-world campuses. But in the real world, no one takes the time to understand the problems of the Gians and no Doraemons appear to rescue the hapless Nobitas in their moments of need.
"An eighth-grade dropout suspected by her peers of stealing was forced into a park by eight adolescents, both male and female, where she was stripped and beaten. The abuse was filmed and posted on the Internet."
"A middle-school student in Tai-chung was surrounded and beaten on five separate occasions. His outraged parents sued 18 student onlookers."
For months now, we've been seeing report after report on incidents of school bullying, and the cruelty of some of the methods employed have sorely alarmed parents of schoolchildren.
Late last year, the Ministry of Education convened a meeting of Taiwan's 25 cities and counties to promote a plan to prevent bullying at school. In January 2011, the Legislative Yuan amended Article 10 of the National Education Act, which requires elementary schools with 24 or more classes to have a dedicated guidance counselor, all middle schools to have at least one counselor and those with 21 or more classes to add an additional one, and elementary and middle schools with 55 or more classes to keep a social worker and a psychologist on staff.
Following the revised law's implementation, Taiwan is expected to hire an additional 1,754 guidance counselors and 467 social workers and psychologists for its schools. As a result, our educational system is expected to have one counselor for every 950 students by 2017.
This burst of activity is intended to "put out the fire." But will it really do anything to reduce school bullying?