Curb­ing bul­ly­ing in schools is a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

The dust sur­round­ing a mother’s post claim­ing her son was bul­lied at Beijing’s pres­ti­gious Zhong­guan­cun No 2 Pri­mary School has yet to set­tle. In her ac­count, the mother de­scribed how her 10-year-old son was bul­lied by two of his class­mates, and said he has been ab­sent from school suf­fer­ing from anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion. The school has not dis­puted her story and has is­sued an apol­ogy for the hurt done to the boy. Yet it has re­fused to la­bel the in­ci­dent bul­ly­ing and mete out any pun­ish­ments as de­manded by the mother. The school would act as a me­di­a­tor rather than a pun­isher, its prin­ci­pal re­port­edly said.

Such an ar­gu­ment has fu­eled huge con­cerns be­yond the in­ci­dent it­self, given that bul­ly­ing in schools has come to the fore in re­cent years along­side re­ports of vi­o­lent acts by chil­dren that have made the na­tional head­lines.

For many, that the bul­lies only re­ceive a tap on the wrist — a ver­bal apol­ogy in this in­stance — sends the wrong mes­sage.

The pub­lic’s con­cerns about bul­ly­ing and other vi­o­lent acts by ju­ve­niles prompted nine cen­tral govern­ment de­part­ments headed by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion to re­lease a guide­line ear­lier this year call­ing on schools to be aware of the con­se­quences of bul­ly­ing and vi­o­lent in­ci­dents on cam­pus.

The guide­line noted that vi­o­lence in schools has been on the rise in re­cent years, and the at­tacks were be­com­ing more ar­bi­trary and cru­eler. It high­lighted a va­ri­ety of mea­sures aimed at pre­vent­ing bul­ly­ing and vi­o­lence on cam­pus.

How­ever, while this is a good start, it will take time for a mech­a­nism to be estab­lished to tackle school bul­ly­ing head-on. Pro­ce­dures have to be put in place in re­gard to what con­sti­tutes bul­ly­ing, and when in­ter­ven­tions, pun­ish­ments and coun­sel­ing are needed.

In the mean­time, as the re­sponse of Zhong­guan­cun No 2 Pri­mary School in this case shows, much still needs to be done to en­sure schools shoul­der their re­spon­si­bil­ity to prevent bul­ly­ing and equip their staff with the knowl­edge to iden­tify and limit the risk fac­tors within their class­rooms.

It is not only schools and col­leges though that have a duty to guide the be­hav­ior of chil­dren; par­ents and the rest of so­ci­ety also have their parts to play in strength­en­ing chil­dren’s aware­ness of what is ac­cept­able and what is not.

The at­ten­tion given the in­ci­dent proves that bul­ly­ing on cam­pus is still a ma­jor con­cern of par­ents. Con­tin­ued ef­forts are needed to make schools safe havens of learn­ing for all chil­dren.

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