Curbing bullying in schools is a shared responsibility
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.