First, as of Saturday, September 28, 2013, Japan now has a new law passed by The Diet that makes schools probe bullying cases. Good.
Secondly: WTF?! Why weren't schools probing bullying cases before this time? Did they really have to be MADE to do this by the enactment of a law?
Regular readers will know that I was a small kid back in high school, nearly two years younger than those in my grade, and along with only experiencing a growth spurt to take me from 5'-0" (1.524 cm) tall to nearly 6'-0" (1.83 cm) at the age of 17, I was also a visible minority in a part of Toronto where being off-white was not as cool as being white. In fact, the word 'cool' was not even close to being used for me.
Of course, as recently as a few years ago, having a boyfriend or husband of Indian descent was cool.
... though apparently not anymore.
Anyhow… according to this new Japanese bullying law, local governments (I assume that means the Board of Education offices) and the individual schools themselves are expected to take what are called 'news steps' that include investigating bullying incidents of its students.
Bullying is present in Japanese schools... just like it is in every single damn regular school in Canada and the U.S. and probably in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, U.K., Spain, Portugal, France, India… pick an offing country.
But this law, it defines bullying as: "something that students perceive as causing them physical or psychological pain."
Along with physically hurting someone with your fists et al, it also includes all of that psycho social media crap via Facebook, Twitter, or other Internet variables. It also means no social ostracization… which I suppose could also include someone painting something nasty on your school locker, but I bet that would be a gray area… unless the victim says it hurts. And I bet it does.
So… what does this mean? Well, the BOE (yes!, I was right!) and school are required to set up an investigative body when an allegation of bullying occurs.
Seriously… was no one doing anything before?
But… the law does not say a 3rd party needs to get involved… which means, no police… and maybe no parents, though I'm sure the parents would be involved if they knew there was an incident.
While this law seems to have been designed to protect students from other students, I wonder if the same actions can be taken if the aggressor is a teacher?
I have not seen a teacher bully a student, but in my case, I had teachers in high school 'innocently' calling me by my acquired nickname that I felt was denigrating. It was given to me by a student who shall remain nameless - Mark Dormer - in order to protect his own greasy-skinned self from bullies… but he was shameful enough to have deflected attention away from himself by finding someone else to bully. He started it in that first class of Phys Ed…. and made the next five years of high school (that's what we did in Ontario, Canada until a few years ago - Grade 13) a living hell where I wanted to kill myself - after killing everyone else of course.
Trust me. Every time someone goes Nutsy Fagan in the US and kills a bunch of 'fellow classmates' and then himself - I understand. I didn't… probably because guns were not readily available where I live(d) in Toronto.
Anyhow… I got bigger, stronger and had an attitude to match my sub-genius IQ and paid back a lot of people whom I felt did me wrong. But not Dormer. He always avoided me after I got nastier. (And if you think that time heals all wounds - just know that it doesn't. Ever.)
So… does bullying ever happen in Japan between a student and teacher? Un-funnily enough - it does.
On December 23, 2012, a 17-year-old male student hung himself at home after repeated beatings by Komura Hajime (surname first), a 47-year-old teacher and basketball coach at Sakuranomiya Senior Boys High School in Osaka.
The unnamed student was the captain of the boys basketball team, and left a note detailing why he had decided to kill himself.
What penalty did coach Komura get? He was given a suspended jail sentence. He was not made to apologize to the boy's family, but did so anyway after learning about why the boy had killed himself.
I say that somewhat sarcastically.
Truthfully, this law would not have done a damn thing for the victim of bullying.
Speaking as one who was bullied, you don't tell anyone what is going on. Ever… for fear of looking either weak… or for fear of further retribution… or just fear.
You don't tell your teachers… you don't tell the school board… you don't tell your parents or church… and you wonder why your friends don't tell someone for you. But you know they know that it's on you to make the first move… but you don't because you don't know how or if you should.
But... more and more these days, kids are stepping out from the shadows and are speaking up and being heard. But does that happen in Japan? I can't tell you because I simply don't know. And even if one kid does, how many do not?
But what's the big deal... kids grow up... they forget this crap ever happened, right?
Not. Very few bullied persons get the opportunity to have their revenge, or at the very least grow up and not be afraid of their own shadow... Few get to succeed. I did, I think... but that's only because I knew I wanted to one day show everyone that THEY were the loser - not me.
But for every one of me, there are 999 others who let that bullying consume them. Hell... look at me! I still get worked up when this topic arises... and I was the King of the Nerds! King, I tell ya! Sure... I can smile about it now, but if someone tries to act in a bullying way to me now, well... I don't back away and cower in a corner. Others weren't as lucky as me.
People offer all sorts of reasons as to why people bully, but who cares? They are jerks. And so are the people who stand idly around doing nothing while bullying behavior goes on around them.
Twenty years ago, however, to Japan's credit, the seven junior high schools I taught at in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken all had what I, at the time, thought were decent policies.
Each classroom had a class leader - male and female… and each was responsible for ensuring the proper behavior of the other boys and girls in that classroom. While I was told that bullying amongst the students was definitely not tolerated, neither was individuality, as class leaders would call out students who did not 'toe the company line'… meaning did not act like everyone else. Was bullying then employed to make the violator get back in goose step? A little. I saw yelling, teasing and even physical abuse… which involved smacking one on the back of the head… like in a 'smarten up!' kind of way.
But is that bullying? Yes… I think... but isn't it being done for the good of that student? Doesn't that victim deserve to be bullied so that he can 'smarten up'? Ugh.
And... should any physical abuse be tolerated? No... it should never have occurred let alone be allowed to happen… I can tell you that teachers who saw this, did not turn their eyes away from such tactics… in fact, they often shouted encouragement in the attack.
I'm guessing that maybe some additional education for the students and teachers would not be a bad thing.
And… because you can't please everyone, this new law has already been criticized by people other than myself, saying it's not enough… this is coming from families of students who committed suicide from bullying.
Yeah… well… what do you expect? The teacher and coach and adult who should have known better got a mere slap on the wrists for his part in helping eradicate a young life.
Oh: Here's something from the Toronto Star, October 3, 2013: HERE.
Somewhere inhaling chalk dust,
Andrew "white lung" Joseph