China has launched a new campaign to tackle school bullying that will last until December 2016. According to a notice issued by the education supervision committee under the State Council, the campaign will target elementary, middle, and secondary schools nationwide. Here, bullying is defined as physical and verbal abuse, including cyber-bullying.
In the last five years, school bullying has increased dramatically, with an estimate of one in five students being bullied. According to a survey of 5,000 students published by China Youth and Children Research Center performed earlier this year, 32.5 percent of students experienced “mild bullying” and 6 percent experienced “severe bullying”. University students seem to be even worse off, with 49 percent admitting they’re bullies, and 87 percent reporting themselves as victims of bullying according to a report by Zhejiang University.
The news backs the data, as between 2014 and 2015 Chinese news had featured an estimated 43 cases of severe school bullying. In 2015, a junior high school student committed suicide by jumping off a roof as a result of “being bullied everyday”. There was a girl who was stripped naked, beaten, and photographed by other girls. In April this year, a video showing a female student being slapped and kicked over 30 times by senior classmates went viral on the internet, igniting a public discussion on campus violence.
After much pressure, the government has finally begun addressing the issue of school violence and announced its action plan. Previously, China had no laws against peer bullying, only against teachers abusing students. Campus bullying had been seen as a private moral issue to be addressed by one’s family.
In China, teenagers 14 and above can be criminally responsible, but defendants under 16 can only be charged with eight major crimes, such as murder, rape, and drug trafficking. School bullying rarely falls under any of the eight major crimes, resulting in offenders receiving lenient sentences in court. The age loophole in the current legal system has resulted in children under the age of 14 escaping punishment completely, even for intentional homicide. There is public concern that such light punishments do not deter violence and abuse, but school bullies go on to university and adulthood with more and more victims suffering along the bullies’ reckless paths.
Here’s how China plans on tackling school bullying:
- Assigned “inspectors” will monitor incidents in their districts.
- The inspectors will report incidents to the school officials, as well as the education inspection department.
- Schools are to create their own procedures for combating school bullying.
- School faculty should be trained in bullying prevention strategies.
- School faculty to be involved in responding to bullying cases with clear ideas of each of their roles in the process.
- School staff to cooperate with security personnel in filing appropriate charges if enough evidence of school bullying is found.
- Schools are to establish their own psychological consultation programs for bullied victims.
- Schools are to establish their own bullying hotline for students to call.
- School officials to educate students about the moral, psychological, and security effects of bullying on campus.
- Schools are responsible for inviting public security and justice departments to provide anti-bullying education.
How schools will respond to the notice and take on the tasks assigned to them remains to be seen.