End scourge of school bullyingThe details surrounding the story of a 14-year-old in Daegu who jumped to his death this week after being bullied by classmates through the medium of an online game simply beggars belief. Police recovered more than 300 text messages sent by his peers, who had harassed the boy over a period of at least three months. The boy received one especially malicious message late at night before he jumped from his apartment. In describing the actions of the bullies to the police, his mother said they were as “violent and brutal as scenes from a horror movie.”
The latest incident, which follows another tragic suicide by a high school student in Daejeon who also jumped off a rooftop after enduring chronic bullying at school, raises alarm bells over the extent of physical and psychological violence at Korean schools.
Moreover, the parents of the latest victim in Daegu are both teachers themselves. This lends credence to fears that many children may be silently suffering a great deal of abuse without their families having any idea about what is happening. Considering the brutality involved in this case, the police should thoroughly investigate the offenders, who are alleged to have tried to strangle the victim and threaten him with torture in between regular beatings.
Student bullying must be dealt with as a serious crime, not a mere “ritual” or rite of passage. School authorities usually leave such matters to students to resolve among themselves and merely try to keep the stories from leaking to avoid being disgraced and harming their reputations in the local community.
As a result, the bullies have become bolder, while the victims find they often have no one to turn to. American and British schools can be seen as good examples in this area, as they tend to show zero tolerance for bullying. They also crack down on violence within school premises as they can be held responsible at an administrative level. In such cases, the perpetrators, as well as their parents and the school authorities, should be punished by criminal and civil lawsuits from the victims’ families.
Korean schools and law enforcement authorities must take strong punitive actions to show society that bullying is a criminal act that will no longer be tolerated. If students harass their peers, they must be aware that they are also jeopardizing their own future. Violence at schools must be punished so children can learn about the merits and necessity of law and order from an early age.