No more school violence, pleaseThe heart-wrenching story of a middle school student in Daegu who jumped from his apartment building after being bullied by his classmates lingers. His tragic death awakened us to the reality that our schools lack reliable safety mechanisms to prevent student violence. The incident also woke us up to the fact that children can face what seem like unsolvable problems in their lives.
As a result, not only the Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, but also the Blue House are calling for measures to counter violence in schools. Teachers, however, say new measures will not be effective because existing laws and ordinances enacted in 2004 to punish students who wield violence against their peers are not being enforced.
Lessons from the case in Daegu are obvious. First, our society must recognize that bullying or harassing - no matter how trivial it may look - constitutes an act of violence. Therefore, simply showing students a TV program on how to avert school violence each semester is not enough. Instead, school authorities must develop feasible programs that students themselves can sympathize with.
Parents should also not forget a Supreme Court verdict that not only attackers but also their parents and school authorities are all responsible for violence, so they must compensate for any damage - physical or mental - suffered by victims.
All the parties involved must draw on their collective wisdom to find ways to encourage victims to report bullying without fear of reprisal.
Norway offers a good example. It has seen good results from a program that educates children as young as elementary age to shout “No!” whenever they suffer violence from their peers.
When bullying occurs, schools should investigate exactly what happened and effectively protect victims while suspending harassers or transferring them to other schools. Simply put, we need a detailed manual.
Japanese society was totally at a loss five years ago when a bullied student sent a letter hinting at suicide to the education ministry and then disappeared.
The Daegu boy’s death sends a strong message that our society should not ignore school violence anymore. Like when we were awakened to a problem when an elementary school girl suffered a painful death at the hands of an adult sexual predator three years ago, we must be awakened this time, too, before it’s too late.
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