Government publishes document defining school bullying and stating countermeasures

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In recent years, several school bullying incidents in primary and middle schools have provoked widespread public concern in China. In order to form a comprehensive long-term plan to combat bullying in primary and secondary schools, the Ministry of Education has teamed up with another ten state institutions, including various other ministries and the All-China Women’s Federation, to draw up the “Integrated Proposal for Enhancing the Governance of School Bullying in Primary and Middle School”, published on December 27th.

The proposal defines school bulling in primary and middle school as abuse or insults between students conducted by means of physical actions, words, the internet or other means, once or several times within or outside school (including primary schools, middle schools and vocational schools) carried out by one party (individual or group) and causing physical and mental harm or material loss to the other party (individual or group). Based on this clear definition, schools and local administrations are asked to strictly distinguish bullying from teasing, and take proper measures accordingly.

In terms of how to prevent bullying effectively, the proposal calls for efforts in the following four fields: first of all, schools should provide more intensive education and add educational modules focused on morality and justice. Secondly, training should be provided for parents in schools and communities. Thirdly, supervision in schools should be improved. It is called for schools to accelerate the instalment of surveillance camera systems and alarm equipment, introduce regulations and set up special committees on the prevention and management of bullying. Additionally, checks should be carried out on a regular basis, so that signs of potential, ongoing and previous bullying incidents can be spotted.

It is also emphasized that school bullying must be dealt with mainly by the schools themselves, in accordance with the rule of law. There are also contingency plan and procedures, including investigations by the school, evaluations by a special committee as well as appeals and lawsuit processes when necessary.

In addition, the  document suggests different punishments and instruction measures based on different cases. Students whose misbehaviour doesn’t do harm to others should be criticized and educated by school. If the case is quite serious, and there is evidence of physical and mental impact on the victims, the bullies might also receive warnings and admonitions from the police. Habitual bullies or those who have committed severe, brutal deeds can be transferred to special schools (reformatory schools). If it constitutes a violation of social security regulations or a crime, the bullying case will be addressed by the judicial institutions.

Preventing and managing school bullying is a long-term commitment. The document proposes a four-dimensional scheme, consisting of improving training programs, forming regular examination plans, strengthening the accountability systems and promoting the rule of law. The eleven institutions that drew up the new proposal are also supposed to continue coordinating and communicating with each other and shouldering their due responsibilities.