KAGOSHIMA — A teaching program that uses mock civil actions based on
actual bullying cases has recently started to attract the attention of
primary and middle school teachers nationwide.
In response to an actual bullying case in Kagoshima Prefecture that ended
with the suicide a middle school student, teachers and university
researchers jointly developed the program to show students how to act when
confronted with bullying.
To make the material suitable for classroom study, the Kagoshima University
researchers put the legalistic language of the rulings into layman’s terms.
Under the program, students learn that bullying can lead to crime, and that
adults have a responsibility to prevent it.
As word of the program has spread, a growing number of primary and middle
school teachers and officials of prefectural education boards across the
country have begun asking the developers of the program for more
information. The Niigata prefectural government’s board of education has
adopted the program into its bullying-prevention plan.
Prof. Hirofumi Uneme, a specialist in civil law, and Assistant Prof.
Masanobu Umeno, an education expert, both with Kagoshima University, worked
on school bullying rulings that were handed down in five civil actions.
Umeno is a member of a bullying-prevention group formed after a third-year
middle school boy from Chirancho in the prefecture committed suicide in
1996 as a result of the bullying he suffered.
Umeno came up with the idea of using bullying case rulings as an effective
means to combat and eliminate bullying after realizing the limited
effectiveness of such slogans as “Bullying should not be tolerated.”
He said he found that the rulings referred to the action adults involved
should have taken to prevent the victimization. The rulings also contained
objective reviews of the way the cases were handled and the way they should
have been handled in relation to the bully, victim, teacher, parents and
others concerned, he said.
“The rulings themselves offer ideal solutions to those involved in bullying
cases,” Umeno said. “That is, how those directly involved and those around
them should have acted to stop the bullying.”
The two university researchers have so far simplified the language of the
five cases–including one that occurred in 1986 at Nakano-Fujimi Middle
School in Nakano Ward, Tokyo, in which a student committed suicide as a
result of bullying not only by students, but also by teachers.
The rewritten versions of the rulings have already been used in classes for
primary school and middle school students.
Under the new program, five to eight class-hours are usually needed. First,
students are asked to consider the circumstances and the individuals
involved in a case.
They then write down the specific descriptions of acts that the court found
to be instances of bullying. They include such descriptions as “The
ringleader told all the boys in a class to snub boy ‘A'”; “A group of
bullies surrounded the boy, who was shaking with fear, on the rooftop of
the school building and started punching and kicking him repeatedly”; and
“They took turns calling his house to intimidate him.”
When the students compare each description with the corresponding penal
code provision, they gain an understanding that acts of bullying are
equivalent to such crimes as assault and extortion.
The rulings disclose chilling accounts of actual bullying cases and the
events that surrounded them, such as, “The boy hid behind the gymnasium
without eating lunch to avoid the bullies” and “The homeroom teacher was
afraid of the bullies because he had also been attacked by them.”
Through the program students become aware of the difficulties of putting
the principle of taking action to stop bullying into practice.
In the second half of the program, the students learn that teachers and
parents are responsible for protecting children from bullying. They look at
specific cases to see who assumed responsibility and why. They also examine
actual rulings ordering schools to pay compensation and the court decisions
that assess blame to the various parties involved.
The students are then encouraged to view a case by imagining themselves as
victims and witnesses.
Many students said they assumed, before attending the program, that they
would have to attend classes even if they were subjected to bullying at
However, they learned from the rulings that they have the option of
transferring to another school or staying home, and that bullies can be
ordered to stay home. Many students expressed relief.
One fifth-year primary school boy said he now knew of options other than
committing suicide, while a female middle school student wrote in her
report that she once thought of killing herself when she was bullied. “I
wish I could have taken this program earlier,” she wrote.
Some students worked out practical countermeasures during the program, such
as telling the teacher in private about bullying, giving encouragement to a
victim of bullying in a letter, and collecting evidence of bullying and
appealing directly to the principal with it.
Uneme pointed out that the time had come for incorporating specific
measures to prevent violence and bullying into school curriculums.
“The rulings also are an ideal reference for teachers to study their legal
responsibilities in relation to bullying,” he said. “It will be a sheer
waste if we do not make the most of them in the classroom to prevent
recurrences of bullying.”
Source: May 31, 2000 Daily Yomiuri