What to do when your child is being bullied in a Japanese school


If the teacher is not helping, make a WRITTEN request for the head teacher for the grade (gakunen shunin) and the head of teaching
(kyouto) and finally the principal (kouchou) are included in future meetings. If possible, post the request to the principal. That is, the
teacher’s responses will be visible to his or her immediate superiors.

If you feel that no obvious action is planned, or if promised action is not taken, mention that you will be forced to take the matter to the local board of education (kyouiku i-inkai) to ask for their assistance if the school is unable to solve the problem without outside help. Schools don’t like it when the kyouiku iinkai is involved, but once you make a written request for assistance in solving the problem, neither the kyouiku iinkai nor the school can ignore you.

Keep a written record of communication, send letters registered if you have to, and if you are feeling really bolshie, take letters to the PO and send them as “contents on record” (naiyou shoumei) which proves that you sent the letter you said you did, and that the contents are what you claimed.

This 1) prevents the school from claiming that you didn’t send/they didn’t receive correspondence, and 2) proves that the letter contents are as you say they are. Probably you wouldn’t ever use the evidence this provides, but it makes it very clear to the school that you are leaving a paper trail for future use.

Keep a diary or calendar and note ALL incidents, with names or at least number of students and grades/gender. Also note all communication with school and responses. Even though there is no proof that your record is accurate, it’s surprisingly effective.

Often teachers are so used to talking their way out of such things that they don’t even realize how big the problem is until you show them your record. Keep the record for several years…even for ever…a kid who was kicking [name withheld] in class and inciting groups of 10 boys to surround and pursue him in 3rd grade was moved out of the district under pressure from the school – but came back bigger and uglier than ever in JHS. His parents lied and said that they’d never lived in the area before and never encountered name before JHS, but we had evidence to the contrary…

Don’t let yourself get isolated. Stay in touch with other parents and local bodies, know you are not alone, and name is not alone either.
Tell your class PTA representative AND write a letter directly to the PTA kai-chou (the PTA class rep, understandably, may not know what to do in cases of serious trouble, and may well underestimate problems is her kid is not at risk). If any of the violence takes place outside the school, contact your local neighborhood association (chounai-kai). Ours really helped us – and they went regularly to the principal to air their grievances about wild kids and their doings!

Call the police if you have to. It’s really helpful to keep the school informed of your planned next move – never present it as a threat, always present it as “well, this problem is obviously too big for you/us to solve alone, and this situation is too dangerous to continue. We’ll be contacting the PTA kai-chou/Board of Education/police if the need arises.” Of course, police will be looking for specific names, dates and sequence of events. Nobody wants to call police on children, BUT police do have the right to follow up on troublemaking children, which may in the long run be in their best interests.

Also, I’m cynically tempted to think that most principals really don’t think that the sacrifice of a child or two is too high a price for their careers, so if there is a risk of serious violence or mental torment, don’t hesitate to get the help you need – and if that’s police action, so be it.

I don’t want to say this, but while I have a lot of respect and gratitude for individual teachers, I have no faith or trust in the school admin system. Every time I thought I knew how low they would go, they would surprise me. Keep a paper trail and NEVER trust a verbal promise. Assume that the school will cover up and procrastinate unless physical injury or damage to property occurs. If it does, try to make the SCHOOL pay for it out of their insurance, rather than simply getting the offending kids’ parents to cough up – because school insurance claims have to be documented, while parent-parent transactions can be hidden from the Board of Education. After all, you’ve told the school that injuries are occurring and are likely to recur, in a situation which you are legally obliged to expose your child to every day. Their responsibility is quite clear.

My guess is that most schools just want you to disappear – either by shutting up and putting up with it or transferring/staying away from
school. I was surprised to find the same principal who denied taunting and minor physical violence for the first 3 years of elementary school, coolly told me in late 3rd grade that “we know that [name withheld] has been teased since he started school”. He came up with this confession after several boys grabbed his glasses and stomped on them – i.e. property was damaged. Again, in JHS, we found that the principal told us that boy A was fully responsible, and that evidence from other children supported the sequence of events in the police report. We sent the police report to the Board of Education…and shortly found that the principal (not knowing that we had already contacted the BoE) had presented an entirely different sequence of events to the BoE, one which absolved the school of any responsibility. What would have happened if we had trusted the principal?? How *on earth* was he able to get away with not submitting the police report?

A point to remember is that the kyouto is normally at a school longer than a principal, and s/he is more directly involved in the running of
the school and relations with the students and their families and surrounding community. In the principal’s mind, his or her client and
employer is the BoE, and those are the people s/he most wants to please.

You and your child are not the principal’s first priority, and since principals move every 3 years on average, they can make a big mess of
a school and then walk away from it (but if the mess attracts public attention and the BoE, they will lose pay and maybe seniority). The
kyouto usually has more influence on the day to day running of the school. However, in difficult schools, the kyouto is sometimes a “plant” from the BoE, and may not have the trust of the teaching staff. This is why it’s important to involve the head of teaching for the grade. — MH

5 thoughts on “What to do when your child is being bullied in a Japanese school”

  1. My son has been bullied he kicked 10times by his classmate his in first year high school I reported already in his teacher and the teacher called the classmate parent and they went to our house and ask for apology it’s already 1wk after the incident but still my son legs is not recovering he can’t walk straight. I feel so angry and been taken for granted..I really want the principal to take an action for what they did with my children .. I just want him be suspended in his class or send him in boys town for several days..is it possible??? Please help me..I really don’t know what to do,I’m from Yokohama ..is it possible to charge him for physical injury????please I need an advise..thank u

    1. Well, now would be a time to test the new anti-bullying measures being put in place by the gov. Take photos of any bruises, visible injuries. Get a medical report from the doctor immediately. Follow up with a complaint to your PTA, also make a formal complaint at the education board (at your local kuyakusho or shiyakusho office). Make a police report if you feel you’re being blocked on all sides by all parties.

      Antibullying bill targets Web posts, punishment by teachers
      Rising pressure to reduce bullying prompts the Liberal Democratic Party to draft a bill that would make corporal punishment by teachers a form of the violent phenomenon.
      [MORE] -> http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20130128a2.html

      JAN 28, 2013
      With public interest rising in laws aimed at preventing bullying, now being viewed as an endemic problem, the Liberal Democratic Party on Saturday compiled a draft bill on measures to prevent bullying at school.

      The bill considers corporal punishment by a teacher a form of bullying and would require schools to report serious cases to local governments.

      In one high-profile case involving only students, a 13-year-old junior high school student killed himself in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, in October 2011.

      Last month’s suicide by a 17-year-old high school student in Osaka, who was physically abused on a regular basis by the basketball coach, has also prompted the LDP to expedite legal measures to prevent recurrences.

      The LDP is seeking opposition support to pass the bill in the Diet session starting Monday.

      The bill defines bullying as physical and psychological attacks on students that inflict physical and mental pain.

      In addition to physical punishment by teachers, the bill also defines cruel online posts as bullying.

      The gist of the bill says schools are obliged to inform local authorities, including municipal mayors, when bullying results in death, serious injury or a long absence, to prevent coverups by school authorities. The draft bill also calls for establishing an internal investigative body.

      In the Shiga case, the school and municipal school board were heavily criticized for initially failing to acknowledge a link between the boy’s suicide and bullying by classmates.

      Several students at the school had earlier reported that bullies had forced the victim to even “practice” killing himself.

      The draft bill states that schools must report immediately to police if bullying is endangering a student’s life and suspend the bullies.

      Among steps to stem bullying, the state and local governments are urged to strengthen counseling services, while the central government will draw up a basic policy to prevent bullying, according to the draft bill.


      Hashimoto backs antibullying rules

      Hashimoto backs antibullying rules
      FEB 6, 2013
      Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto plans to support two ordinance proposals that would establish an independent investigation team and give the mayor’s office more authority to look into incidents of school bullying and corporal punishment.

      The proposals, which will be discussed by the municipal assembly this month, call for creating a team of lawyers, retired police officers, medical experts and others to look into school bullying and corporal punishment in Osaka-area schools at the behest of the mayor’s office.

      A budget of ¥15 million has been proposed for the team’s creation, mostly for personnel costs, and the team would be established April 1.

      The first proposed ordinance would allow PTAs to call on the team to conduct an investigation if they aren’t satisfied with the results of a school-led probe.

      The second proposal would oblige school principals to cooperate with the investigative team if so ordered by the mayor or the municipal board of education.

      If passed by the municipal assembly, where Hashimoto’s local Osaka Ishin no Kai and New Komeito hold sway, the ordinances would give whoever is in the mayor’s seat more direct authority to deal with allegations of bullying and corporal punishment.

      Currently, such investigations are handled by the board of education, which is independent of the mayor’s office.

      The proposals are the latest in a series of moves by Hashimoto to crack down on bullying and corporal punishment following the suicide of a second-year student at Sakuranomiya Senior High School in December.

      The student, captain of the basketball team, killed himself after being repeatedly physically abused by his coach.

      Hashimoto has already forced the board of education to cancel slots for sports majors at Sakuranomiya and merge them with general studies courses, and has continued to publicly speak out against bullying and corporal punishment, and the way schools handle such incidents.

      Last week, he attended a lecture against corporal punishment in sports by former Yomiuri Giants pitcher Masumi Kuwata, who also played briefly for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007.

      Kuwata told the more than 500 municipal education officials in attendance that while playing in the U.S. he visited schools and saw that sports programs did not have corporal punishment, and that it was not needed to produce professional baseball players.

      Public support for Hashimoto’s overall efforts to address bullying and corporal punishment remains strong, but there are concerns about how the ordinances would work in practice. The mayor’s office still wouldn’t be able to punish board of education members whose decisions it disagrees with. However, assembly members in the opposition parties have warned that the proposed changes would erode the board’s independence from elected politicians.

      Bullying caused boy’s suicide, Otsu admits

  2. My daughter is only 11 yrs old and has been bullied many times by her classmate ..my daughter got emotional stressed until she said to me ..i dont want to go to school anymore..it was very painful to me when i heard that…then i reported to teacher adviser and to the principal also…the teacher called the classmate parent to apologize and set the day…demo kunakatta desu..I became more anger!in this case how will i do?i want to file case against them and pay all the damages physical and mental damage..pls give me an advise in this problem…thank you

  3. since i seem unable to begin my own thread, I have decided to write here…Also, i must admit that i have not read any of the above comments, and actually have never read anything about bullying. I only know that there seems to be a hugh problem in Japan about bullying.

    The truth is though that the bullies are not the problem; it is the bullied that are the problem. The bullies in a class of 40 are probably only one or two…and then there are probably three or four who can repel the bully if the agression is directed at them. Meanwhile , the other 35 would allow themselves to be bullied…therefore the problem is not the tiny minority, but the overwhelming majority..And if bullying is a great problem in japan , it is because the whole system teaches the majority to accept being bullied…

    so stop focusing on the one or two bullies in each class, and think more about a system (of forced education..which is bullying in itself) that teaches children to be weaklings…

    if any of this has been said on this website, forgive me; As I said, i have not read any of the above threads…being on a library computer, I do not have the time to do so…

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