What to do if you child is bullied in a Japanese school

If the teacher is not helping, make a WRITTEN request for assistance from 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 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 rep 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 responsiiblity 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 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.

–Courtesy of Michele H.

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