Dec 20, 2018

Bureaucracy and Bullying: a commentary on one school's approach

In Japan I’ve just come to expect a certain level of bureaucracy with things.

I (definitely!) expect it at the immigration office.

I expect it with lodging paperwork with various government departments.

One place that I sure didn’t expect it though, was at our child's school in regards to a bullying case.

One particular child had been repeatedly hitting our child, a number of classmates, and even the teaching support staff. Japan’s bureaucratic approach to bullying blew my mind though for one main reason: 

The teachers appeared powerless to actually take any kind of action to either a) separate the child from their classmates, or b) discuss the problems with the bully’s parents, until other parents lodged a complaint. 

We were those parents. I’m always going to express concern if my child feels unsafe - but in this case it wasn’t just her, it was her classmates that were also on the receiving end of punches. We weren't just worried at that point about our child but about the others in her class that may not be comfortable speaking up.

There are several glaring problems with this bureaucratic approach to dealing with bullying - ones that frustrated me immensely and made me worry about Japan’s bullying problems overall.

Bureaucracy and Bullying: a commentary on one school's approach photo

First and foremost is the most obvious problem - many children may not tell their parents they’re being bullied.

I remember back to my school days where no one wanted to be a "snitch" if they were being bullied. I think this is a concept that still sits in the hearts of many children today.

Not every child is going to come home and tell their parents that someone in their class is hurting them or other children, or verbally abusing them - whatever the case may be. Many children may not feel comfortable doing that for a whole myriad of reasons, which is why I think teachers need to be acutely aware of what’s happening in the classroom and take the necessary action to stop the behavior or remove the child from the school themselves.

When a parent sends their child to school, the expectation is that you’re sending them to a safe place. If someone is jeopardizing that safety then consequences need to happen - well before it gets to the point that parents are having to write letters for anyone to do anything.

That brings me to my second point.

Parents may not take action or may not realize the severity of the situation

We had our child tell us several times that the classroom bully had been hitting both her and other children, but initially we just assumed it was a child who played roughly - which happens, of course! It kept coming up though, so naturally our concern levels rose.

When we took it up with the school, the attitude expressed was that they’ve known the bully had been causing problems for some time - but couldn’t take steps to do anything further unless concerns came from someone outside the teaching staff.

Where I’m from, it’s common for teachers to directly contact parents if there is a child physically or verbally causing issues with other students. That action can culminate in school expulsion if the behavior continues. The teachers at our child’s school in Japan advised us that unfortunately that’s not the case here - and that it’s the school’s responsibility to take care of the behavioral problem.

My question with that approach though is - how do you take care of a bullying situation when you’re aware of it happening, but need action to come from another parent before any changes occur?

Of course, these are the experiences of one school in Japan. I can’t extend this to every single school throughout the country - and I certainly hope that this isn’t the norm everywhere. It’s disappointing that in a world that seems more aware of the dangers of bullying, that Japan turns a blind eye until you escalate things up the bureaucratic hierarchy. 

This post was created by a blogger on City-Cost through the blogging themes



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