Bullying not mischief, but crime in the making

By Liu Zhun Source:Global Times Published: 2016/12/18 13:38:39

Illustrations: Peter C. Espina/GT

Illustrations: Peter C. Espina/GT



A bullying case in a prestigious primary school in Beijing has caught national attention after a mother put up a heart-wrenching article about her son's bitter experience on WeChat. The boy was humiliated by two fellow classmates, who threw a toilet-paper basket containing excrement on his head. According to the mother's statement, this is probably the straw that broke the camel's back - her son had been a victim of the bullies for a long time, and this latest humiliation caused severe mental distresses to the boy, who is now in a grave depression.

The incident is among a long series of school bullying in China, and one important reason it has caused quite a stir in public opinion is that it took place in one of the best primary schools in the country, and the school authorities' handling of the case was buck-passing and blame-dodging. The school issued an investigative report after the incident, saying the incident was not bullying, but "harmless mischief between kids."

The school's response is typical of the attitude toward school bullying in China. Children's ignorance and unawareness have always been brought up to underestimate the consequences of school bullying, which is deemed by adults as a strong word that registers a malfunction of school and parental education.

China has 300 million children under the age of 16, but there is not a specific law that pays enough attention to bullying. There is not even a unanimous understanding of its manifestation. Teachers and parents may refer to the Law on Protection of Minors, but the law is simply a general guideline to define the responsibilities and duties of schools, parents, government and society in terms of the wellbeing of the young people. It is a "toothless law," many Chinese legal experts argue, criticizing its lack of nuance and enforcement.

It is also a disappointment that there has not been a State-led in-depth and nation-wide research on school bullying across China. The statistics we can find mainly come from some NGOs and public institutions based on their investigations of certain regions at certain periods of time. Lack of empirical documents and statistical proofs will hardly keep school bullying a topical issue for long enough to make a difference. Individual cases emerge sensationally but fleetingly, leaving public attention quickly without making a dent.

School bullying is only an initial and less violent part of juvenile delinquency. There are numerous reports about school-age children going from bullying to committing horrible felonies, such as torturing, raping and killing. However, due to the age limit of claiming full criminal responsibilities, many evil children can evade heavy penalties, which they know is an advantage for them to severely violate the law without having to pay the price. 

School bullying is a reflection of adults' violence. It has a mixture of causes, including but not limited to personal traits, home violence, parents' indulgence, lax school regulations and shortage of legal approaches. It is as impossible to uproot crime as to eliminate bullying. But it still needs constant efforts to keep its emergence to a minimum. The first step, which is essential to the endeavor, is to realize that school bullying is not mischief, but possibly a prelude to bigger violence after these children enter the adult world.

Since an early age, children should be embedded with the thought that there are boundaries in daily interactions with fellow students, and violence, discrimination and antagonism must be discouraged. There should be zero tolerance over school bullying of any kind, and the process to draw the bottom line must start with children being given enough education from school authorities and parents, who shouldn't take bullying for granted just to save face.

The author is a Global Times reporter. liuzhun@globaltimes.com.cn



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