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Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013
A website to combat bullying
Bullying has remained a pernicious problem in the Japanese school system. Students are reluctant to report it and teachers and administrators reluctant to admit it. A new proactive approach by the Saitama Prefectural Board of Education has the potential to start putting a stop to the problem through the use of a mobile access site that lets students report bullying at an early stage.
Such reporting systems are rare in Japan, but this one allows students to get quick and easy help through a simple address or QR code (that squiggly square barcode). Since most students these days have a cellphone, they will be able to access the site immediately and confidentially. That is much more than most students have at the moment.
The Stop Ijime Navi site (stopijime.jp) provides phone numbers and mail addresses where students can report bullying cases 24 hours a day. The site also provides a wealth of information about bullying, counseling, legal options, and perhaps most importantly, supportive messages from students who experienced bullying and survived.
The site helps students know what to do and where to get help. Sadly, many students do not feel close enough to any teacher or administrator to report cases, and even then, they are often too unsure or shy to speak up. Even worse, some school administrators remain in denial that bullying occurs. The site helps surmount those hurdles with a better system for all-around communication. That is an excellent step forward, and one that should be emulated.
The new site was developed by a project team that includes lawyers, suicide intervention counselors, and specialists in children's education and development. In cooperation with education boards and administrators, they established a step-by-step plan to confirm reports and gather information before notifying relevant schools or organizations. They also offer intervention strategies and procedures to stop bullying at an early stage and resolve problems amicably.
Hotlines for suicide, rape and crime have proved effective in helping victims get the help they need and this site is no different. It provides a lifeline to young people who may be suffering from the terrible effects of bullying but not know what to do or where to turn. Posters should be put up in every school and all students should be encouraged to input the site into their cell phones.
With the help of this project, the simple, easy step of saving a barcode and sending a text just might save the life of a classmate, friend or oneself. Even more hopefully, it will help bring an end to one of the worst parts of young people's lives in Japan—bullying.