Plans by the Ministry of Education to enact an anti-bullying law following reports of students being abused by other students were met with skepticism by education reform activists and parents.
Wang Fu-lin (王福林), director of the ministry’s Department of Military Training Education, told reporters yesterday the ministry was in the process of drafting an anti-bullying law that would focus on segregating offenders from others and punishing schools that fail to prevent or ignore such cases.
Under the proposal, teachers and principals would be required to report repeat cases of bullying, cases of intentional harm, instances when offenders and victims are not on equal footing and when the cases result in either physical or psychological injury.
“When a case is ruled to constitute bullying, the school has to decide whether to segregate offenders from other students. If a school does not report a bullying case until it is disclosed by students or parents, its principal will be held responsible for concealing the information,” Wang said.
In instances where schools are found to have been indifferent to bullying or fail to address the problem, the ministry will cut grants to the schools and take off marks in the principals’ performance evaluations, he said.
Asked to comment on the proposal, Joanna Feng (馮喬蘭), executive director of the Humanistic Education Foundation, said she did not believe segregation was a solution for bullying at school.
“When you say you will segregate [offenders and victims], confrontation between them is created. In the case of bullying, each student involved needs to be taken care of and educated,” Feng said.
Junior high school counselor Cheng Chien-hua (鄭建華) said segregation would only give offenders more reasons to bully other students as it would exacerbate tensions between them.
“Instead of segregation, psychological counseling is more effective in changing the behavior [of offenders],” Cheng said.
If bullying is a factor in how the performance of school principals is assessed, school principals could actually become more reluctant to report cases for fear that this would hurt their evaluations, National Alliance of Parents Organization chairman Hsieh Kuo-ching (謝國清) said.
Minister of Education Wu Ching-chi (吳清基) is expected to call a meeting this week of the chiefs of 25 local governments’ education departments, officials from the Ministry of Justice and the National Police Agency to discuss the details of the draft law, Wang said.