Thu, Dec 23, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Calls for minister’s resignation over bullying comment

By Flora Wang and Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporters

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Kuo Su-chun holds up a placard saying “No Bullying” in the legislature yesterday. Kuo has proposed a draft law obliging government branches, schools and parents to join efforts to prevent bullying.

PHOTO: CNA

Facing calls for his resignation, an embattled Minister of Education Wu Ching-ji (吳清基) yesterday apologized after making comments that were interpreted as playing down the problem of bullying at school.

Wu caused controversy during a speech at Bade Junior High School in Taoyuan County on Tuesday, in which he said that “many unimportant things” have taken place at the school recently.

Wu was paying a surprise visit to the school after 64 of its teachers launched a signature campaign demanding that school principal Wu Chia-ku (於家穀) be replaced for allegedly turning a blind eye to bullying on campus.

Teachers and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) showed reporters a video clip at a press conference on Tuesday in which several students were seen cursing their teacher for correcting them and threatening to shoot the teacher.

The teachers said that bullying had become rampant at the school over the past year and the principal had failed to resolve the matter.

“I did not know the remark was inappropriate. I feel very sorry for that,” Wu Ching-ji said on the sidelines of an Education and Culture Committee meeting at the legislature.

“I take bullying seriously, not as something unimportant,” he said.

“However, teachers and students at the school would have been very upset if I had said that many unforgivable mistakes were made at the school. Ninety-nine point nine, nine, nine percent of the school’s teachers and students have been behaving, while maybe only 0.001 percent have done anything wrong,” Wu Ching-ji said.

His remarks came after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) called for his resignation.

“Wu needs to step down and apologize,” DPP Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) told a press conference. “This is not just an issue of schoolyard safety, but a problem of gang-related influence creeping into our education system.”

“The Ministry of Education does not care about bullying; that is why Wu said bullying was a small matter,” DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) said.

The seriousness of the problem at Bade Junior High School prompted Taoyuan County Commissioner John Wu (吳志揚) on Tuesday to suspend the principal pending an investigation, while a school principal review board at the county government decided to transfer Yu to the county’s education department.

Acting principal Tai Chin-ming (戴進明) took over yesterday and promised to implement a zero-tolerance policy with regards to bullying.

The incidents appeared to have re-ignited the debate on how involved the government should be when it comes to schoolyard safety.

DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Bade Junior High School should not be treated as an isolated incident.

“In this case, we see a minister of education who believes bullying is a small matter and a county commissioner who believes it has been hyped by the media,” Tsai said. “Meanwhile, the principal pretends everything is OK and we also have the police, which threw out the case.”

Saying government officials should take political responsibility, Tsai added that the incident had its root causes in the lax attitude taken by school and government authorities.

Government agencies should work more actively to establish counseling services at junior high schools, staffed by trained specialists, she said.

Funding should come from the central government to create a more comprehensive approach to bullying, she said.

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