Fri, Dec 24, 2010 - Page 2 News List

School violence is rising: report

ESCALATION:There were 57 reported cases of violence or abuse between students and teachers at junior and senior high schools last year. Five years ago, there were 15

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporter

Minister of Education Wu Ching-ji holds up a document with the headline “The legal responsibilities of students” as he speaks during a press conference yesterday on proposals for preventing schoolyard bullying.

PHOTO: CNA

Incidents of violence, parental neglect and aggression involving teachers and students appear to have grown significantly last year and reflect a five-year upward trend, Ministry of Education schoolyard safety reports say.

Reports obtained by the Taipei Times showed that violent incidents, including cases related to bullying, rose 36 percent last year. Overall, schools across the nation reported 2,703 cases of violence during the year, with 47 percent occurring in high schools and 34 percent at junior high schools, the reports said.

The reports showed clashes between teachers, students or parents grew 37 percent with 285 cases reported last year, compared with 208 the previous year. Those incidents were again mostly concentrated in high schools and junior high schools, together accounting for more than 69 percent of reported cases.

Of this figure, 57 included cases of violence or serious abuse between students and educators, the reports said.

The number of reported cases five years ago was 15.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), who sits on the Education and Culture Committee, attributed the increase to lax enforcement by local governments and school officials, exemplified by a recent controversy at Bade Junior High School in Taoyuan County.

Wu Chia-ku (於家穀), the school’s former principal, was suspended on Tuesday, after a petition from more than 60 teachers at the school accused her of turning a blind eye to rampant bullying and abuse. Over the past year, students had gone as far as to threaten teachers with guns, the petitioners said.

Senior ministry officials “tried to complicate the issue and dodge responsibility” following the incident, Kuan said, pointing to comments made by Minister of Education Wu Ching-ji (吳清基) on Tuesday to the effect that bullying was a “small matter” as he addressed students at the school.

“Making those remarks when figures suggest [otherwise] gives us the impression that he is … out of the loop,” Kuan said. “We should be treating schoolyard bullying as a matter of great concern.”

Problematic behavior addressed in the reports includes gang-related beatings in schoolyards, alleged shootings and armed robbery. Nine high school students were suspected of murder over the year, the report for last year said, although official charges didn’t appear to have been finalized.

The reports recorded an increase of 58 cases in the number of fights involving high school students last year, bringing the total to 375, two more than the number recorded by junior high school officials. Also, 378 high school and junior high school students were suspected of taking drugs on school grounds.

On Wednesday, a poll showed that 40.2 percent of all students had witnessed violent incidents at school.

Scrambling to contain the fallout, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday said all bullying cases should be prosecuted equally under the law.

While the ministry has insisted it spends as much as NT$182 million (US$6.09 million) a year ensuring safe school environments, documents provided by Kuan showed the majority of the funds was spent on school safety certification and an anti-bullying Web site.

The remainder amounted to less than NT$6 million, she said.

The anti-bullying Web site (www.peacefulschool.org) is severely lacking in information, containing a short three-line paragraph underneath “Understanding Bullying” and blank spaces elsewhere.

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