An anti-bullying campaign hoping to create a friendlier learning environment for students was launched yesterday at elementary and junior high schools nationwide.
Education officials and local leaders participated in the campaign, part of the “friendly school campus week” initiated by the Ministry of Education to coincide with the first week of the spring semester.
Vice Minister of Education Chen Yi-hsing (陳益興) and Taipei City Department of Education Commissioner Kang Tzong-huu (康宗虎) took part in a “friendly school campus week” rally at Taipei Municipal Lanya Junior High School.
Chen said the ministry wanted to use the campaign to enhance anti-bullying, anti-gangster and anti-drug awareness at schools.
“We hope students can learn about school bullying and how to deal with it to help them respect themselves and others and to create a superior school environment that is safe and friendly,” Chen said.
Reporters questioned whether a campaign of slogans and skits could achieve the desired effect, but Chen said that action would only be taken when a consensus was formed and that “awareness is the first step in education.”
Chen and Kang also signed a big “anti-bullying” poster showing the palm prints of the school’s faculty and students.
New Taipei City (新北市) Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) led education officials and senior police officers in wearing a pink scarf to demonstrate their resolve to fight the phenomenon.
“Pink is a warm color and wearing a pink scarf symbolizes greater warmth and peace on school campuses,” Chu said, adding that the campaign was not a short-lived fad, but one that required persistent concern and effort.
He said his city’s approach would stress character education and vigilance against even minor bullying incidents.
Greater Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) said there was no room for bullying at schools and he urged students to make use of hotlines set up to help them.
He said that if students were aware of any instances of bullying, they could help handle them, alert teachers, or dial the 113 or 1999 hotlines to enlist the help of professionals.
Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), speaking at a junior high school rally, said counseling centers had been set up at all elementary and junior high schools in the municipality, which has published anti-bullying handbooks to spread the message.
Chen Chu will share the city’s experience in fighting the behavior at a national meeting on Monday next week. However, she also called for an increase in the number of counselors at schools and urged the ministry to devote greater attention to the problem.
Meanwhile, Taoyuan County’s Bade Junior High School, where public outrage over the issue was triggered late last year after its principal was found to have deliberately ignored a string of bullying incidents, also took part in the campaign.
The school’s acting principal, Tai Chin-ming (戴進明), led 1,800 students and teachers pledging that they would “show concern for students, respect teachers, be filial to parents and abide by school regulations with passion.”
The ministry originally planned to send an official to take part in the event, but because county officials opposed singling out the school, the ministry backed off its plan out of respect.
The scandal at Bade Junior High School focused renewed attention on the problem, which a recent survey indicated is widespread.