Although Taiwan recorded more than 800 cases of school bullying last year, the problem may even be more serious than the number indicates because schools often ignore cyberbullying and emotional abuse, a Ministry of Education official said yesterday.
The ministry broadened the definition of school bullying earlier this week to tackle the issue. It required schools to report any cases of continuous physical, verbal or psychological aggression by an individual or a group against others or to report behavior that affected other students’ performance or created an unfriendly or even hostile atmosphere on campus. The schools were also asked to form a task force to handle bullying cases within three days after reporting them to the ministry.
Of the 855 cases recorded last year, the majority of reports involved physical abuse because they were easier to identify, Hsu Wen-chuan (許文娟), an official at the ministry’s Department of Military Training Education, said yesterday. In contrast, cases of cyberbullying were often neglected because the victims did not have apparent physical wounds, she said, and when teachers finally realized what was happening, the victims were already on the verge of having a nervous breakdown.
Emotional abuse is common among schoolchildren, she added, and teachers, parents and students themselves should help uncover it and offer more assistance to the victims. Improving social welfare in the country is also important because the majority of school bullying targets come from disadvantaged families, Hsu said.
Joyce Tseng (曾清芸), executive director of the King Car Education Foundation, said that if students who engage in cyberbullying are not counseled or reprimanded, they may not know that their behavior is inappropriate and may even feel it is supported and permitted.