According to recently released official data, in 2021, the number of arrests and prosecutions for crimes related to school bullying and violence on campuses in China fell by 86% and 82% respectively, showing a continued decline in these crimes. The decrease shows that the extensive attention and response to school bullying by the government and the public are making a difference.
School bullying is a social problem affecting many children and adolescents around the world. According to UNESCO, 246 million children and adolescents experience school violence and bullying in some form every year.
I myself was a victim of school bullying. When I was in middle school, a small group headed by one or two classmates would often verbally abuse and spread rumors about me. On several occasions, I found my textbooks and schoolbag lying on the floor when I returned from lunch. Some even painted insulting words on my desk. However, when I tried to explain to my teachers and parents what had happened, I realized that each of these incidents alone seemed trivial, and no one really understood my situation.
In my view, school bullying is often covert, and due to social and cultural factors in China, such misdeeds are especially hard to notice, and humiliation is more common than violence. In the past, schools and families didn’t pay enough attention to the psychological development of adolescents and failed to provide sufficient education on the matter. They also lacked knowledge and experience on how to tackle bullying.
But things are changing. Over the past decade, China has introduced a series of targeted measures to address these problems based on the specific characteristics of school bullying.
In April 2016, China announced its first steps to preventing and controlling school bullying at the national level, and the Law on the Protection of Minors and the Law on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency were amended in 2020. These laws incorporated the concept of school bullying, clarified the responsibilities of schools and families in developing students’ psychological health and preventing school bullying, and stipulated early intervention, graded prevention and the correction of misbehavior. In addition, primary and secondary schools in China now appoint judicial officers as vice principals in charge of law-related affairs to ensure that all infringements to minors’ rights and interests are reported.
Of course, there is still a long way to go to eradicate bullying from schools. However, through improvements to the legal system, transformations in the educational philosophy, increased social equality, and the greater importance that the whole of society attaches to understanding, respecting and caring for children and teenagers — visible changes have taken place. As such, solid steps are being taken to better protect minors.
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