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Opinion

Culture and Education

A Firm Stance against Vicious Bullying
- Multi-Agency Interaction to Protect Children from Crime

Masaoki Ishikawa
Director, Waseda Institute of the Policy of Social Safety and Professor, Faculty of Law, Waseda University
Areas of specialization: Criminal Policy, Juvenile Law

I specialize in criminal policy and juvenile law. I would therefore like to say first of all that the points below are raised solely from the viewpoint of my fields of specialization. Secondly, for some years I have collaborated with researchers at the Waseda Institute of the Policy of Social Safety and, under the theme of "Advocating a model of multi-agency interaction to protect children from crime", have sought a model for agency interaction in order to suitably and effectively prevent the creation of victimizers and victims (which of course includes bullying) at mainly at junior high schools. There is also the mechanism of agency interaction possibly helping to prevent bullying, a point which I would like to touch upon later.

In 2006 the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) revised its definition of bullying as "when a schoolchild feels mental stress as a result of being psychologically or physically attacked by another person with whom he or she has a personal relationship. The revision of this definition itself takes the side of the victim, which is a good thing. But even within this definition of bullying, there actually exist various patterns of conduct. From the perspective of criminal law, as seen in the bullying suicide in Otsu City, bullying can become subject to a police investigation or inquiries as a serious crime (if the perpetrator is 14 years old or more) or unlawful act (if the perpetrator is less than 14 years old).

I think that schools, our educational institutions, should do what they can to avoid invoking definitions of "crime" and "unlawful act". But schools are places not for only academic study but also for learning the basic rules of society. They need to take a firm stance against vicious and serious acts of violence and, if the problem appears too difficult to resolve internally, to seek advice and help from the police, an institution that specializes in dealing with crime.

There has been no evident decline in the number of child suicide cases thought to be bullying related since MEXT revised its definition of bullying (Figure 1). Among these, there are cases, like the bullying suicide in Otsu City, in which the police have launched inquiries or investigations into criminal or unlawful acts. The importance of probing for the truth after the fact goes without saying, but wasn't there a suitable and effective way of stopping the bullies before their victims took their own lives?

Figure 1 Number of suicides by children suffering from bullying
  Elementary school
pupils
Junior high school
pupils
High school
pupils
Total
2006 0 5 1 6
2007 0 1 5 6
2008 0 1 2 3
2009 0 1 1 2
2010 0 4 0 4
Note: Survey of public and private elementary, junior high and high schools
(From MEXT's website: A survey into issues with pupil guidance such as problematic behavior of children)

There is no panacea or quick remedy for this. But there are things that could be worth examining as potentially helpful mechanisms of agency interaction.

Firstly, there is a mechanism called the "School-Police Liaison System" run by Kanagawa Prefectural Police Headquarters and Yokohama City Board of Education. Based on an agreement between the two organizations, this is a system aimed at the sound upbringing of children in which schools and the police notify one another of information relating to children with problems such as juvenile delinquents. In Yokohama City, information is actively passed between the two institutions (Figure 2-1) while at the same time the number of incidents of violence etc. occurring within junior high schools has decreased (Figure 2-2).

Figure 2-1 Number of provision of information related to agreement between Kanagawa Prefectural Police Headquarters and Yokohama City Board of Education
  Sent from junior high school to police Sent from police to junior high school
2004 1 8
2005 4 37
2006 33 26
2007 47 50
2008 44 61
2009 115 103
Sub-total 244 285
Total 529
Note: Created using data from Kanagawa Prefectural Police
Figure 2-2 Number of incidents of violent behavior in junior high schools in Yokohama City
  2007 2008 2009 2010 Fluctuation Fluctuation rate
No. of incidents of violence against teachers 313 361 393 258 -135 -34.40%
No. of incidents of violence between pupils 1,232 1,334 1,439 1,300 -139 -9.70%
No. of incidents of destruction of property 883 1,070 907 579 -328 -36.20%
Total no. of incidents of violence 2,464 2,826 2,755 2,174 -581 -21.10%
Note: Created using data from Yokohama City Board of Education's Human Rights Education and Student Affairs Division. "Total no. of incidents of violence" includes acts of violence against people other than the teachers and pupils of the junior high schools concerned.

This system is operated by police headquarters in all prefectures in Japan, but few have had such positive results as Yokohama City. Although there is insufficient space here to analyze the factors of Yokohama's success in detail, I would like to mention just one thing, which is the fulfillment of the Juvenile Advisory and Protection Center(so-called "Juvenile Soport Center")in the Kanagawa Pref. Police set up by the Juvenile Support Division of Kanagawa Prefectural Police Headquarters (called a juvenile support center under juvenile policing regulations(*i)).

Secondly, there is the "Tri-agency Joint Liaison System" adopted by Kitakyushu City in 2004. One feature of this is the physical presence of the Child Consultation Center, the Juvenile Support Center, and the Juvenile Support Team of the Board of Education Guidance Division No.2, all three of which have offices on the same floor (5F) of the Wel Tobata building. Another feature is the exchange of personnel between the above three agencies through employment of practicing and retired teachers and retired police officers (Figure 3-1). These two features enable the sharing of information between the three agencies and quick and accurate interaction.

Figure 3-1 Personnel exchanges in Kitakyushu City (as of March 15, 2012)
  Deployed On loan Retirees employed
From Board of Education to Child Consultation Center 0 10 7
From Board of Education to police 1 0 0
From police to Board of Education 0 0 3
From police to Child Consultation Center 0 0 4
Note 1: In Kitakyushu, although the Child Consultation Center Division is set up within the Central Children's Counseling & Guidance Center, the number shown here is the for the Center as a whole.
Note 2: Personnel exchange between government agencies can take the form of deployment or loan. Deployment means keeping one's position in one's original agency while becoming an employee of another agency. It is also called having concurrent positions. Such employees are affiliated to both agencies and so as a general rule an agreement is made on matters such as working hours, work instructions, procedures under the Public Service Act, and payment of salary and expenses. Such people remain employees of the dispatching agency and are therefore included in the number of regular personnel of that agency unless provisions are made otherwise. In contrast, being on loan means becoming an employee of a new agency while ceasing to be an employee of one's original agency. Such employees receive their salary etc. as well as orders and supervision as employees of the new agency. Because they are no longer employed by their original agency, they are not included in that agency's number of regular personnel but are included in the number of regular personnel of their new agency.
Figure 3-2 Trends in numbers of juveniles subject to arrest or guidance for solvent abuse in Kitakyushu City (1996-2010)
Note: Created based on data provided by Fukuoka Prefectural Police Headquarters

A workplace where employees from different systems of command, that is, teachers, police officers, and child consultation center staff, work alongside each other could potentially do more harm if not run properly. On the other hand, it also stands a good chance of being an effective means of preventing the creation of juvenile victimizers and victims(*ii).

Finally, I would like to repeat one point.

Schools are places not for only academic study but also for learning the basic rules of society. They need to take a firm stance against vicious and serious acts of violence and, if the problem appears too difficult to resolve internally, to seek advice and help from the police, an institution that specializes in dealing with crime.

Most people's image of the police is probably of an investigative team of police officers responding to incidents as they occur but, as I've already mentioned, the police also have juvenile support centers which take a softer approach, focusing more on a public welfare casework kind of intervention. It is my hope that the police will further reinforce this function and that schools will seek ways to liaise on a daily basis with these juvenile support centers.

*i These centers are composed mainly of juvenile guidance officers who conduct juvenile consultations, continuous guidance and recovery support, guidance activities on the street, publicized educational activities, etc. Simply put, they are police divisions that can easily form liaisons with schools or child consultation centers which prefer to avoid authoritarian intervention as soon as a crime or unlawful act is committed, as they take the soft approach of a public welfare casework kind of intervention rather than the hard approach of an investigations division dealing with incidents as they occur. As of April 1, 2011, there were 197 such centers nationwide, of which 68 were located outside police facilities.

*ii Although not about bullying, the reduced number of cases of arrest and guidance for inhaling solvents in Kitakyushu City since the adoption of the "Tri-agency Joint Liaison System" is worthy of note. (Figure 3-2).

Masaoki Ishikawa
Director, Waseda Institute of the Policy of Social Safety and Professor, Faculty of Law, Waseda University
Areas of specialization: Criminal Policy, Juvenile Law

[Profile]
He graduated from Waseda University School of Law and obtained credits from Waseda University Graduate School of Law before withdrawing. He then became a professor on the Faculty of Law at Waseda University. He is Director of the Waseda Institute of the Policy of Social Safety. His areas of specialization are criminal policy and juvenile law. His main research themes are the ideology of criminal reform and social rehabilitation, and systems of legislative response to juvenile delinquents.

[Outline of work, overseas residencies etc.]
Chairperson of the China-Japan Criminology Academic Meeting, Chairperson of the Kanagawa Prefecture Research Committee on the Regional Cooperation, Member of the Japan Correctional Association's Criminal Policy Discussion Group
Member of the Chiba City Juvenile Problem Convention
[Main publications]
Juvenile Delinquency and the Law [Shonen hikou to hou] (Seibundo); An Approach to Criminology [Hanzaigaku e no apuroochi] (Seibundo); Lectures on Contemporary Law: General Theory on Criminal Law [Gendaihou kougi · Keihou souron] (Seirin Shoin); A Basic Course on Criminal Law, Volume 1 Basic Theory / Punishment Suspension System [Keihou kihon kouza "Dai Ikkan" Kiso riron / "Kei no shikkou yuuyo seido"] (Hougaku Shoin)