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For a Better World Without School Violence and Bullying

In March, the past actions of school violence and bullying carried out by Ji-soo, a famous Korean actor, were revealed by his classmates and the victims. His past actions of violence gave a shock to his fans and the media. As the victims started to reveal their experiences on social network services (SNS), in the wave of the Me-Too movement, the issue of school violence and bullying is now spreading through the sports, entertainment, and public official fields. Due to this phenomenon, people are once again realizing the seriousness of this issue. Nowadays, school violence and bullying during this coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) era continues in subtle ways. The Sungkyun Times (SKT) would like to discuss the current state of school violence and bullying, the reasons for its continuation, and the potential ways to help put an end to it.

What is School Violence and Bullying?

The Area of School Violence and Case-Handling Procedures

School violence includes a wide range of areas. According to the Act of Prevention and Measures of School Violence, it consists of students’ actions such as assault, threats, insult, errands, and rape that occur in and out of schools. Cyberbullying, which includes sending and posting harmful or private information about someone that causes psychological damage such as humiliation, is also considered school violence. In the case of bullying, there is also the role of a bystander. Bystanders are not considered assailants, but they are required to immediately report to the school or related institution if they witness an incident of violence.

School Violence (bokjinews.com)

Case-handling procedures are divided into two sections. The first method is to report to a school agency such as the School Violence Countermeasures Committee (SVCC). Once school violence is reported, the school violence organization installed at a school has to investigate the case. As the organization recognizes the case like school violence, the SVCC decides the assailant’s corrective measures. The corrective measures include an apology, prohibition of contacting and threatening the victim, service at school or in society, the action of transferring schools, or possibly expulsion. The second method is to sue the assailant and let the Department of Justice resolve it through the criminal procedure. If the assailant is over 14 years old, they are eligible to both the juvenile law and the criminal law; if less than 14 years old, they are only applicable to juvenile law. Even though the assailant might receive corrective measures, they can still receive criminal punishment because the subject that gives the punishment is different.

The Recent Aspect of School Violence

Twice a year, the Ministry of Education (MOE) holds a survey for the students from grade four to grade twelve, which evaluates school violence and bullying. Compared to 2019, the number of violent school incidents reduced by 0.7% in 2020. However, looking at all the types in detail, cyberbullying has increased from 8.9% to 12.3%. Even though cyberbullying (12.3%) takes a smaller percentage compared to verbal violence (33.6%) and group bullying (26%), its increasing trend reveals that there should be appropriate measures made to prevent it.

Types of School Violence (moe.go.kr)

Additionally, there has been a rise in ‘silent’ school violence, which is different from physical violence, because it hurts the victim psychologically. According to Women News February 24th article, an elementary school teacher in Incheon stated that school violence nowadays is changing in a cunning way where victims will not be shown as victims on the outside. Many people only perceive physical violence as school violence, but verbal and emotional violence are also included. Even though students are not attending schools due to COVID-19, still, many victims are getting hurt – people should be aware that this issue is often going unnoticed.

Why Can’t School Violence be Eradicated?

Lack of Work Force

In 2011, a suicide case in Daegu occurred due to bullying aroused the seriousness of school violence, which further made the police force establish a new organization, School Police Officers (SPO). It began in June 2012 with 193 SPOs, and currently, in 2021, there are about 1,000 SPOs. However, this number is still insufficient to take care of all the school violence cases. SPOs are undergoing hard times in the field because they have a lot of work to do as each SPO has to handle about 12 schools. For example, for prevention activity, an SPO visits each school to meet teachers, identifies the present condition, and informs about the countermeasures of school violence. When school violence occurs, they have to participate in the SVCC to discuss the disciplinary actions for the assailant and protection method for the victim. This shows that an SPO covers all the work from prevention of school violence to guiding assailants and protecting victims. Besides these basic tasks, extra work is increasing as well. Ordinary police officers tend to assign work related to adolescents to SPOs, who know more about adolescents. As teenagers frequently visit Internet cafes and karaoke rooms due to COVID-19, SPOs are now also in charge of quarantine inspections. Since the original and extra tasks of SPOs are too extensive, they are complaining about a shortage of a work force.

School Police Officers (SPO) (yna.co.kr)

Schools’ Imperfect Actions Against School Violence

There can be many school problems because a school’s actions or attitude to prevent school violence is ineffective. First of all, some criticize that a school’s crackdown-focused action can be inefficient. According to Women News, a middle school teacher in Gangnam stated that education on preventing school violence has stopped giving warnings like “You should not be an assailant.” Even though there is an increase in the awareness of school violence due to the current Me-Too movement, the school still focuses on supervising assailants rather than preventing school violence. Secondly, when a survey on school violence conducted by the MOE is held, students do not fill out the survey honestly because they are afraid of being exposed. This is because even though the survey is done anonymously, assailants easily find out and bully the person who reported. Also, the school’s attitude of trying to resolve the school violence incident quickly for the school’s reputation is a severe problem. According to Maeil Business Newspaper, a victim who reported school violence to his teacher responded, “Why don’t you compromise and not host SVCC if possible?” Thus, students rely on judicial agencies rather than schools. Besides this, corrective measures that are given to the assailants by the school are feeble, so assailants cannot realize the seriousness and continue their actions. Corrective measures such as apologies, the prohibition of contact and threats to the victim, and service at schools or in societies are not recorded. Plus, if the principal recognizes the incident as a slight problem, then a SVCC cannot be hosted, meaning the assailant does not receive any punishment. Since the actions and prevention carried-out by the school are imperfect, school violence is not being eradicated.

Bullying at School (hankookilbo.com)

Ease of Accessibility Due to Growth of Media

Cases of cyberbullying have increased recently due to the development of media and the reduction of face-to-face contact among students. For instance, cyberbullying techniques such as “wifi errand boy,” an act of using free wifi through the victim’s phone, is arising as a new type of cyberbullying. Roh Yoon-ho, a lawyer of the law firm named Sawol, claims that recent assailants use media to torment victims; an example would be stealing an SNS account and selling it to a gambling website. Furthermore, webtoons that try to reform bullies and disorderly students could wrongly develop teenagers’ thoughts. When the disorderly students are illustrated as popular students, teenagers who are still emotionally immature might think that those actions are cool, which could lead them in the wrong direction. Therefore, from the use of advanced technology, many students engage in school violence in subtle ways, and some culture in media has a negative effect on teenagers.

Cyber Prison (lawyer-monthly.com)

No More School Violence!

Recruitment of Work Force

Suppose the tasks of SPOs are shared with other experts. In that case, the prevention of school violence and the management of students will run more effectively. Seung Jae-hyun, a researcher in the Korean Institute of Criminology (KIC), states that specialist areas should be divided; civilians and civil servants should be in charge of the protection area, and judicial authorities should be in charge of the punishment area. Also, Lee Ji-eun, a police officer working in the Gwangjin-gu police office, claims that SPOs should be in charge of fewer than 10 schools to work better. Therefore, the government must recruit more workers and divide the tasks accurately to work in a more organized and effective manner. However, since an education-related budget and workforce cannot be increased endlessly, finding workers who can be in charge of school violence among school workers could be another solution. It is the principal’s authority to exercise leadership through various methods. Thus, the principal can provide the necessary resources to prevent and handle school violence.

Significance of Education

The school and parents should focus on efficient educational measures. Cho Yeon-yong, a manager of Suncheon Youth Counseling Center, says that students have strong possibilities to be changed through the educational or social environment. Thus, the school has to pay more attention to prevent school violence and preferentially respect the victims’ rights and safety rather than trying to protect the school’s reputation. Also, the parents’ roles are very crucial as they are the role models of their child. Some parents of the assailants add secondary damage to the victims by saying that “My child is not that type of child who would harass others” and neglect the victim’s pain. Besides, the parents of the victims should prioritize protecting their child. However, some of them try to force their child not to meet their friends or transfer to another school. The guardians should be models for teenagers and educate their children to live in the right direction rather than avoiding the problem.

Education in School (hankyung.com)

Change in Perception

Generally, there should be a change in social perception of school violence and bullying. Even though victims need help from others more than anyone else, students other than the assailants shut their eyes because they are afraid of revenge. However, bystanders should change their perception with education to recognize how victims’ pain gets bigger without any help. Also, there should be education about how people with character flaws are unable to fit well into society even though they are intelligent and skillful. If the change in this social perception is processed, secondary abuse on the victims can be prevented. Lastly, society can use social media efficiently to help the shift in perception. There should be an inspection on webtoons that portray assailants as heroic figures. Furthermore, since students have easy access to media, media could be used to hold and promote school violence prevention campaigns.

Preventing School Violence (confidentparentsconfidentkids.org)

The Me-Too Movement of school violence is processing currently, and a new trend of cyberbullying is increasing. School violence is not only a problem for students. To stop this cruel issue, the whole society needs to help. Through the cooperation between the students and the individuals in society, the SKT hopes that the term “school violence” is heard less and less.

이혜준  hj928123@naver.com

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