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September 27, 2017

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MOE planning new anti-bullying law for schools

TAIPEI, Taiwan — To prevent and reduce incidences of schoolyard bullying, the Ministry of Education (MOE) is considering a new anti-bullying law that might include forcibly isolating bullies.

A vicious case of schoolyard bullying in Taoyuan County — where a female middle school student was forced to strip and pose naked for pictures — reported on Dec. 6 caused public furor and prompted the MOE to meet with the education department heads of 25 cities and counties to push for a new "schoolyard bullying prevention law."

MOE Administrative Deputy Minister Wu Tsai-shung said the ministry has gathered research on the topic of bullying from all over the world, looking up related laws in Sweden and the U.S. for reference. Wu said an action of particular note and consideration is the forceful isolation of bullies.

To implement effective prevention methods, the MOE will focus on increasing the awareness of schoolyard abuse through promotion and prevention campaigns while instilling a system of intervention and guidance to spotting important indicators of abusive behavior.

If any county or city fails to fully implement the new initiatives, the central government may reduce the amount of subsidy allotted to the local education departments, the MOE said.

Minister of Education Wu Ching-ji will hold another meeting next week with the education departments of 25 counties and cities to try and reach a consensus regarding bullying prevention, after which the education minister will write an open letter to the principals of the nation's schools to address the seriousness of schoolyard bullying.

The MOE is also looking to the bullying laws and policies of countries overseas for guidance and reference. It has researched and collected information from 15 countries.

Deputy Minister Wu said the "anti-bullying law" will be similar to that of sexual assault prevention methods in terms of follow-up and prevention methods in schools. The current law only targets the harm caused by bullying and proceeding with the necessary criminal procedures. Whether the perpetrators should be placed in "forced isolation" as considered will not be decided until the next drafting.

In addition, the MOE plans to implement a student questionnaire every semester for schools across the nation. Each semester, students will be required to fill out a "life questionnaire" that aims to identify suspected incidences of bullying. Another proposal is for schools to set up a bullying hotline for students in need of emergency assistance.

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