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10,000 middle school students are bullied every year: MOE

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Around 2 percent of middle school students nationwide were reportedly bullied last year, a decrease from the 7 percent a year before although the number of unreported cases remains a huge problem, according to the results of the Life Questionnaire administered by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and released yesterday.

Despite the lowered numbers, roughly 950,000 middle school students nationwide, the 2 percent still accounts for over 10,000 people. The MOE said most middle schools have less than a dozen incidences of bullying reported per year, showing a huge discrepancy with their findings and betraying the number of cases that go unreported.

A prime case in point is the vicious schoolyard bullying of a female middle school student in Taoyuan County who was forced to strip and pose naked for pictures. Many students witnessed the abuse yet no one reported it to school authorities. The victim told her parents on Dec. 6, who took matters in their own hands and made the case public.

According to results of the Life Questionnaire, while bullying exists on all educational levels, middle school students make up the bulk of most cases. Wang Fu-lin, director of the MOE's Department of Military Training Education, said the discrepancy between reported cases and the questionnaire's numbers is one of the main issues that need to be tackled.

Wang said that a meeting was to be held within the week with the education department heads of 25 cities and counties as well as experts and scholars discussing the issue of schoolyard bullying.

Among the topics discussed would be the role of the educational institution and its administration. If schools fail to address the issue or are discovered to have turned a blind eye to the abuse, both the principal and faculty members will be punished, Wang said.

Other topics on which the meeting will focus are counseling, social support groups and the role of the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Police Brigade as well as any other outside support groups the different schools see fit, he added.

The MOE has currently identified four distinct elements of bullying that schools should be on high alert against: an imbalance of power, ongoing and persistent humiliation, deliberate intention to cause harm and the resulting physical and psychological trauma in the victims.

Wang urged different institutions to be more aware of such cases as they serve as the frontline in recognizing the abuse. He added that the ministry would increase its anti-bullying promotion to raise awareness.

The MOE announced Sunday that it is currently considering a new anti-bullying law that might include forcibly isolating bullies.

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