Diet enacts law aimed at preventing bullying at schools

Japan's Diet on Friday enacted a law aimed at preventing bullying at elementary, junior high and senior high schools.

Members of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, its coalition partner, the New Komeito party, and some opposition parties including the Democratic Party of Japan voted for the bill at the day's plenary session of the House of Councillors, or the upper house. The more powerful House of Representatives has already passed the bill.

The legislation was established in the face of a series of serious cases of bullying, including a high-profile one in which a junior high school student killed himself in October 2011 in Otsu, the capital of Shiga Prefecture in western Japan, after being severely bullied.

The new law stipulates bullying that causes serious physical and mental damage to victimized children or forces them to be absent for long periods of time is defined as constituting a "serious case."

Under the law, elementary, junior high and senior high schools are required to report to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology as well as local governments if such serious cases are confirmed, while investigative panels should be set up under schools and education boards to examine the details and provide sufficient information to the victims.

The law also stipulates that the central and local governments need to closely monitor the Internet for online bullying and cooperate with police if bullying activity is considered criminal.

The father of the bullying victim in Otsu told a news conference that he hopes he would see a complete change in the way bullying is dealt with at schools through the implementation of this law.

Initially, the LDP and the New Komeito party jointly filed a bill, while three opposition parties -- the DPJ, the People's Life Party and the Social Democratic Party -- submitted a separate bill.

But the ruling and opposition parties later unified their bills, which were supported by two other opposition parties -- the Japan Restoration Party and the Your Party.

Members of the SDP, which participated in the ruling-opposition talks, and the Japanese Communist Party voted against the unified bill at the day's upper house plenary session.

The bullying victim in Otsu, who was a second grader at a municipal junior high school, committed suicide at his home on Oct. 11, 2011.

In a statement issued after the passage of the legislation, his relatives asked local government heads, boards of education, and school staffs not to overlook acts of bullying and to protect students from bullying.