A Chinese mother’s article describing how her 10-year-old son was bullied at school went viral on China’s social media recently, igniting concerns over school bullying across the nation. The school under spotlight is Zhongguancun Second Primary School, a renowned primary school in Haidian district of Beijing.
Screenshot of the mother's article on Weibo
In the article (link in Chinese), the mother said her fourth-grade son was thrown a toilet wastepaper basket at when he was in the bathroom by one of his classmates, striking him in the head. His son was also mocked by another classmate at the scene who laughed at him but did nothing to help. This has caused a mental illness characterized by severe anxiety to the boy, according to the mother’s article which was first published on a WeChat account called “Tong Xiang Bu Luo” (WeChat ID:LZM111111DNN) on December 8, and later reposted by the official Weibo account of People’s Daily, a state-owned newspaper, on December 10.
While the article has been read for far more than 100,000 times on WeChat, China’s largest chatting and networking app owned by Tencent, the one reposted by People’s Daily on Sina Weibo, the country’s largest social media platform and a Twitter-like microblogging service, has been read for over 5 million times as of Tuesday afternoon (Beijing time).
On Weibo, the hashtag of “Zhongguancun Second Primary School Bullying Case”, hosted by the Weibo account of People’s Daily, was viewed for over 150 million times as of Tuesday, and more than 48,000 users have commented on the topic. Another hashtag related to this case, “School Bullying,” hosted by Sina Breaking News, has also been viewed for nearly 20 million times.
The mother, who has argued with the school and the other boys’ parents after the incident, said in the article that the school described the case as a “joke that went too far,” and that the parents of the boy who threw the basket believed their son was “just being naughty.”
“A joke? Are you sure you are not kidding me?” the mother wrote in the article, referring to the teachers in the school.
She also wrote in the article that her four appeals to the school asking them to punish the bullies, protect her son from a second such incident, let the bullies’ parents apologize and bear her son’s medical cost have been rejected.
“As a mother, is a basic requirement to punish the bullies and protect my son unreasonable?” she asked.
In comments on Weibo, some people showed their concern over school bullying and even recalling their past memories of being bullied.
“Such an incident can really damage the psychological health of a kid, and it should be severely punished,” said @Mr______许.
“The school must handle this issue well, otherwise it can cause great harm to children. The mother’s helplessness can be sensed in every line, but we can only support you through our opinion,” said @烟台小山城ping果.
“I am a girl. Maybe they didn’t realize their excessive words and ugly behavior are bullying, but they did cause great harm to me. … I don’t understand why there are people who don’t understand the philosophy of being kind to others, and even regard bullying and shameless mocking as a joke,” said @卢万诺夫璐科娃温柔夫斯基.
In response, Zhongguancun Second Primary School issued a statement through its Weibo account on Saturday morning saying it has been communicating with parents on both sides, and called for the public to let the school handle the situation.
“The school has been actively talking with the relevant parents to solve the dispute objectively and fairly. Further effort will be made to achieve an outcome that is accepted by all parties,” the statement read, but did not mention if there was an incident of bullying.
Statement issued on Weibo by Zhongguancun Second Primary School on December 10. The date under the statement shows that the statement was first made on December 1. The father of the boy who was bullied, told Caixin the incident happened on November 24. Screenshot of Weibo
However, the school’s response was not enough to calm the Weibo users’ anger, but even intensified it.
Some think the statement was too official and can solve nothing.
“An indifferent, rigid, and arrogant official response. The only thing that is absent in the statement is a teacher’s concern and responsibility,” said @管鑫Sam.
“It is just because of such irresponsible attitude of the teacher that connives school bullying. Maybe this teacher should be given a ‘joke that went too far’,” remarked @淮水长.
While there are also some voices questioning the credibility of the mother’s article, the father of the boy who was bullied said in an interview with Caixin magazine on Sunday he and his wife will take full responsibility for their article.
On December 11 morning, the Beijing Municipal Education Commission said through its Weibo account that it will “pay high attention to and actively deal with this issue”, and will “find out and appropriately handle the problems.”
According to a report by researchers from the Institute of Child and Adolescent Health of Peking University, 66.1% of boys and 48% of girls have suffered from more than one type of “humiliation”, among which “malicious teasing” is most common “humiliating behavior”, and only 43.2% of the cases were reported, as quoted by news website The Paper.
Huang Zifang, a psychologist specializing in children's growth issues, was cited by the China Daily as saying the school should not brush off the incident as "a joke that went too far", but should find out the root cause of the incident in a timely manner and guide the children involved to face and handle the incident in a correct way.
In November, a guideline which aims to address the problem of bullying and student violence in primary and middle schools was released by nine government departments including the Ministry of Education, the Supreme People’s Court, and the Ministry of Public Security.
According to the guideline, schools are ordered to strengthen awareness of bullying, inform students about the consequences and teach them to protect themselves, while students with severe behavioral problems should be transferred to special schools appropriate to their needs, and in serious cases, the perpetrators should face administrative or criminal penalties.