Taichung’s Feng Yuan Senior High School submitted an investigation report to Education Bureau on Tuesday, stating that its staff members’ behaviors did not constitute to “bullying” the 11th grade student who committed suicide allegedly due to “inappropriate discipline” from teachers and senior officials.

After Taichung Education Bureau issued a statement to reject the report yesterday, members of the local NGO “Humanistic Education Foundation”, today at a press conference, slammed the school’s report as “completely unacceptable”, asserting that the report confused the concept of “bullying” and has led to an unjust judgment of the suicide case. 

On February 18, an 11th grade student at Taichung’s Feng Yuan Senior High School killed himself, after months of “unreasonable punishment” from the teachers and senior officials, including being checked for bags and framed for deeds that he did not commit, alleged by his father.

In March, Taichung Education Bureau rotated seven school staff members involved in the case to other positions for further investigations, and suspended the school’s director of student affairs for three months, with the suspension period expected to end on August 31th. 

As stated by the first report submitted by the school in April, it concluded that four staff members, including the director of student affairs, have penalized the student with “inappropriate discipline”, causing the “physical and mental turmoil” of the student.

However, the second report submitted this Tuesday, concluded that the senior officials and teachers’ actions did not constitute to “bullying the student”, stating that “inappropriate discipline” does not fall into the definition of “bullying” set out by the Ministry of Education, and therefore, the suspension of the director’s seat would not be extended after 31th.

Under the Ministry of Education’s “Regulations Governing Prevention and Control of Bullying on Campuses,” “bullying” is defined as any situation in which “a person or group of people use speech, writing, images, signs, physical gestures, electronic communications, the internet or other means to directly or indirectly belittle, exclude, mistreat, harass or tease another person.”

Responding to the school, Taichung Education Bureau issued a hard-worded statement to oppose and reject its report yesterday, stating that the student was “inappropriately penalized” for over one and a half year, which already constitutes to “bullying”. The bureau also said that the director of student affairs, only receiving a demerit record from school, “was not proportionately accounted for her deeds.”

The Humanistic Education Foundation followed up by summoning a press conference today, emphasizing that they found the school's investigation report “completely unacceptable”. The father of the victimized student, legislator Zhang Liao-Wanjian, city councilors Zhang Jia'an also attended to express their disregard for the school’s report.

The Foundation debunked a major flaw in the investigation report, which was the mistaken belief that “as long as there is the intention of counseling and discipline, there is no possibility of belittlement, exclusion, bullying, harassment, or teasing.” 

The Foundation believed that the inappropriate issuance of multiple demerits by the director of student affairs, constant monitoring, and demanding urine tests - were all signs of abusing power, which could not be considered as “disciplinary actions” at all. Instead, they were "acts of belittlement and bullying under the guise of counseling and discipline.”

The Foundation also criticized the school’s report of categorizing the victim's experiences by assigning them numbers, from serial number 1 to 22, and then individually determined whether each qualified as “bullying” behavior. The Foundation emphasized that each harmful behavior had accumulated up to cause pain and “entrap the victimized student in an inescapable situation.”

The school’s investigation group also distributed questionnaires randomly in the victimized student's class and the entire grade to determine whether the student had been bullied. They believed that this could objectively examine the disciplinary habits of the school personnel.

The Foundation argued that teacher bullying is a targeted behavior with specific victims and may not affect all students. Even if a questionnaire indicates that the disciplinary habits of the director of student affairs are reasonable, it cannot be inferred from this alone that his disciplinary actions towards the victimized student were reasonable and not intentionally punitive.

The Taichung Education Bureau will also follow Article 26 of the “Teacher Act” to refer the entire case to the county/city government’s Teacher Professional Review Committee (Review Committee) for deliberation, to re-evaluate whether the director of student affairs of Feng Yuan Senior High School involves situations specified in the “Teacher Act” that warrant suspension, dismissal, or non-renewal. 

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TNL Editor: Kim Chan (@thenewslensintl)

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