Mingming (pseudonym) went to the restroom during a class break, and his fellow students Liangliang (pseudonym) and Junjun (pseudonym) followed close behind. Once Mingming was inside the toilet stall, Liangliang emptied a trashcan full of used toilet paper and feces on his head while Junjun ridiculed him.

This disgusting attack at Beijing’s Zhongguancun No. 2 Primary School has renewed public interest in the problem of bullying in Chinese schools.

China’s educators have yet to develop a uniform approach to bullying, and punishments vary with the ages of the parties involved.

A middle school teacher in Zhuozhou, Heibei province was condemned on social media for slapping a student in front of the class. In this case, the school rose to his defense, saying educators reserved the right to employ corporal punishment and the student was disrespectful, often arriving to class 30 minutes late.

Several years ago, a group of Chinese students who were studying abroad in the US began masquerading as “Chinese law enforcement,” wearing the uniforms of municipal inspectors, chengguan, and bludgeoning one student until he was left in a coma.

Li Menglong and Li Yan, two of students who were involved in the incident, were charged with intentional injury. Among their victims, one required 11 stitches to close a wound left by repeated blows to the head.

Attitudes of the Schools

In all three cases, the schools had a disciplinary responsibility to respond to their students’ dangerous behavior.

But in the case of bullying at Beijing Zhongguancun No. 2 Primary School, the director said no one was “bullied” on campus – the students merely made a mistake.

“Clearly there was some misbehavior by the students, but we do not consider this incident to be a case of campus violence,” a spokesperson for the school said.

But Zhuozhou Vocational Educational Center, the middle school in Heibei province, took student behavior more seriously.

“He deserved corporal punishment,” said a teacher at the school who would not be named. “That student was terribly unmannered. The teacher used an extreme method to educate him.”

Things are not so simple when campus violence happens abroad.

Although the educational systems in US and China are very different, schools and justice departments share a common interest in preventing and punishing campus violence.

In the case of the beating in the US, the university said the possibility of gang violence on campus required no further response and passed the case to local law enforcement. Police decided to pursue criminal charges since the students involved were adults.

In the end, the court sentenced “gang leader” Li Menglong to 4 years and 93 days in prison. Li Yan, one of the other attackers, was repatriated to China.

Family Situation to Blame

School violence often grows out of a poor family situation, said Yao Jianglong, president of the Chinese Society for Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Research in Shanghai. One of students involved in the incident at Zhongguancun No. 2 School comes from a single-mother household.

The student’s mother went to the school with her sister to ask for help, but the school asked her to return alone. “I wanted someone to be there with me since the child’s father is not around,” she said.

That help never came.

At Zhuozhou Vocational Educational Center, the student’s parents had effectively “abandoned” him in terms of education. The parents took an indifferent attitude toward their son and said they assumed the slap was well deserved.

The students who were abroad in the US were similarly abandoned. Their parents gave them large sums of money to buy luxury cars and designer clothes but paid no attention to their lives until the police became involved.

Yao said campus violence and school bullying are on the decline. “That’s a good sign. The data doesn’t show any increase in bullying events,” he said.

“To prevent and solve bullying – family education is the key,” Yao said. “Bulling behavior is usually a sign of family problems. Parents are the only ones who can stop the bullies from acting out again.”

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