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School not police should handle bullying

Expert says legal action undermines the school's authority

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

August 3, 2012

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A child protection official said yesterday that a recent school bullying case should be handled by the school itself, not the legal system. This follows the public naming of seven senior students by Jakarta police, who say they are suspects in the alleged bullying of several younger boys. One of them said he and three other students were burned with lit cigarettes, threatened with knives and forced to drink beer during a school orientation session on July 24. Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection, said legal proceedings might undermine the school’s responsibility and authority. “The case must not be brought to court," he told, "or there will be an impression that the school has nothing to do with it.” However, Jakarta police spokesman Rikwanto contends that it is not clear where the incident took place, with some saying it happened off school grounds. Rikwanto added that no decision had yet been made on whether to detain the suspects or require them to report regularly to authorities. Sirait believes the school should proactively call a mediation meeting. “It can call all victims and suspects to get together with the police as mediators," he said. "There is no need to use the penal code." Franciscan Father Vinsensius Darmin Mbula of the National Council of Catholic Education said the orientation program at which the alleged bullying took place was an effective way to prepare new students for high school studies, but it requires better supervision. “The problem is that the school orientation program is arranged by senior students without monitoring from teachers. Abuses can happen,” he said. Around 139 cases of bullying were reported nationwide by students last year, according to data compiled by the Commission. Thirty-six cases have been reported so far this year.
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