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Japanese city to use AI to predict seriousness of school bullying

Otsu Mayor Naomi Koshi (Mainichi/Akiho Narimatsu)

OTSU, Japan (Kyodo) -- A western Japan city said Friday it plans to use artificial intelligence to predict the seriousness of suspected school bullying cases, in what will be the first such analysis by a municipality in the country.

"Through an AI theoretical analysis of past data, we will be able to properly respond to cases without just relying on teachers' past experiences," Otsu Mayor Naomi Koshi said regarding the planned analysis beginning from the next fiscal year starting April.

AI will be used to analyze 9,000 suspected bullying cases reported by elementary and junior high schools in the city over the six years through fiscal 2018. It will examine the school grade and gender of the suspected victims and perpetrators as well as when and where the incidents occurred.

Statistical analysis of the data is expected to help local authorities and teachers to identify forms of bullying that tend to escalate in seriousness and require particular attention, said the Otsu city education board in Shiga Prefecture.

The AI analysis will also look at other factors, such as school absenteeism and academic achievement, and the findings will be compiled into a report for use by teachers and in training seminars.

"Bullying may start from low-level friction in relationships but can get worse day by day. It is important to know which cases have a tendency to become serious," an official of the education board said.

The Otsu city education board came under fire over the handling of a bullying case involving a 13-year-old junior high school student, who jumped to his death from the condominium building where he lived in 2011.

The board initially found no connection between the suicide and bullying, but some students were later found to have stated in a school survey that the boy was told to "practice killing himself." An independent committee set up by the Otsu city government attributed the suicide to bullying in a report issued in 2013.

The case led Japan to enact a law the same year obliging schools to set guidelines to prevent bullying. In Otsu, schools are required to report all possible bullying cases to the city education board within 24 hours.

Elementary, junior and senior high schools in Japan reported more than 410,000 cases of bullying in fiscal 2017. Ten of the 250 students who committed suicide had been bullied at school, according to education ministry data.

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