"I Am Not Scared" Project
Verbal and physical aggressions on a teenager during several years by a group of people (young and adult people)
When and how the event started, how the school detected it.
During the school year 2006-2007, Sylvie had to achieve a group work with another pupil of her class, Anita. Anita had gone at Sylvie’s place to tell her that she did not want to do the work with her.
Sylvie’s sister had encouraged her to carry out the work alone and to say it to the teacher.
The day of the work presentation, Anita directly said the teacher that Sylvie had not made the work. Sylvie wanted to explain the situation but the teacher stopped her and gave her a bad mark (zero score).
Then Sylvie went out the classroom and spoke with her referent educator who said her to go back to the classroom and to explain to her teacher the situation. That is what Sylvie did and she could present her work.
Following this event, Anita felt resentment. Sylvie received death threats from one of Anita’s brothers. He threatened to wait for her to come out of the school.
In reaction to these events, Sylvie’s elder sister got in touch with Anita’s parents.
Anita’s father proposed a meeting at Sylvie’s place. Sylvie, her sister and their mother agreed.
At the time of this meeting, Anita admitted that she had not been really correct with Sylvie and she committed herself to make an effort. The problem seemed to be solved.
At the end of the school year 2006-2007, Sylvie had to realise a work with another pupil, Julie. Julie had gathered documents and, together with Sylvie, they had made a summary. Then Julie wanted Sylvie to typewrite the whole work.
Sylvie’s sister thought that it was not fair. And she encouraged her to achieve the work alone and to say it to her teacher. That is what Sylvie did.
Following this new problem, Anita and Julie, who were apparently not really close, started to spend a lot of time together and to become allied to harm Sylvie.
During the two next school years, bullying against Sylvie took the following forms :
- Pact between Anita and other pupils in order to set them against Sylvie, in particular by spreading rumours to tarnish her image (she kisses all the boys, she is a prostitute, etc.), and that generated a reject of Sylvie.
- Thefts (2 times her mobile phone, 3 times her wallet, one time her keys),
- Mockeries in group in the toilets,
- Violent physical aggressions. Some aggressions committed by persons unknown by Sylvie: one adult man at least, (4 violent aggressions and many others such as rushes, kicks, strangulation). One of the aggressions led to a double concussion of Sylvie who had to be followed by a neurologist and who suffered serious headaches.
- Death threats and intimidation, always by groups of 2 up to 9 persons. One time by two persons with a knife, in the toilets.
- Complaints from Anita by the headmaster for similar facts, so disciplinary sanctions were taken against Sylvie.
- Complaints for thefts from Anita and her father, so Sylvie was summoned two times at the police station.
Main actors involved
Three young girls. We will call them Sylvie, Anita and Julie.
Three school years: 2006/2007, 2007/2008, 2008/2009
Type of bullying actions carried out
Inadequate remarks, mockeries, theft, death threats, physical aggression.
Which actions have been undertaken ? Which strategies have been implemented to combat school bullying in this case ?
At the beginning, the parents tried several times to solve the problem by organising meetings and debates with the youths involved, but without success.
As time goes by, other pupils become allied against the victim and the aggressions were on the increase during three years.
The victim complained by the assistant head and the headmaster but they did not really trust her. No prevention and intervention device existed in the school. Finally, they called for the psychologist of the CPMS (Psycho-medico-social centre) and the Youth Rights Service (“Droit des Jeunes”).
Sylvie has had different health problems due to the aggressions. She had to be followed by a psychologist and she asked for the support of the Youth Rights Service (“Droit des Jeunes”).
What was her perception of the causes of the bullying acts ?
Sylvie has put forward that one of the causes of these bullying events could be racism. In the framework of their moral/philosophy lesson, the debate had turned towards this matter and Anita had told that her father forbade her to go around with Black Men and Arabs.
Did she inform anybody ?
Sylvie has informed her elder sister who has informed the assistant head and the headmaster as well as an external counsellor, the Youth Rights Service (“Droit des Jeunes”).
What help did she need and from whom ?
Sylvie needed the help of the CPMS psychologist and the support of the Youth Rights Service.
What was their motivation ? Why did they choose the victim ?
We can imagine that the fact that Sylvie is a good and assiduous pupil who has acted to stop bullying, as well as the lack of neutrality of the school and the prejudice of the adults in general, have probably reinforced Anita in her acts and have allowed a context that favours bullying.
Did they feel remorse ?
We can suppose that Anita (the main author) has felt remorse because, in March 2008, she has expressed the wish that everything stop towards Sylvie.
Were they aware of what was happening ?
A huge number of pupils were probably informed considering that the number of facts that occurred in the school or nearby was huge and that the number of bullies hasn’t stopped to increase.
What did they do and why ?
Some pupils have changed from authors to allies, and others have stood up for Sylvie.
We can suppose that one of the reasons why some pupils tended to become allied with Anita was to be in the group of the strongest, and not to turn into victim at their turn.
Were they aware of the situation ? How did they manage to understand what was happening ? What did they do ?
Which cooperation did they receive from the other teachers and from the headmaster ?
No information about this topic.
Were they aware of what was happening ? What did they do to address the episode ?
The assistant head and the headmaster were aware of the events without really knowing the real responsibility of everyone and the consequences for the victim.
In order to manage the events, they punished Sylvie several times, and that, only according to what Anita said.
Anita has also been heard by the assistant head. And she has been frisked when Sylvie complained of theft pointing an accusing finger at her.
They have also accepted the intervention of the Youth Rights Service as a third party in the situation and they have proposed the intervention of the CPMS (psycho-medico-social centre).
Did they notice what was happening ? Did they get informed and by who ?
Of course Sylvie’s and Anita’s parents have been informed of the events, directly by their daughter or by the school.
Did they have the possibility to modify the situation and how ?
Anita’s and Sylvie’s parents have tried several times to find a solution, in particular by organising meeting to debate.
The meeting that took place at the very beginning has allowed the pacification of the things during a good part of the school year, but it has not allowed to solve the problems durably.
Were they aware of the events and what did they do ?
The Youth Rights Service intervened at the instance of Sylvie’s sister and in accordance with the school headmaster, through a space for listening and for dialog.
The Youth Rights Service has also boosted the mediation of the Youth Help Centre of Liège.
This service emphasizes the difficulty that it faced when bringing suitable solutions as well as the needed time to implement the actions and coordination of these interventions. Even if they were implemented quickly, they were quite slow regarding the events that happened serially in the school.
What did the counsellors do? What solutions were proposed?
The psychologist of the CPMS (psycho-medico-social centre) has also intervened to support Sylvie.
The school authorities have not been informed of the events.
Concerning the veracity of the bullying event?
It is a real bullying event: numerous physical and verbal aggressions during three years. Disproportion of power (one victim, numerous bullies), with verified intention of harming (police, doctors, etc.).
On the causes and the mechanism that have allowed the phenomenon to occur?
When reading this case, we are wondering about the number of actors (both at the level of the bullying acts and at the level of their solution).
Sylvie, her sister, her mother, Julie, Anita, her father and her brother as well as the assistant head, the headmaster, Sylvie’s and Anita’s referent educator, the CPMS psychologist, the school secretary, other educators, the Youth Rights Service, the Youth Help Centre of Liège as well as a huge number of other pupils have been involved, without forgetting the adult man who has aggressed and threatened Sylvie near the school.
We are also wondering about the school reaction time or rather about the school non-reaction in suitable delays. Bullying perdured during three school years.
Finally, we are wondering about the lack of suitable response when some Sylvie’s requests seemed to be well founded and simple to solve (for instance, to change her place in the class).
A feeling of unfairness resounds. The victim will maybe suffer psychological aftereffects due to this unfortunate experience.
How a banal work in group that goes wrong can lead to a so extreme situation?
The victim did not find the needed support by the school headmaster, and that reinforced the aggressor and his allies.
Indeed, the fact that the school has had a certain prejudice for the author and for what he said, that it has minimized the feeling of the victim and has refused some of her well founded requests has probably allowed the development of a context that favours bullying (the author could feel reinforced) and has contributed to a balance of power between the author and the victim.
The cultural and familial context has definitely played a role. The victim comes from a humble social environment. She has Moroccan origin. The author comes from a well off environment and his parents have good contacts with the school’s headmaster. The victim’s mother doesn’t speak French. The elder sister rather acts on impulse. The school’s headmaster probably felt aggressed.
Concerning the answer brought by the school? Concerning the type of answer brought by the school (disciplinary or educational)?
The school actors seemed to be paralyzed and they have chosen a strictly disciplinary logic. Concerning the first line actors (teachers, educators), it seems they did not intervene.
Why does the school have so many difficulties to solve this kind of situation? Is the role of education and pedagogy limited to pass on knowledge?
Furthermore, it is amazing the school has no procedure to face this kind of situation.
The lessons brought from the experience and the devices set up to prevent the phenomenon
The school could have :
- make the school mediators and the CPMS intervene much more quicker and avoid this way the problem to take such an extend;
- give the same credit to each student’s say;
- not minimize the victim’s feeling;
- not refuse some of her requests for a meeting, accept her request to change of class or, at least, to change of place (justified by her position just ahead the bully).
An emergency unit regarding bullying, working in a multidisciplinary way (connected to the CPMS for instance) should be implemented in this school.
This unit would be a relay for the school. Obviously this case was beyond the school capacities. This unit would provide the victim with a quick and appropriate help. It would maybe also help the aggressor and allow him to avoid recidivism in the future and judicial problems if these bullying attitudes increase.
Actually, the culprit(s) come(s) out unharmed and she/they feel(s) stronger in her/their dominant position. How can she/they learn a lesson from this event if she is/they are unpunished?
The emergency unit to combat bullying events seems to be a good idea but it could be useful to set up a prevention device beyond the bullying issues which in this case would be more specifically about interpersonal and intercultural relationship, non-violent communication…
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