"I Am Not Scared" Project
Bullying between two families through their children who are pupils in the same primary school
When and how the event started, how the school detected it.
The events concern two families. Their children are pupils in the same primary school.
The events have begun from the pupils’ registration in the school of one of the two families incriminated. These two families have come closer during several months; the children were friends and stood sometimes for the night at their friends’ place.
Then the relationships have deteriorated between the adults first. Accusation of theft, violence due to carelessness, lack of education of the children, verbal aggression, physical aggression… Complaints have been filed regularly by the local police services.
The relationships between the children have also deteriorated to finally result in pursuit races between both families’ children within the school, aggressions during the breaks, insults, mockeries, unpleasant comments, letting one or the other aside during the activities and games.
The events are not restricted to the school. In fact, the parents come to take part in the attacks and to fight, even in the schoolyard.
Main actors involved
Two families and especially their children. The first family’s children are 3, 7, 11 and 12 years old and the second family’s children are 2.5, 11 and 13 years old.
Type of bullying acts carried out
Verbal and physical threats, physical aggression between both parents and both families’ children.
The events last for one year and a half. They have started from the beginning of the school year 2010-2011. They have pacified when one of the two families’ girls have changed of school. However the events go on outside the school.
Which actions have been undertaken ? Which strategies have been implemented to combat school bullying in this case ?
The headmaster has realized the seriousness of the events when the two mothers have fought physically in the school yard.
Then the four parents have been convoked by the headmaster and by the school authorities, but without success. The families stand to their ground and no dialog is possible between them.
The headmaster has the strong feeling that both families’ parents manipulate their children in order to solve their own disagreements.
The other pupils, witnesses of the events, take sometimes sides with one or another (out of friendship) but without knowing the real uneasiness that exists between both families.
A fear atmosphere prevails in the school. A teacher has even to interfere to separate the mothers in the school yard.
Facing the seriousness of the facts and the difficulty to solve the problem, the headmaster and the school authorities have called for the “mobile teams” Service of the Education Ministry.
Impact of the bullying acts on the didactical pathway
Both families’ children are really suffering and school difficulties arise.
Impact on the students’ motivation
When the « mobile teams » ask both families’ children what they feel, exhaustion is expresses and fear teardrops come. The girls clearly express the fear they feel before going to school and during the whole school day, the fear of the other family’s children. They fear one look, one word, one act of the other family that will make them react. They also fear their family, younger sisters, parents to be attacked. They are afraid not only at school but also outside, in the street.
Following this confession, one of the mothers realizes then the seriousness of the events for her daughter. The motivation to go to school does not exist anymore for the elder sisters because fear is more important than the school aspects.
Impact on the students’ results
A growing fear appears for the incriminated children and that fear overshadows their schooling.
Impact on the school integration issues
The children are isolated because the other fellows do not want to take part in a situation that they don’t understand and that becomes more and more violent.
Impact on the school environment
An insecurity feeling is noticed within the educative team. The teachers and the headmaster are afraid to see the incriminated families’ parents coming to school. They are on the defensive and they control theses families’ comings and goings in the school. They do not feel supported or helped by the local justice.
Perception of the causes of the bullying action
Both families’ children express properly their exhaustion feeling and their fear. Teardrops come when they speak. We can feel strong anguish from the children. Both families’ children are victims and bullies at the same time. But they all suffer the same way from the situation.
Did they inform anybody ?
The children have tried to speak with their tenured teacher, but this one has not been able to realize the extent of the situation. According to the tenured teachers, the events seemed to be standard school yard fights.
It has not been possible for the children to speak about their feeling with their parents because they feared to betray the family. There is a huge filial love in both families.
On one side, the father is a violent, depressive and ill man. He is the chief of the tribe and nobody can disobey him. He has written death threat to the other family’s mother.
On the other side, the mother is a woman who has had problem with justice, who has been raped by her father and mother. Her parents are currently in jail for incest committed with all their children. She confesses that she fears nothing after all she has been through and she refuses to change her mind regarding the conflict. She has accepted to change the girls of school when these ones have confessed that they were feeling bad. But she has not accepted to change the younger girl (3 years old) of school because she did not want the other family “to be right”.
What help did they need and from whom ?
Both families’ children have succeeded in expressing their fears and feelings when the “mobile teams” visited the families.
See previous point.
Were they aware of what was happening ?
The other children of the school have never been aware of what was happening.
What was their perception of the causes
The children had no perception of the causes. According to them, it was only about regular fights in the school yard.
What did they do and why ?
They have not really wanted to take part in the situation.
Were they aware of the situation ?
They were aware that the relationships between both families were difficult but they did not understand the impact those bad relationships could have on the children.
How did they manage to understand what was happening ?
The teachers were not clearly aware of the real initial causes. Things have changed for the better when they have clearly been brought into light and explained.
What did they do ?
They have tried to pay more attention while monitoring the concerned children, but without success, because the conflict is beyond the school reality and it is due to external circumstances.
Which cooperation did they receive from the other teachers and from the headmaster ?
The headmaster as well as the school authorities have been present at all times and have tried to keep a kind of serenity within the school.
They have met the families repeatedly in order to make them see reason. The headmaster has intervened every time the parents (and later the girls) were in conflict with each other, when he realized the extent of the conflict and the bullying suffered.
Finally, the headmaster and the school authorities have forbidden both families’ parents to access the school. This was the only possible thing to do in order to protect the pupils of the whole school from these aggressions between adults in the school yard.
Were they aware of what was happening ? What did they do to address the episode ?
The headmaster was also aware that the relationships between both families were difficult. However, he did not understand the impact these relationships could have on the children as well as the seriousness of the events that occurred between the families outside the school (attempt of aggression, physical aggressions, death threats…).
What did they do to address the episode ?
First, the school has organized a meeting with both families. As the school felt powerless in this conflict, the headmaster has called for the “mobile teams” service to try to intervene in a neutral way within the incriminated families.
In one of the families, the first appointment went wrong. The agents were not welcomed, they were threatened. When the parents realized that these agents were not from the police, nor from the school, that they wanted to meet in a neutral way to help solving the situation, they finally got in touch. The other meetings went well and a kind of confidence took place.
For the other family, the contacts have been more cordial from the beginning, and after an individual interview with the children, the parents have been able to become aware of their daughters’ ill-being that they did not imagine. So they have quickly accepted the change of school for their daughters. This change of school has succeeded in calming the fear of both families’ children but it has not solved the conflict and stopped the bullying events between adults outside the school.
Several interviews with the headmaster have been organised in addition to the interviews in the families, in order to ensure listening and support.
For the school year 2011-2012, the school authorities have forbidden the parents to enter the school area, otherwise they would be prosecuted.
According to them, what is needed to ameliorate the situation ?
The headmaster would like the justice to intervene strongly in order to calm down the events for both families, but also to take stand on guiltiness of one or the other family. Numerous complaints have been lodged but nothing has happened till now.
Following the expressed and even written death threats of one of the parents, the « mobile teams » service has got in touch with the public prosecutor's department in order to make the investigation progress. The magistrate on duty has then informed a judge in order to convoke both families.
Did they notice what was happening ?
The parents were aware of the events. They even supported these events, without realizing the fear, the sadness that these ones generated for their children.
Did they get informed and by who ?
The difficult children’s real-life experiences have been understood in the framework of the interventions in family. The parents did not really consider as harmful the aggressions lived and provoked by their children.
Did they have the possibility to modify the situation and how ?
The parents have stood their ground. A family has accepted to change the two elder daughters (11 and 13 years old) of school but they did not want to do the same for the younger one because “they did not want the other family to be right”.
Since September of the current school year, all the eldest girls of both families have changed of school, but both families have wanted to keep the two youngster ones (3 and 2.5 years old) in the same school. Bullying does not exist between both children but it still goes on every day between the parents.
Were they aware of the situation ? What did they do ?
The CPMS has not been able to intervene in the situation because the families have not accepted the cooperation agreement with them. Moreover, as bullying was led by the adults, it was not easy for the CPMS to get in touch with non co-operative families. As this service was linked to the school, it was difficult or even impossible for the parents to imagine that this service could be neutral.
Two agents of the « mobile teams » service have intervened on request of the headmaster. The local police service had also to intervene several times and both services have got in touch.
A solution has been considered by the headmaster and the school authorities. They wanted to refuse the registration of both families’ children for the start of the new school year in September 2011.
This solution could not be implemented because it is illegal: a school can not refuse children’s registration just because the parents “come to blows”.
Concerning the veracity of the bullying event?
In this situation, what seems to be just a school yard conflict proves to be a real conspiracy that makes everybody suffers.
Concerning the causes of the event and the mechanism that allowed the phenomenon?
The bullying events, endured by all the children, have probably been induced by the adults. The children were not aware of the harm they were causing. According to them, it was about to defend the family’s honour in front of a dramatic situation lived by the adults.
This event happens in a quite well-off area.
However, both families have expressed a difficult past.
Rapes, incest, alcoholism, violence in one of them, with numerous health problems for the two parents of a large family with 5 children.
Rapes, incest, physical violence for the other family’s mother and her elder daughters.
Both families have come closer for a while, probably because they have faced the same problems, but they have finally torn each other apart and hated each other.
Concerning the answer brought by the school? Concerning the type of answer brought by the school (disciplinary or educational).
The school was overtaken by the situation.
The real bullying events have been revealed when the children have cracked up and have been able to express their fear, thanks to the mobile teams’ intervention.
This intervention has been decisive. It has allowed the children to be protected from the events by changing of school. Their school results have improved thanks to the serenity regained.
In spite of that, the parents go on bullying each other and wanting to be right. And, because they don’t want to lose face, they have left the youngster children (2.5 and 3 years old) in the same school.
Hopefully these children will not suffer this situation at their turn.
The lessons brought from the experience and the devices set up to prevent the phenomenon
The school feels powerless in the management of this crisis because its acts are limited by the school legislation.
The school has set up a protection device (prohibiting the parents to access the school), but it can’t act on the relationship of both families. Anyway, that is not its role, but it can maybe hand over to specialized intervention teams to work with the families (neighbourhood mediation, youth protection, social services…).
A judicial decision concerning the aggressions suffered and the death threats expressed could end the discussion, or at least it could allow to define each one’s responsibility in this crisis. For the public prosecutor's department, nothing can really change as long as there is no “acting out”.
However, serious aggressions have already been committed: beating-up of one family’s father, breaking of the windows of one family’s house, knocks on the car, track race in the streets of the city, aggression of one pregnant mother in the school yard… and all these events in front of the children! The stab is missing to finally make the justice take the events seriously.
Currently, the work continues in order to try to preserve both children who are still studying in the school, knowing that, as they are young, they are not yet aware of the situation so they do not suffer from it yet.
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