"I Am Not Scared" Project
Hold over the girls by the boys of the class group
When and how the event started, how the school detected it.
The events occur in a third secondary class made up of 18 pupils (girls and boys aged 14 up to 15).
The bullying of the girls begins from the start of the new school year and concerns all the girls, each one at her turn.
In the classroom, a total mutism prevails. The whole group has accepted this way of living and seems to live it like a normal standard.
As time goes by, the girls’ school results go down (although these ones work better than the boys). The teachers discern a problem but without being able to indentify it, because the girls deny the situation, fearing reprisals.
Just before Easter holidays, a girl finally “cracks up” with the assistant head and explains that the girls of the class are going through a living hell since the start of the new school year.
Main actors involved
Seven boys bullying all the girls of the class.
From September to March, that is to say 7 months.
Type of bullying actions carried out
Inappropriate gestures (stinging with compass, breaking material, knocks, touching the girls’ breast…), inappropriate talks, vexations (reducing the girls to objects, “you are ugly”…), threats (“lend me your mobile phone, otherwise…”).
Which actions have been undertaken ? Which strategies have been implemented to combat school bullying in this case ?
The person in charge of discipline (assistant head) convokes the girls. She asks them to express their pain and makes them aware that the events described are unacceptable.
She informs the parents and asks them to discuss the problem with their daughters.
Some parents send her mails completing the descriptions made at school. Other would like to file a claim.
The assistant head doesn’t dissuade them to do so, but she asks them an extension of time in order to impose the necessary sanctions to the bullies.
She receives the boys one by one. She asks them to write down their own version of the events and makes them aware of the seriousness of their acts. “Why do they behave that way when they would not accept the same for their sisters?”
At the time of a discussion, one of the boys started to cry. He confessed he has done to the girls what he had suffered at primary school. He was suffering. He followed because he feared to be bullied himself. He wanted to make amends and he wrote a note affirming the different bullying events.
Then, the assistant head convokes the boys’ parents in order to inform them about the events and the sanctions that will be imposed.
At the time of debates, some parents try to minimize the events, refusing that way the possibility for their sons to realise the situation: “the sanction is too hard; girls are not totally innocent…” For these parents, it is hard to understand their children’s acts. No doubt, they feared the complaint that could be filed?
The head assistant decides then what will be the sanction/reparation. Three days of suspension that will be useful to become aware of one’s own responsibility as well as to reconstruct: comprehension of the acts committed, respect of the others, letter of apology and disciplinary contract. One of the boys will also have to repair the damage caused: that is to say to recompose a pencil box.
The disciplinary contract will be written with the participation of the youth and given to his parents. It specifies:
- the school rules,
- the improvement of the “behavioural skills”,
- the monitoring of the youth (one time a week till the exams),
- the sanctions, in case of non respect.
Some of the parents have refused the 3 days of suspension, in particular the mother of the youth who had been personally bullied.
The prevention devices set up for the continuation of the school year
The pupils have changed of classroom. The pupils’ seats have been imposed by the assistant head (the boys in the front, the girls at the back).
Instructions for supervision have been given to the teachers.
Impact of the bullying action on the didactical pathway, on the students’ motivation, on the school environment…
The girls’ school results have gone down.
One of the girls “cracked up”. She felt excluded from the group because she expressed more and more her disapproval regarding some events.
Impact of the bullying action on school integration issues
We don’t always know what happen in a group or in a class as long as this one has its own rules…. But when we see or when we get wind of bullying, we act immediately.
Perception of the causes of the bullying action
The girls have minimized the events. They did not seem to realise the seriousness of these events.
They did not react when one of them was bullied, because they knew that their turn will come too.
They feared reprisals. It was the applicable rule at the beginning and evidently accepted by everyone included the girls.
Did they inform anybody ?
One of the girls « cracked up » and informed the assistant head (person in charge of discipline).
What help did she need and from whom ?
The girls have been followed up by the assistant head one time a week until the exams of the end of the school year.
They have been heard, listened, understood and counselled. Realisation, reminder of some values. Then, they noticed that things get better: no reprisals, immediate change of behaviour for the boys, greater welfare in the class.
They did not wish to be followed up by the CPMS.
As the girls, the boys have been followed up by the assistant head one time a week until the exams of the end of the school year.
What was their motivation ? Why did they choose the victim ?
The domination of the girls, but without being really aware of it. It was their harem, their fief…!
Did they feel remorse ?
One of the bullies (bullied himself when he was younger) collapsed when he was found out and he wished to make amends.
For the other ones: important realisation of the events, not letting things go on when we know that there is suffering….
Were they aware of what was happening ?
The other pupils were absolutely aware of the situation.
And maybe, at a given moment, they have acted like the others.
Were they aware of the situation ? How did they manage to understand what was happening ? What did they do ?
The teachers realised that there was a problem when they noticed the fall of girls’ results. The teachers have discussed the problem at the time of the staff meeting, but without being able to identify it.
Which cooperation did they receive from the other teachers and from the headmaster ?
An extraordinary staff meeting has been organised to explain the sanctions imposed and to give the teachers some advices (for instance, to look behind more often when they write on the blackboard …).
The tenured teachers have been seen repeatedly by the head assistant to speak about the evolution of the class.
Were they aware of what was happening ? What did they do to address the episode ?
The headmaster has supported the assistant head’s decision. He has organised immediately an extraordinary staff meeting as well as an immediate change of classroom.
According to them, what is needed to ameliorate the situation ?
Following the project approach, the school will try to set up a procedure to manage bullying situations, with one or two reference persons.
The school has also decided to work on “self-confidence” in order to prevent some risk behaviours. A prevention action about “self-confidence” is organised: what we accept from the other or not…
Did they notice what was happening ? Did they get informed and by who ?
All the parents have been informed by the assistant head and by their children. They had not noticed any abnormality concerning their children’s behaviour.
Did they have the possibility to modify the situation and how ?
Some girls’ parents wanted to file a complaint. Finally they did not do it. They felt satisfied by the sanctions imposed by the assistant head.
Amongst them, a parent still affected by emotion and anger wanted the contact details of the bullies’ parents. The school refused.
Some boys’ parents have minimized the events and some of them have not accepted the 3 days of suspension. Nevertheless the pupils have been punished and the parents have gone on trusting the school.
In each family the situation also led to fruitful exchanges.
Were they aware of the situation ? What did they do ?
The CPMS has been informed about the events that occurred and about the prospective request for help.
It has taken part in the reflection about “self-confidence” prevention.
The school authorities have not been informed. They only intervene in case of exclusion.
Concerning the veracity of the bullying event?
It is a real bullying event: numerous physical and verbal aggressions, during 7 months. Disproportion between the opposing parties (domination relationship, harem, fief), intention to harm.
About the causes of the event and the mechanism that allowed the phenomenon?
In this case, the length of the bullying acts linked to the lack of awareness of the seriousness of the events, the denial of the events both from the girls and the boys, are significant. The girls have accepted what is unacceptable. It was their school environment. It had become normal!
It is because one of the girls has felt excluded and the situation began to disturb her, that the problem could be detected.
Beyond the need of domination expressed by the boys, it seems that other elements have contributed to amplify the phenomenon.
The geographic context was not favourable. These pupils were sitting in an exiguous classroom. The nearness was there more important than usually.
The number of bullies (practically half of the class) has surely favoured the repetition of the events and amplified the fear of reprisals by the girls.
About the school reaction?
The sanction came with reparation. It seems that this has been successful. The pupils of this class are in the fifth class today. The girls have blossomed, but they have not forgotten. The school results are better, except for one boy who was already dropping out. The boys have a very good contact with the assistant head and they keep her informed about what happen between the pupils.
On the other side, for the parents the word « bullying » was difficult to understand because this terminology is only used for a short time in the schools (2 – 3 years). Before, we used to talk about scapegoat…. Some of the parents have not really realised the seriousness of the events.
Concerning the type of answer brought by the school (disciplinary or educational)?
Quick reaction of the assistant head, as soon as she was informed of the events. She seems to be firm and benevolent.
Her reaction is not emotional, she takes time. She meets the victims and the bullies. She builds up the sanction together with the bullies.
There was no exclusion of the bullies. The school has stuck to an educational logic: disciplinary contracts and days of suspension within the school dedicated to the reparation of the fault.
The school did not call for psycho-social counsellors (mobile teams, mediators, CPMS). However, it seems necessary to work on group dynamics in that situation.
Concerning the lessons learnt, concerning the mechanism for prevention set up to avoid this situation to occur again?
The answer has been punctual. The school has not set up special prevention devices to fight bullying.
However, following the research-action developed by the project, the school will try to set up a procedure in case of bullying acts with one or two reference persons.
The assistant head has been trained during several years by the school mediation service, and she has worked on the school rules together with the class representatives. For instance, ten unavoidable rules have been displayed in all the classrooms.
The device that places a referent person for bullying events is interesting. It strengthens the idea that the adult is the guarantor of well-being and security within the school.
The school should think of carrying out specific actions on the relationships between boys and girls in order to deconstruct the balances of power and the phenomena of discrimination. We should work on the bullying issue taking into account the gender dimension that seems to be here very important.
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