"I Am Not Scared" Project
Young boy victim of bullying due to overweight and who could finally be treated for this disease
Where and how did the event begin
The systematical and daily bullying of the victim in the group-class concerned by the event began mid September - end September of school year 2010-2011, spurred on by a pupil who repeated his school year, who made the victim’s situation worse in the group, and who had already faced difficulties (relational problems, integration) in the class during the previous school year.
The main actors involved
The main actors involved are: a victim (18 years old), a bully-leader (18 years old) and four other pupils (16-18 years old), who follow at different levels.
The type of bullying acts occurred
The types of bullying acts occurred :
- Verbal, moral aggressions (mockeries – unpleasant remarks, insults about the victim’s look, about his competences-skills supposed leak, his slowness in the carrying out of tasks (->moral sapping), depreciation-denigration of his family.
- Pilfering of personal belongings (given back later on) and, only on behalf of the leader: racket (from a few euros a day up to 10 euros at the time of a party).
- Moderated physical contacts (lightly pushed) but recurrent, sometimes harder physical violence (pushed on the ground, ferocity in pushing down his stomach).
- Ostracism (nobody wants to work with him in practice).
The length of the events
The events lasted from September 2010 until 2nd March 2011 when the victim left the school to go to a Care Center.
The victim confided in his mother, and in his grandparents.
The grandmother waited several times for the aggressors to come out of the school to dissuade them to go on bullying, but that produced the opposite effect.
Repeatedly the grandmother asked for help to the head foreman, but the responsible persons and the teachers of the section could not improve the situation. Attempts of dialog with the group in order to make the situation change took place several times, some sanctions were imposed at the time of some aggressions but the situation did not improve. The teachers also tried to encourage the victim to defend himself and they wondered about the victim’s role, maybe considered as partly responsible of the bullying he suffered (passivity, provocation?).
The cooperation of the headmaster was not asked.
Following the educator’s demand of intervention during the first trimester, the Psycho-Medico-Social Centre ensured an individual follow-up and handed over to a private (external) psychologist for a therapeutic aftercare.
Following the educator’s new demand of intervention on the 23th March 2011, the School Mediation Service of Wallonia, which has gathered her testimony, has brought a new light on the phenomenon to the educative team, and collaborated with the other actors to set up an intervention within the group-class.
The strategy set up by the SMSW is developed hereafter (see the school leaders’ point of view).
The victim had already faced difficulties during the previous school year.
Beginning of May 2011, the pupil temporarily left the school to treat his obesity problems. At this time, he was decided to take the exams in September 2011. During the school holidays, he has renounced to do so, discouraged by the number of exams to take and despite the fact that all useful documents had been provided by the teachers.
Concerning the school year 2011-2012, he is still in the same school. He repeats the school year. He is supported by his teachers and his integration in the new group is going well.
Concerning the organizational aspect, the SMSW intervention has had an important impact: an educator is still currently present at midday time (the time when vexations were the most numerous) on the section site. That was no the case previously.
The aggressor, who has suffered himself some vexations in the past, still feels the need to be aggressor, not to be himself aggressed. So when his victim left the school at the end of the school year 2010-2011, he started to bully other younger pupils.
The other pupils of this small class (only six pupils) sided with the strongest part, but they did not experience well the tension and the bad atmosphere that prevailed in the group.
The victim’s perception of the causes of the bullying?
- The victim experiences a major health problem, namely a handicapping obesity, and testifies that he has always experienced relational difficulties linked to this physical feature: the young man is born different, and as long as he can remember, this difference has been a source of stigmatization.
- He is aware of the relational stakes in the class and of the leader’s preponderant influence on the other pupils of the class.
- He experiences a blocking, an incapacity to react, to defend himself when he suffers aggressions.
Did he inform somebody?
What help did he need? And who did he need?
He informed spontaneously:
- his family (mother, grandparents) ;
- some teachers, the educator, at the occasion of aggressive episodes suffered.
Following the educator’s demand of intervention during the first trimester:
- The Psycho-Medico-Social Centre, which has ensured the individual follow-up and the relay to a private (external) psychologist for a therapeutic follow-up.
Following the educator’s demand of intervention on the 23rd March 2011:
- The School Mediation Service of Wallonia, which has gathered his testimony and has brought a new light to the educative team about the phenomenon. Then the different actors have planned a common intervention within the group-class.
This section will include two parts, because there is a distinction to make between the leader’s point of view and the followers’ one.
His motivation ?
To make sure he will be the leader within the group: to be aggressor not to be aggressed, to be on the « right side » rather than on the « bad one », to be the « strong one » and not the « leak one ». As he has lived a non-common family history, suffered himself bullying when he was in primary school and experienced stigmatization linked to the fact that his father was in jail for murder, he has developed a Manichaean vision of the world and of the human relationships.
Why did he choose the victim ?
The victim was not very integrated in the group. He was made fragile by his physical handicap, by a difficult social and familial experience that he confided to his fellows. Moreover he had shown his incapacity to react to the aggressions.
Does he feel remorse?
That is difficult to know with certainty: he declared that he did not wish bullying to lead the victim to leave the school (actually the victim left to treat his obesity). But beside that, after the victim’s departure, he has reproduced bullying acts mainly on another pupil of the class, on another one to a lesser extent (but without the support of the other pupils), and on a younger pupil of the section (paradoxically with the support of his new main victim of the class) and he has committed at least one act of aggression on a young pupil of another section.
Why did they choose the victim?
Do they feel remorse?
Actually, the young people “had nothing against the victim”. They have experienced the degradation of the situation with discomfort and culpability. The fear to be rejected prevailed within the group. As well as a fear of the leader and a feeling of weakness to resist to his influence. After the victim’s departure, there has been a kind of consensus amongst the young people to avoid the leader who was victimizing two pupils, but fear was always there, so tensions and bad atmosphere persisted.
Aimless: the described bullying concerned all the pupils of the small class, most often isolated on a different site that the main school site.
Were they aware of the situation?
How did they understand what was happening?
What did they do?
The teachers were partly aware of the situation, as much as they knew that the victim was often suffering vexations but they had no tools to face the situation. Attempts of dialog with the group to make the situation change took place several times and some sanctions have been taken after specific aggressions, without the situation to improve. A feeling of weakness in front of this problem took hold, the situation has been lived as a “fatality” we can’t fight – indeed, the victim was slyly targeted, most of the time sheltered from the adults’ attention (…) – there has also been an attempt to make the victim react, to assert himself, to defend himself in front of pupils “often less strong than he is” – and questioning about the victim’s role, maybe considered as partly responsible of the bullying he was suffering (passivity, provocation?).
What cooperation did they get from the other teachers and from the headmaster?
The teachers of the section, mainly concerned by the class, are isolated on a site distinct of the main site, and they have very few contacts with the teachers of general courses. The headmaster’s cooperation has not been asked.
Were they aware of what was happening?
The leaders are the head foreman of the section, also teacher, and the headmaster.
What did they do to deal with this event?
For the head foreman, see here above (the teachers) – and as previously indicated, the headmaster has not been solicited by the team for cooperation.
According to them, what can be done to improve the situation?
Since the partnership with the SWSW and the light brought to the bullying, there is a better global understanding of the phenomenon, of the stakes, and emergence of tracks to efficiently face it, that are:
SCHOOL BULLYING IS OBSERVED
- the sanction of the aggressive behaviours is the stage 1 (> STOP)
- !!! > the « bullying-vexation » is not an ordinary violence > the sanction is ONLY A PART of the response, the sanction alone is insufficient even counterproductive
- a watchful follow-up is absolutely necessary
- reception, listening, protection of the victim
- in addition, a more specific intervention can be considered (> a support from the SMSW can be asked)
- main principles for any intervention :
- to stress on the behaviour, not on the person
- to consider each pupil as a person also able to act positively
- and able to make changes, to unlearn bullying
- toward a responsible, educative and remedial approach
- to involve everyone in the search for solutions in order to improve the situation
The victim’s family only has been concerned by the issue.
Did they notice what was happening?
Have they been informed? And by who?
Yes: the victim confided to his mother, to his grandparents.
Did they have the opportunity to change de situation and how?
No, repeatedly the grandmother addressed to the head foreman to share in her disarray in front of the situation, the victim became aggressive by reaction within his family.
Direct contacts with the aggressors took place when the class came out, the grandmother went there several times to try to dissuade the aggressors to go on bullying – with a counterproductive effect on the situation, the young people had complained by their teachers of being aggressed by the victim’s grandmother and had found there more arguments to laugh of the incapacity of the victim to defend himself…
Concerning the veracity of the bullying event? Concerning the causes and the mechanism that has allowed this phenomenon to occur?
This situation is an example of serious bullying event, with :
- A particularly fragile victim (at physical, social and familial level).
- A bully with an uncommon relational and familial past that has led to a worrying personality development. He is always on the defensive because he fears to become again the bullied one that he was. To avoid that, he is always searching for situations of domination by showing aggressive behaviours towards the weaker ones beyond the main described situation.
- Followers who are rather empathic, but dominated by the fear of the leader, of themselves expelled from the group…
The « geographic » isolation of the group-class on a site specific to the section has probably contributed to the development and crystallization of the phenomenon: each pupil of the small cell of 6 pupils particularly feared ostracism as “out of the group” social contacts are almost non-existent.
The bullying situation has developed within the group-class because the victim allowed the group to focus, to concentrate, to channel all the tensions on him. The victim played the role of scapegoat and regulated in some ways the dynamics of the group.
Concerning the answer brought by the school? Concerning the type of answer brought by the school (disciplinary or educational)?
The educational team was overtaken by the events and powerless to solve them.
The external services have managed the situation on request of the educator. The victim has been supported by the CPMS service. The school mediation service has intervened by supporting the educational team as well as within the group-class.
We will notice the headmaster’s position, keeping himself in the background. He has not been solicited! How is it possible considering the length and the type of bullying? Adults feel quickly powerless but they don’t think it is necessary to speak with their hierarchic superior. However the headmaster had the responsibility to intervene in the “group-class” in order to remind the functioning rules of the school.
A positive initiative is the attendance of an educator in the section during lunchtime (favourable to bullying).
The case study does not mention whether the bully-pupil has been sanctioned and how. The one who commits the facts must be taken into account as much as the victim. Did the bully-pupil show empathy towards the victim? A work with the bully-pupil on this empathy would have been useful.
It is amazing to note the absence of the bully-pupil’s parents. These ones should have been informed of the facts at least. They should have been led to collaborate in the problem resolution, even if their son is major.
Concerning the lessons learnt and the prevention devices set up to avoid this situation to occur again?
The collaboration with the mediation service seemed helpful to allow everyone to better understand the bullying and the scapegoat phenomena and consequently to be able to work on them, to deconstruct them.
Beyond that, the actors have to act now and to set up information, detection and supporting devices for bullying events within the school.
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