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TITLE OF THE CASE STUDIES:

Vexations, threats, verbal and physical aggressions from 9 boys (13 years old) to reject another pupil out of their group (the bullying has led to pull down his pants in the classroom)

SCENARIOS OF BULLYING EVENT::
  • Direct bullying
CAUSES OF BULLYING EVENT::
  • Non-especific
FACTUAL DESCRIPTION OF THE BULLYING EVENT:

Where and how did the event begin
The events occur within a second year class, during the school year 2004-2005.
The school does not know when the events have really begun.
In the beginning, 9 boys wanted to forbid a tenth one to join their group by closing the circle, by moving…. Then, as the pupil “persisted” in joining the group, the other ones became more persuasive, first with words, then with acts.
The events have been known around the 15th March when the victim-pupil’s parents have informed a member of the headmaster’s office at the time of a diner organized by the school, on a Saturday evening.
For several days, they had noticed that something was wrong, and finally, their son told them how his fellows made him suffering. The school did not notice that.

The main actors involved
10 pupils. Thirteen years old, more or less.

The type of bullying acts occurred
In the beginning, a group made of 9 boys wanted to forbid a pupil of their class to make part of their group. The pupil suffered vexations, first verbally, then physically
As time goes by, the manifestations of reject became more “persuasive “. The group of friends finally took down his trousers in the classroom at the end of a lesson, just before lunchtime. The “goal” was to make the pupil understand that he was not welcome in the “’9 friends”’ group.
The events occurred in a classroom located on the second floor, at the end of a corridor. The access to the classroom is only possible by the corridor. In this building, the classrooms are not locked during the day. The teacher makes the pupils leave the classroom at the end of the lesson, then he leaves himself the classroom. The internal rules forbid the pupils to “remain or to go back in their classroom” during the breaks and during lunchtime.


The length of the events
The events occurred during several months. Probably, they started during the second trimester. The events become more and more serious with the time. Thus, we can consider that the “case “ was closed at the end of April 2006, that is to say a long time, even a too long time after the events.

RESPONSE IMPLEMENTED:

The parents were upset about what they just got wind of. Considering their social standing (the father is physician), they had, amongst their friends, some persons working with judicial authorities.
The school told them that, considering the seriousness of the events, they could file a complaint.
First, they went to the police station, but they did not feel listened. So they turned towards their friends and, on the Monday morning, they filed a complaint at the Well of the Court.
The school’s staff members understood the parents’ attitude in front of what their child had suffered, but they never thought that the parents would file a complaint on the Monday morning and, moreover, that this complaint would be filed by the judicial authorities.
The headmaster convoked the 9 boys’ parents in order to inform them about the events their sons were guilty of. She also informed them that the victim’s parents had filed a complaint, and that from that moment on, the aggressors would be heard. Indeed, the 9 pupils were summoned to appear at the Court. The aim was to give them a sermon, to make them aware of the seriousness of the events as well as of the necessity of reparation.
The headmaster discussed with the judicial responsible persons at several times, because she wanted the reparation to be made within the school. That was accepted.
The sentence was pronounced at the end of June 2005: the 9 pupils should meet every two weeks, with the tenured teacher of the former class, during a school trimester. They have been asked to consider the extent of their acts and to produce a document that would allow the headmaster to be informed about the “risky” behaviours and places within the school. Then, they organized a survey with all the school pupils to discover where the risky places were located within the school.
Unfortunately, things could not be set up until the second trimester of the following year, that is to say January 2006.
Following the events, the access to the classrooms located in the building where the aggression occurred has been closed during lunchtime (a shutter has been installed and the doors accessing the different landings have been closed).

The group had written a document for the attention of the headmaster’s office and of the staff members allowing to know how to react in crisis situation :
- who has to be informed (the teachers, the pupils of the classroom, the parents…),
- who transfers the information (the headmaster’s office, the tenured teacher?)
- according to the group concerned, how to transfer the information (information given in the classroom, general meeting, information given in the staffroom during the break, information displayed on the “teachers’ board, mail sent to the parents...)
- the content of the “message”
- the possible helps (psycho-medico-social centres, tenured teacher, teachers, educators, headmaster’s office...)
This document has allowed the headmaster’s office to reach everyone.
Since the events, the CPMS (psycho-medico-social centre) organizes, for all the pupils of the first year, activities about self-esteem, being able to say no, how to defend oneself against racket, vexations…

IMPACT OF THE BULLYING ACTION:

There has been no impact on the pupils’ school path. The victim has continued his education in the same school during two more years. Then the parents have chosen to register him in another school because their son still faced some difficulties with the presence of his former “aggressors”.
Concerning the bullies, the events have had no impact on the following of their school path.
However we must notice that, as the sanction had to be imposed by a judicial authority, the needed time was longer that if the file had been dealt within the school. This situation was difficult both for the victim and for his aggressors.
The victim has a twin brother also registered in the school, but not in the same classroom (a parents’ wish). The twin brother has never experienced the same problem. The victim was the “weakest“ brother. During his schooling, the victim has always suffered from integration and recognition problems. He has tried to make himself accepted by the “9 boys” group, even after the events, but without success.
Arrangements have been brought according to the document written by the pupils, and specifically, the installation of a shutter that forbids the access to the upper floors of the building.

POINT OF VIEW OF VICTIM:

The victim’s perception of the causes of the bullying?
The victim could not accept to be kept out of things by the “9 boys” group. He was ready to do anything to be accepted.

Did he inform somebody?
The victim has informed his parents.

What help did he need? And who did he need?
The victim has required the help of a psychologist to work on his need to be recognized by the others. The request has been made by the parents. The help has been brought outside the school without intervention of this one.

POINT OF VIEW OF BULLYING STUDENT(S):

Their motivation ?
The only motivation of the bullies was to form a circle of friends. Nobody else could enter the circle. They did not intentionally choose a victim.

Do they feel remorse?
They did not speak about that. Considering their young age, their parents have answered to the judicial summons. Even if they disapproved their children’s behaviour, they thought the judicial summons was disproportionate. They also considered that the victim had also a part of responsibility in the events occurred.
Being summoned has impressed the 9 boys’ spirit. They became aware of the consequences of their acts. The long time that have passed between the moment when the events have been known and the moment when the results of the inquiry have been given to the headmaster’s office has led the actors to keep the events in mind during one year.

POINT OF VIEW OF OTHER STUDENTS:

Wareness of what was happening
No

Perception of the causes
That has not been asked.

What they did and why
A pupil was opposed against the events. She asked the 9 boys to stop bullying the victim. She did not stay in the classroom, did not try to make the victim leave the classroom, and was not present when they take down the victim’s trousers. She thought it was just a manifestation of reject as that often happened. She did not speak about that with the adults.

POINT OF VIEW OF TEACHERS:

Awareness of the situation
Nobody was aware of these events.

How they managed to understand what was happening, What they did, Cooperation received from the other teacher and from the school director
The tenured teacher, especially, has been informed about the events. She could play a referent role by the other teachers in order to show a common attitude to the class and to restore a climate of confidence and work.
At the time of the meetings of the end of the school year and of the new school year, the headmaster has reminded the teaching staff members about their duties to respect and to make respect the internal rules.

POINT OF VIEW OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS:

Were they aware of what was happening?What did they do to deal with this event?
The headmaster’s office was not aware of what was going on.
The headmaster has dealt the whole case. She has managed the collaboration with the judicial authorities, implemented the judgement, made the changes in the classes, organized the information sessions carried out by the CPMS (psycho-medico-social centre) as well as the recall of the internal rules in the teaching staff.
The following years, the pupils concerned have not been registered in the same class. Contrariwise, according to the options chosen by everyone, the victim found himself in the same group of some of his aggressors. The teachers were doubly vigilant.

According to them, what can be done to improve the situation?
To be watchful, attentive to each behaviour change from a pupil, to make respect and to respect oneself the internal rules (example: the teacher makes the pupils leave the classroom before leaving it himself).

POINT OF VIEW OF THE PARENTS OF THE PUPILS INVOLVED:

Did they notice what was happening?
Have they been informed? And by who?

The attention of the victim's parents has been attracted by behavioural changes. Concerning the aggressors’ parents, they did not notice anything.
The victim has informed his parents. The aggressors’ parents have been informed by the headmaster.

Did they have the opportunity to change de situation and how?
The victim’s parents have filed a complaint directly by the justice. Even if the aggressors’ parents do not agree with the victim parents’ action, they did not lay any stress to make them withdraw their complaint.

POINT OF VIEW OF THE COUNSELLOR IN THE SCHOOL:

Concerning the group of the 10 pupils as well as the class group, the CPMS did not intervene, nor any other body.
Since the events, the CPMS organizes activities on self-esteem, on being able to say no, on defending oneself against racket, vexations... intended to the pupils of the first year classes.

POINT OF VIEW OF POLICY MAKERS:

As the headmaster is member of the school authorities, she has been kept posted about the evolution of the case. The school authority has given its support to the headmaster.

CONCLUSIVE DEDUCTIONS:

About the veracity of the bullying event?
There is no doubt (repeated physical and verbal aggressions, with intention to harm), except about the length (not accurate).

Concerning the causes and the mechanism that has allowed this phenomenon to occur?
The fact that a pupil wants to make part of a group and is rejected by the group members can unfortunately always happen. The ignorance of ill-being can lead to such events.
In order to prevent such situations, or at least to allow the school to quickly stop them, this one reminds (and will remind all the school year long) the importance of respecting each other, of accepting the differences as well as the listening device and the support set up (tenured teacher, educators, teachers, headmaster, PMS…). The school will keep vigilant.
The geographical context, that is to say the accessibility to some classes or floors, hidden from view, has probably favoured the strengthening of the events. That has led the school to determine “risky zones” not accessible at some hours.

Concerning the answers brought by the school? Concerning the type of answer brought (disciplinary or educational)?
As a complaint has been filed by the judicial authorities, the school did not manage the file. However, considering that it was about young people who are not really bad, the school could collaborate with the judicial authorities and impose the sanction.
Once the sanction-reparation has been decided :
- considering the causes that could have favoured the appearance of such events,
- leading the aggressors to become aware of the events
- informing (through the written document) the headmaster’s office about the risky places an behaviours within the school
it was considered by the school as meaningful.
Unfortunately, the slowness of the judicial action has given a solution to the problem tardily, that is to say one year after the detection of the events, and of course, the aggressors were not happy about that. That made uselessly perdure the tension between the different actors, as well as the ill-being of the victim and of the aggressors.

Concerning the lessons learnt and the prevention devices set up to avoid this situation to occur again?
The headmaster’s office has managed the sanction in a constructive and educational way. But when it had been informed of the events, why did the school not ask the victim’s parents for a short delay to make the situation clear and to propose an appropriate sanction? That could certainly have permitted to avoid a complaint.
The well of the court should not have opened a file that was not justified. It could have sent the file back to the school proposing to collaborate to the determination of the sanction.

About the lessons learnt, about the mechanism of prevention set up to avoid this kind of situation to occur again?
It is important to wonder what the pupils live everyday. As adults, we are not always aware of that.
We should not underestimate the risks, neither rejecting them. We should take the needed measures (organisational, material or other) to avoid such outbreaks. That could be a support from the educational staff, the rewrite of the internal rules, or the installation of gates, shutters…
The complaint filed by the parents was excessive. However, we can understand their suffering in front of such humiliations endured, several times, by their son.
It can be that the person who has been contacted at the Well of the Court did not want to skip the file because of his/her friendship towards the parents. The local police services did not want to react. So things worsened
A real collaboration existed between the school and the Well of the Court. That has allowed the reparation to be made within the school. Without this collaboration, only the summons would have existed “just to frighten”, but no reparation. The case would have been closed desultory.
If the school had managed the case entirely, it had certainly reported to the authors and their parents that the facts they have committed are punishable by the law, but also that the problem would be solved within the school:
- The school would have analyzed, with the 10 young people, what, in the behaviours of the ones and the others, has led to such a situation.
- The school would have organized a meeting between the victim and the aggressors, without the parents, to give the victim the opportunity to say to his aggressors the harm they had caused.
- The school would have asked the authors to apologize. That has not been done in the context of a summons from the police services “who just tried to frighten the young people”.
- Finally, the school would have « worked » with the victim on subjects linked to the events occurred, in order to make him learn from what he lived. Why do we need recognition? On behalf of? To which extent can we go to appease this need? What do we risk then? How to be respected? Who do I have to inform in case of problem? When? How?
Although the victim has been supported by a psychologist, did he have the opportunity to wonder about the way he gets in contacts with the others? Nobody knows.
Even if it takes time, the school has to manage the following of this case (reparation included) and to support both the victim and the aggressors. That makes part of its educational task.
The extent of this case leads to think that we must always keep contact with the parents to avoid a complaint by the judicial authorities, especially when it is about problems between young people who have never had disciplinary problems in the past.



Comments about this Case Study


Date: 19.03.2012

Posted by: Phil Ormerod
Type of school: Special School for students with Learning Difficulties
Country: United Kingdom

It is disappointing that this situation went on for so long and reached a crisis point before any problems were identified and action was taken. It is also disappointing that the parents went to the Courts rather than in the first instance talked to the school. This leads me to wonder why the parents did not have confidence in the school to deal with the situation? Was it the way they heard about the incident i.e. they 'got wind of the problem' rather than being told officially by the school?

In the UK if the police decide not to take the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service, the parents would not be able to pursue the matter through the criminal courts.

Nevertheless this is a serious incident - a group action against a vulnerable victim, and in our school would certainly have led to a fixed term exclusion for the group and possibly a permanent exclusion if there was a clear ringleader.

Any action taken by a court would have been in addition to action taken by the school. This is because unless culprits plead guilty, court action can take many weeks and in the event of a trial there is no certainty of the outcome. The burden of proof at school level is much lower than at Court level.

I am quite surprised at the 'punishment' given to these students as what they were asked to do is effectively help the school prepare an anti-bullying plan/policy and I believe this is something the school should have already done in the first place.

In the UK any sentence by a Court would almost certainly have involved insisting the bullies write a letter of apology to the victim and attend a 'Victim Awareness' course.

I don't agree that it is a good idea for the victim to confront his assailants because 9:1 is too many and too intimidating. Instead we would have offered professional counselling to the victim and looked to give him support to overcome his fears and to deal with any possible future similar situation.

Date: 07.03.2012

Posted by: Petya Marcheva
Type of school: Specialized school
Country: Bulgaria

This case resembles the one discussed at our school – physical violence in the gym during and after a game of volleyball. Here just like in our case, one boy, unpopular among the others, allows himself to request entry into a group of boys. After several peaceful refusals the other boys undertake aggressive actions towards him and attack him quite directly.
At our school we mainly use preventive measures and the results are visible. To a great extent the students feel members of a “civil community” of the same kind as those described in this case – with clear behavior rules and responsibilities towards the other members.
A lecture course on prevention and popularizing of the importance of peaceful coexistence and mutual respect, as well as the negative effects, which inadequate behavior could have both on the victim and on the bully, would be very useful for the teachers, the school psychologists and pedagogic advisors.

Date: 21.02.2012

Posted by: Mrs B Humphrey-Lewis
Type of school: Comprehensive
Country: U.K.

The victim in this case study appears to be a very vulnerable student. He is socially unaware and unable to pick up on clear messages from the boys over a long period of time that they do not want to accept him as part of their group.
The behaviour of the group of boys was also unexpected. Perhaps they enjoyed teasing and intimidating their victim or perhaps they found his behaviour increasingly annoying over several months and decided to make their point by humiliating the victim. Boys tend to react with their fists first when annoyed, so perhaps they were mindful of this student’s vulnerability and were unwilling to hurt him physically but desperate to make him understand that he should leave them alone.
The response of the parents was overdue and rather extreme. It was very worrying that parents felt the need to progress this problem to a legal level first rather than contact the school. The victim had a twin brother in another class who was not involved in responding to this bullying. The victim was described as “weak” and the dynamics of his relationship with his twin and parents may have contributed to his behaviour . The parents chose to involve a psychologist to support their son so they obviously are aware of his difficulties but showed no understanding of how this may have contributed to the situation. However the heavy handed use of legal proceedings by parents which were hanging over the group of boys and the school for more than a year is wholly inappropriate. This has dragged out a situation which should have been quickly identified and resolved making it even more difficult for students and parents to move forward.
The reparation suggested for the group of boys by the court was very good. On the one hand, helping to assess “risky” areas and places within the school was a very suitable and useful study for the boys to be involved in. However it is very concerning that staff were not aware of this already. This seems to underline the impression that teaching staff were solely involved in the academic process, only becoming involved with bullying when students’ academic progress was affected or there was the threat of legal action.
The document produced as a result of the reparation study is what we would recognise as an Anti –Bullying Policy. The subsequent provision of a clear process for staff, students and parents will enable intervention to occur most quickly and effectively in the future. The work on self-esteem etc. is the type of support normally offered to all students in this and many other UK schools. It was interesting that as a result of the survey certain “risky” areas of the school were closed at social times.
The school involved has really recognised the need to respond to these events and work towards reducing such events from happening in the future.

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