"I Am Not Scared" Project
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)
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
Wareness of what was happening
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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