"I Am Not Scared" Project
“Innocence in its purest form”
Angel is a 12 year-old boy with Asperger Syndrome. He has speaking and understanding people difficulties, making friends and is so hard for him to change his rutines. Aparently looks like a boy without difficulties, but he is actually a quite special boy. His classmates think he is a strange boy who speak only about things he is interested in and, most of the times, he doesn’t understand what the others say such as jokes, double meaning... Nevertheless there is a boy and girl group that help him out understanding what he doesn’t get, or at least they try and join him in their group.
In Angel’s class there are three repeating-year boys who use to be bothering the rest of the classmates, insulting and hitting in all the classes. Sometimes they are even picking on the teacher but they take it out particularly on Ángel. Everytime they pass by him they slap the back of his neck, pull his hair or just make jokes about him. Some other times they approachhim to talk to him pretending they are actually interested, but they only make bad jokes that Ángel doesn’t understand. Besides they take his shool supplies and destroy it. Then Ángel gets realy nervous start shouting and everyone loughs at him. His father has gone to talk to his tutor several times, but she says to be bburned out of her students’ behaviour, opening disciplinary reports and trying to talk to them.
Two weeks ago Angel came home with a bruise on his arm because the three bullies cornered him and hit him. Next day the father met the director of the center. He told him the teachers had seen bad behaviour, but nothing like physical aggression against his son. Nevertheless, he asked them to pay more attention. In spite of that, Ángel always trys to talk to them and tell them what he likes; say hi to them and is polite. Yesterday they locked him up in the tool cabinet. Some friends of him faced the aggressors
The teacher saw what was happening and sent the aggressors to the director’s office to find a permanent solution. Today, a meeting between the parents of these boys and the director and the tutor has taken place. They have been talking about their children’s behaviour and the center has made the decision of binding them to attend the convivencia class for a month. In this class they willd deal with several aspects related to the improvement of convivencia and behaviour both in the class and out of it. The center also proposed a plan in order to reinforce some of the areas in which he has more difficulties, such as understanding social situations, and teaching him strategies to cope bullying situations.
About the strategies used by the characters of the case in order to respond to this peer bullying situation. Students think they faced the aggressors and helped Ángel to understand them and get along with his classmates. Teachers say that talking to the aggressors, reporting to Head of Studies at any moment. The actions were carried out quite late, they think it’s important to bring forward to prevent cases of bullying and this one was an easy one to foresee. They forget to work with the whole students of the class since their actions will determine whether the situation change or not. They turned to direction and the parents. They could have paid more attention if they had already been reported about the situation. Actions must be fast and severe with the smallest evidence. Parents say they talked to the teacher.
Students, parents, teachers, director and counsellor think this situation affects learning an teaching in class and they agree about its ramifications. Students say that the teachers pay attention to the aggressors and Ángel, but not so much to the syllabus and teaching. Teachers point out it will affect learning. It’s difficult the use of cooperative strategies, for instance. The bullied student can lose his motivation and even develop a school phobia.
Regarding the situation affects stundent’s motivation (interest, effort…)
The participants think it affects indeed, but they don’t go further.
About the student academic results. The students think they can get worse as they have a problem in class and they don’t pay attention to the studies. Teachers think victim’s results get considerably worse, whereas the aggressors’ don’t. It can affect the results of the rest of the class depending their affinity with the victim. The must create a secure, confident and mutually helpful environment in order to make an ideal student performance.
A teacher thinks the situation must be long and serious so it affects. If there is a preventive work it shouldn’t affect. It can work out for positive motivation of the group in the future. Others say it’s a wrong strategies learning mostly if the aggressors end up without punishment. Parents think it doesn’t affect those who are not involved. The counsellor points out that bystanders don’t intervene because they think it’s none of their business and they can do nothing to remedy it, even underestimating victim’s complaint.
This passivity can end up with unsupportive attitudes and a wrong concept of personal validity. Inequality situations with relations based on control-submissiveness schemas are established, what leads to an inferiority situations for the victim, provoking helplessness, powerlessness, subjection and isolation and even think he is the responsible of the aggressions. This maze with no way out can provoke school failure , psychological trauma, physical risk, anxiety, unhappiness, personality problems, etc. The aggressor who gets what he wants will consider this behaviors as acceptable, rewarded, overestimating them.
Regarding posible school integration problems. All the participants think there will be school integration problems. The victim and defender classmates can become the aggressor’s goal if the center doesn’t take measures. The victim would get isolated and even would deny attending the shool. Counsellor thinks the interpersonal relationships between people involved are more and more unequal, provoking the class to divide, preventing to meet each other, communicate and cooperate.
Regarding the influence made by the situation of bullying on adulthood, everyone thinks that it shows influence. Students think that bullies will behave in the same way when adults. These influences and forms of behavior can influence also to the rest of the class, as they would copy them. Teachers suggest that bullying behavior is built based on practice, so their role would be teaching students to respond assertively to inappropriate behavior independently whether they are directly involved or not. The counselor also agrees bullying behavior (and victim role) may be perpetuated into adulthood. In relation to the influences on school environment, all of them think that school climate would get worse if bullying behaviors are usually developed.
Students think if victims do not understand the situation where he is involved he deserves to be isolated. They think the victim do not tell to anybody because he was scared the problem could get worse. They state in most of this cases the victims do not use to tell to anybody what is happening.
When we focus on what help the victim would need, students suggest: psychologist advice, more friends and invite him to tell to someone (parents or friends).
Concerning the bully’s point of view, students mention bullies think they believe to have the rights to trait others like in this case (especially, when victims have a problem). The bully thinks he is better than the victim and behaving in this way he will gain others’ respect. If we focus on why they choose that victim in particular, students think it is because of the Asperger (a sample of weakness), that makes the victim in a "sitting duck". Finally students state the bully is not feeling remorse for what he had done.
Bystanders knew what was happening but did not react in fear. They mention the most effective strategy would be telling to an adult about the bullying.
Although teachers are apparently unaware of the severity of attacks, participants on this study think most of them have probably some information about the episodes. To this respect, it is clear that bullying episodes are usually out of the teachers’ view (and the high number of students in classroom make to notice the problem even difficult), but they have to be alert to detect signs of possible aggressions. To do that, teachers can use: talking with students and parents, individually and collectively; giving information to the class about the characteristics of Asperger's Syndrome; establishing some practical guidance to school staff to deal with bullying. Teachers turned immediately to the director, without asking to the counselor (who is a good resource to stop these episodes), so they would need to think about the use of a protocol to act when bullying occurs.
Teachers think that these problems should be manage by the Educational Team (all the teaching staff) in coordination with the counselor (not mentioned in the description of the case), and if no results are achieved the problem should be sent to the school board (with representatives of parents and students).
The head teacher (participant) has no clear idea regarding the information his counterpart had about the bullying episodes, but the thinks these episodes should have been commented in coordination meetings (especially because Asperger put the student at risk). So, what should have done in this situation? Developing programs of transition to make easier the pass from primary to secondary; applying specific tutorial activity; reacting to bullying since the first episode.
According to him, disciplinary measures should be consistent, in this age group in particular, and show an exemplary character. However, this response must be complemented with educational and restorative measures. Sanctions should involve also to the bullies’ families, such as the suspension of the right of attendance for an appropriate time period. This is important, otherwise bullies feel powerful and assume this kind of negative behavior over the adult life.
Concerning the role of the head teacher in such situations, the participant thinks they must be the guarantors of rules compliance, taking the necessary decisions from the beginning and coordinating all the process.
Participants thin Angel’s parent did not notice what was happening until there were no clear evidences. They think families should encourage their children to tell others if bullying appears. This attitude would have improve the situation as friends could have helped before.
The counselor would have act from the very beginning, but without creating alarm. To deal with situations like this the best action is prevention. The first step is to establish programs to prevent and detect bullying episodes with teachers, students and family. If bullying appears school should have clear strategies to address it, based on educational and restorative practices that keep the proportionality with the students’ degree of participation in bullying events. In this action, counselor and school should consider the episodes in social networks. Response has to start as soon as the school realize there is a problem (and do not wait the victim’s complaint), and should show discretion and confidentiality throughout the process.
As part of the prevention, the school should improve communication and cooperation among students, talk a lot with students and implement methodologies and strategies for bullying prevention and resolution of conflicts such as: hosting plan for new students, peer mentoring, cooperative learning, programs to develop social competence, emotional education or social skills, class assemblies. It should be also added: stimulation of protective factors such as emotional self-esteem and emotional control, techniques for peaceful conflict resolution, and asking for family complicity. Finally, if the situation of vulnerability in the victim requires, counselor would recommend to the family psychological treatment.
I am asked to directly issue my opinion on the psychoeducational treatment that must be given to a case of bullying, I must say
A) That all cases of bullying must be detected before it becomes an established phenomenon with its known structure: bully-victim dynamic + bystanders in their different roles, so the first analysis should refer to the anti-bullying school policy. At present all educational center in Spain has a policy which includes cases of bullying. This anti-bullying school policy should be analyzed and identify why the case appeared.
B) Every school have to use a device to detect and prevent bullying, especially with higher risk students, as it is the case of pupils with special educational needs (victim in this case seems to be like that, possibly Asperger syndrome).
C) It cannot be left to the opinion of each other such a complex issue as it is, on one hand the bullying phenomenon, and secondly the even more complex school organization, school climate and convivencia.
All the above elements should be taken into account in the analysis to be made of the behaviors, attitudes and thoughts of professionals (teachers, counselors and head teachers) and the actors involved (students, victims, perpetrators, bystanders, and their families). It is necessary to distinguish between those who are the subjects of a psychoeducational phenomenon and who are the players involved, among them there are a professional responsibility that differentiates them. Any psychoeducational analysis must include this argument.
A scientific analysis based on evidence must lead treatment and psychological approach to prevent bullying and reduce its effects. This requires a scientific analysis which does not consider all the contributions in the same category, but clearly distinguish the role it occupies and the importance and value of their opinions.
Finally, my recommendations are to conduct a well-defined categorical analysis of the responses to the interviews and/or the subjects who answered. This analysis should include the scientific knowledge we have from practice, as well as from the phenomenon we are studying and trying to prevent.
An analysis which cleans the spontaneous expression of the participants and allows us to identify similarities, differences, trends and therefore definitions of what they think.
It would be very helpful too starting the analysis considering the proposals made by the general policies of the educational administration to deal with the bullying phenomenon. Only then it makes sense to assume, as the case assumes that the existence of a so-called "convivencia classroom" is, or not, an appropriate strategy in this case.
This is a case of traditional bullying towards a child with special educational needs. First, it is worth mentioning that the solution has take a long time, but once it has been decided (peer support) it has shown to be effective (as it appears in research).
According to participants, the strategies used to solve the case were effective, but late. There is consensus about the negative consequences of the bullying action, influencing the teaching and learning process, motivation, the academic achievement of the students, school integration problems, influence in adulthood (for victims and bullies) and school environment.
The thoughts of the students involved objectively bring us to the possible causes of bullying. There is a need for a positive and communicative interaction between them and the adults. They are scared to act, thinking they become in risk if they do. Teachers know the protocol in terms of people who have to intervene in a case of bullying, but do not know effective tools to be applied into practice. The school suggests that they know the needs that Asperger Syndrome presents, but does not know how to work with them (pointing out a lack of initial training of teachers in secondary education when cases of children with special educational needs appear). Families are not informed of the procedures carried out in such situations.
Only the counselor knows the ways of dealing with bullying situations. He proposes comprehensive and systemic prevention. Training and information is needed by the educational community in general.
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I Am Not Scared Project
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