"I Am Not Scared" Project
A case of psychological and physical harassment on sexual grounds
The discussed case is real. The harassment towards a boy with initials DP starts when he is in 6th grade. The bullying has various manifestations, including, at the culmination moment – sexual harassment on behalf of a class-mate. Due to the exceptional cruelty demonstrated during the last bullying occasion the case goes to court. This last bullying act will not be included in the description of the situation which DP finds himself in.
The main actors involved are DP and several of his class-mates.
During a specific violent situation DP is trying to stop one of his class-mates – a girl with initials BS – from bullying and teasing another student. As a response BS directs her anger towards DP and starts slapping him on his face. After this the other students start teasing DP and asking him “how does it feel to be beaten up by a girl?”
Most harassment actions on behalf of DP’s class-mates are connected with anti-homo comments and calling DP with a nickname “Mr. Smooth”, due to the fact that the boy does not have intimate hair. The harassment however is not just verbal. During March 2005 an unknown student breaks into DP’s locker, urinates on his clothes, tosses him shoes in the toilet and writes obscene sexual insults on the locker walls and door with shaving cream. Later during the same spring the students put a poster “Mr. Smooth” on DP’s locker door.
After that, once again unknown students vandalize DP’s locker and write and draw on it obscenities and sexually oriented drawings with a permanent marker.
The bullying period for DP is school year 2005-2006.
The initial reaction to the signals of the harassed student is obviously inadequate since the culmination moment with sexual abuse and bringing the case to court is reached. What should be done, despite the delay, by the school administration and staff is the following: explanations to be sought from the form tutor and the pedagogic advisor why they have not informed the school administration about the manifestations of violence in this class and cooperation has not been requested; to be requested information on BS’s status in the class, her behavior during periods, at school, during extra-curricular activities, positive / negative actions, family situation, whether she is a child at risk, whether she has friends in the class or at school from her form tutor and the pedagogic advisor; a meeting to be organized with BS’s parents in order to inform them about their daughter’s role in this situation and to offer them a meeting with the pedagogic advisor and a psychologist; sincere apologies for what has happened to be expressed to DP’s parents and support to be provided to them for the moving of their child to another school; a training at school for all form tutors and teachers to be organized by a psychologist on the following topic: “Violence at school – forms and methods to combat and prevent it”; a meeting with DP’s class to be conducted in order the role and responsibility for preventing different forms of bullying of his school-mates to be clarified to them; a class training to be organized by a psychologist for overcoming fear from bullies and learning methods for dealing with bullying situations; the school SCCDM (School committee for combating delinquency of minors) to be assigned the task to investigate BS’s role in all forms of bullying inflicted upon DP and ff necessary, ask for the support of an inspector from Children’s pedagogic office. If BS appears to have an instigator’s role, propose BS for punishment in accordance with article 139 of the Regulation for the implementation of the Education act.
This bullying action had a substantial, long term and complex impact.
When we take into consideration the great amount of attention on behalf of bullies, bullied and witnesses diverted towards the topic of “I wonder what is going to happen to DP next”, we can easily assess the loss of attention towards the educational process during the time of the evolvement of the unfavorable events. Afterwards, instead of focusing on their classes and lessons, the participants in this harassment will have to divert substantial amount of attention and time towards discussions, lectures and trainings, which are going to be organized for them by the form tutor, the school psychologist and external expert psychologists because the case reached a graveness of consequences that had to go to court. The teachers will also inevitably suffer from this turn out, because they need to adapt their program time-wise, as well as topic-wise.
As far as the motivation of the students is concerned, we must state that this event definitely effected DP’s motivation. Systematic harassment, insults, humiliation and defamation, which culminate into direct sexual harassment on behalf of two class-mates, rob DP’s from any motivation, interest, willingness for self-expression and self-development. He only wishes so receive the long awaited protection and his torturers to bear their punishment and responsibility. Constant harassment is the reason for DP’s grades to mismatch his potential. His attention is not directed towards achieving more, but towards being left alone and not picked upon by the others. The deeply instilled feeling of inferiority, inadequacy and even abnormality will follow him in the next educational establishment, to which he is about to be moved. Regaining his confidence and self-respect is going to be a matter of long-term and specially targeted efforts. In the new school there will probably be other bullies, because violence and aggression are inherent for all humans, regardless of age or gender, which is why DP must learn how to behave and what groups to cling to, in order to avoid repetition of the experienced horrors.
BS’s achievements as well as the achievements of the other bullies are at an average or below average level in the class. Too much energy is spent in unproductive activities such as focusing on and exploiting others’ characteristics and differences, making plans how to harass and to mock others, as well as how to manipulate as many of their peers as possible, because this makes them feel special and they avoid the danger of becoming somebody else’s victims.
Most of the other students, willing or unwilling witnesses of the cruelties and vandalism acts, are not influenced as far as their grades and achievements at school are concerned.
Intra-school integration has also been influenced by this case of bullying. In the first place there is a new or a freshly intensified sense of inability to cope with the children, because a situation that started from the will of one boy with particular physical characteristics to protect another fellow student escalated to a long term harassment and inflicting damage with sustainable psychical consequences. The school staff recognizes and admits an inability to successfully function in collaboration. The victim considers himself isolated and unwanted both from his fellow students and the school team, which until the very last moment and the fact that the case was brought to court, fails to pay adequate attention to the situation. The victim does not have any sense of integration in the school environment, because his differences from the others, his “abnormalities”, have been constantly rubbed in his face and no attempt for his integration has ever been made either by students or by teachers. DP is surely grateful to his parents for their help, even if it looks a bit delayed. But DP is responsible for this delay in their reaction because he stayed silent for what was happening at school for too long.
The bullies will also suffer disintegration from the school from now on, because they have distinctly been pointed out as not trust-worthy, as children who should not be followed as role models by the other students and whose influence is obviously bad for the class and the larger school community. Their influence has been described as destructive for the class and the school in general. Both the bullies, who have to be punished, and the other students have to reconsider their behavior and the effects from their reactions and avoiding responsibilities.
The active citizenship philosophy advocates that members of nation-states have certain roles and responsibilities to society and the environment even if those members have no specific governing roles. Within the school universe active citizenship can be seen as an articulation of the debate over student/staff rights versus responsibilities. School gives knowledge, future and certain rights to minors. It also creates employment and opens a field for self-achievement and expression to a group of one of the most valuable and cherished professions – the one of the teacher. Therefore these groups that we mentioned have certain responsibilities to uphold. In a bullying case such as this one, active citizenship is disrupted at all levels and in all directions. The victim considers that his/her rights are unprotected and unsecured and he/she therefore is not fully responsible to the institution which should have protected them. The bullies on the other hand have believed that they have more rights than the others, which again misbalances the situation.
In bullying situations it is crucial that the return to balance of rights and responsibilities is as quick as possible, because the negative effects of violence on the one hand and the feeling of hurting, misunderstanding, lack of love and appreciation can lead to grave effects especially when we consider the fact that we are speaking of young and very impressionable (therefore vulnerable) minds.
In this particular case the attempt of the return to balance came quite late and with unsatisfactory results.
The school atmosphere has been polluted by improper behavior of students, the lack of interest of the school staff members, the appearance of lack of trust among staff members, an understanding of the graveness of the cruel and unconsidered actions.
The victim considers as the main reasons for the occurrence of the harassment events his attempts to stop BS form bullying other children and allowing her to slap him around without any reaction. According to DP the weaker you are, the more they harass you.
DP did not share with anyone.
He does not know what kind of help he needs. Probably some martial arts training.
It is quite possible that BS actually likes the first boy she was teasing, when DP interfered. She was aggravated by DP’s interference and brought her anger upon him.
DP’s class mates make the best out of the situation and start teasing him on other grounds.
A great part of all the bullying takes place quite by chance.
The victim has been chosen because he allowed a girl to hit him and did not protect himself. So everybody else can also attack him.
None of the bullies feel any remorse. BS most surely NOT, and the others are just а “enjoying DP’s show”.
At first Bs did not comprehend what was actually happening, but later on she started to understand what consequences her reactions have brought upon DP. The rest of the bullies do not comprehend the graveness of the situation and will not be able to do so unless something similar happens to them.
The students suppose that the reasons for this harassment is that fact that DP is the weakest in the class and can allow to become a victim of their insults and mocking. Besides they cannot forget the fact that he let a girl beat him up.
The students think that they have just found a playing field and have taken advantage of it. They showed themselves as strong. They got amused and interested. Besides they react in this way also because they feel a kind of fear from becoming someone else’s victim.
The teachers understand what is happening and are extremely concerned from these events.
They found out what is happening from some students and from the pedagogic advisor.
Their reaction, after they found out about the bullying situation, was to start talking with everybody. The started discussions with all participants in the events.
They most surely need all the possible help from the other school staff members – especially on behalf of the form tutor of this specific class, the pedagogic advisor as well as the respect-inspiring influence of the headmaster.
1. The intervention of the headmaster should have been registered immediately after the first vandal act during March 2006 as a chairman of the SCCDM (School committee for combating delinquency of minors). He should have requested information from the form tutor of the class in which studies DP on DP’s status in the group, his behavior during periods, in extra-curricular activities, positive / negative actions, family situation, whether he is a child at risk, if he has friends in his class, whether he is in some kind of conflict in his class or in the school.
2. After receiving this information the headmaster should have reached BS. He should have requested information on her from her form tutor and reach the bottom of the conflict – the protection, which DP tried to provide to another school-mate.
3. The headmaster should have required the pedagogic advisor to conduct a meeting and discussion with BS for clarifying the situation and discovering the reasons for her aggression. After this to conduct a meeting with BS’s parents and if necessary, request a consultation with an expert psychologist.
4. The headmaster should have received information from the school guards and, in case there is video surveillance available, to go through the recordings.
5. The headmaster should assign to the class form tutor and the pedagogic advisor the task to conduct meetings and discussions with the class in order to analyze this paradox that occurred – how a protector turned into a victim.
6. The headmaster should have found time to meet DP and show him his support for DP’s braveness to oppose a bully and to assure him that the things that happened to him will never happen again. He should have conversed with DP’s parents and express his regret about what happened to their son and to assure them that their child is safe.
7. The headmaster should have met BS and reprimanded her for her behavior and, if he considers it necessary, impose some kind of punishment, additional or extra-curricular work.
None of these measures have been undertaken, which unfortunately allowed the aggravation of the situation and the violence forms that followed. After the situation escalated so much that it had to be brought to court, the headmaster is now obliged to:
1. Request explanations from the class form tutor why he/she has not informed the school administration about the violent acts in this class and has not requested support.
2. Request explanations from the pedagogic advisor why he/she has not informed the school administration about the violent acts in this class and has not requested support.
3. Request from BS’s form tutor and the pedagogic advisor information on her status in the class, her behavior during periods, at school, during extra-curricular activities, positive / negative actions, family situation, whether she is a child at risk, whether she has friends in the class or at school.
4. Meet BS’s parents and inform them about their daughter’s role in this situation. To offer them a meeting with the pedagogic advisor and a psychologist.
5. Express his sincere apologies for what has happened to DP’s parents.
6. Provide help to DP’s parents to move their child to another school.
7. Organize training at school for the school form tutors and all teachers by a psychologist on the following topic: “Violence at school – forms and methods to combat and prevent it”.
8. Conduct a meeting with DP’s class and clarify his school-mates’ role and responsibility for preventing different forms of bullying.
9. Organize class training by a psychologist for overcoming fear from bullies and learning methods for dealing with bullying situations.
10. Assign to the school SCCDM to investigate BS’s role in all forms of bullying inflicted upon DP. If necessary, ask for the support of an inspector from Children’s pedagogic office. If BS appears to have an instigator’s role, propose BS for punishment in accordance with article 139 of the Regulation for the implementation of the Education act.
DP’s parents noticed that something was happening, because their child grew restless and insecure.
BS’s parents and the parents of the other students, who took part in the situation, did not notice anything unusual or inappropriate.
All the parents have been informed about what happened by the pedagogic advisor, the form tutor and the headmaster.
DP’s parents would have changed the situation by conducting discussions with the child, assuring it that good is not necessarily and always punished. If however DP continued to be restless – they would have undertaken the necessary actions to move him to a different school.
BS’s parents would have changed the situation by reprimanding their daughter, convincing her to apologize to DP for all the consequences from her improper deed.
The parents of the other school mates, who participated in the incident, are trying to clarify the moral damages, which their children have inflicted upon their peer explain to them the possibility of becoming the victim in a similar story. How would they feel if they were in his shoes?
The psychological advisor must have surely known about what was happening. She should have immediately met all students involved in the events. She should have met DP and BS, who is at the bottom of the occurrence of the problem, first and then all the other students, individually and then jointly together with the form tutor. She should have studied the situation from all sides for analyzing the paradox, which turned the protector into the victim of group harassment.
She should have informed the school administration, the headmaster, the SCCDM for the violence manifestations in this class.
She should have conducted meetings with the BS’s parents and with DP’s class mates.
In order to improve the communication and interaction, she should have conducted individual meetings with all students from this class; should have demonstrated her support to DP for his braveness to oppose a bully and to assure him that the misfortune that had taken place will never happen again; should have reprimanded BS for her behavior and together with her should have analyzed the situation that has arisen; should have explained to the participants in the sexual harassment, which followed, their unethical behavior, reminding to them the simple, but “golden rule of ethics” and organized a meeting with a psychologist; should have analyzed the situation in the class for revealing the reasons and consequences; should have conducted lectures on moral topics; should have organized a training for the class by an expert psychologist for overcoming the fear from bullies and learning methodologies for coping with violence situations; should have organized, if necessary, a meeting of the class with representatives of the Child’s pedagogic office in town; should have organized an emergency parents’ meeting, joined also by the students and the school administration.
In this particular case there is no adequate intervention for preventing the aggression towards DP on behalf of the school institution. As a consequence of the culmination of the cruelty – the sexual assault on the boy, all follow up actions are beyond the school authority. What the school team in the face of the headmaster, the teachers and the pedagogic advisor could do is support the victimized boy and his family for the purpose of long-term psychological recovery of DP and reintegration in the school environment, even if this is to happen in another school. Of major importance is that all interested parties work in the direction of teaching the children about the benefits from dialogue and sharing of problems that trouble them, so that similar cases of such extreme aggression and violence are prevented.
One of the reason for the violence – nobody reacted immediately after the boy (DP), who tried to protect a class mate, got slapped by the bully girl.
Due to this, provoked and empowered by the feeling of impunity and DP’s personal problem, his fellow students become literally unleashed and bring the situation to the culmination point – cruel sexual harassment.
The untimely intervention of the teachers, the pedagogic advisor and the school administration allowed a physical aggression to unlock an escalating sexual harassment in this class – the extraordinary cruelty, direct sexual aggression.
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