"I Am Not Scared" Project
No Love Lost - bullying over a long period
School, through Tutors and Progress Managers, had been aware that there was ‘no love lost’ within certain groups in Year 7. We had been dealing with a trail of friendship issues – much of which was coming into school having festered over weekends or on the local park in the evening. We had hoped that things would settle down over the summer holiday but at the start of Year 8 we quickly realized that merely monitoring was not going to work and the situation called for greater intervention.
The action centered around one particular boy who we will call Jay. Jay is mixed race of Indian/Afro-Caribbean decent, overweight and lacking in social skills. Father died while Jay was in Year 7 .Mother is trying to hold down a responsible job while bringing up two boys in a predominantly white community. The BNP (British National Party) has a toe-hold in this area. Jay’s main protagonist is a white girl who we will call Lynn. Lynn is very street-wise and is generally popular with boys in school. She picks and chooses who her female friends are.
In the past there has been a lot of verbal sparring. Some of it of a sexual nature, some of it we suspected because Jay fancied Lynn but was constantly rejected. Things came to a head when Lynn lost her temper and called Jay a “fat Paki”.
Although this was dealt with swiftly (see below), the feud continued on and off throughout Year 8 and is not yet fully resolved at the time of writing. These students are now in Year 9
Towards the end of Year 7 it was becoming clear that Jay was being tormented and bullied by Lynn and her friends both during lessons and out of school. There was a general feeling that Jay was initiating most of the problems but Lyn and friends were making most of the opportunities provided by Jay’s inappropriate comments to give him a good verbal pasting. Once the Progress Manager felt that she had exhausted all the strategies she had available, the issue was passed to the Assistant Head with responsibility for KS3.
Both children were seen and made promises to each other that they would stop the unpleasantness, friends were also seen and engaged actively in the process of ensuring that Jay and Lynn left each other alone. Retaliation and counter-retaliation were such that it was impossible to ascertain blame. Consequently they were told that, if there was a problem, they were to both come and see the Assistant Head to ensure that hearsay did not inflame the situation.
Both sets of parents were informed of what was happening. Jay’s mother tended to think that he was being bullied as she would not accept that he was often guilty of starting things off. Lynn’s mother accepted that her daughter would have been unpleasant but was more inclined to think they were equally at fault. Other kids in school loved the excitement caused by various “face-offs” and several other students were guilty of spreading rumours and reporting what they had heard to either Jay or Lynn.
Alterations were made to both Lynn and Jays timetables; so that they did not spend much time in each other’s company. They were seen almost daily by the Assistant Head, who at this point wasn’t prepared to blame one or the other for causing the disruption. We limped along to the end of the Summer Term.
A “fat Paki” taunt brought things to a head early in Year 8. Clearly this was a racist incident and was dealt with as such. It was the culmination of a weekend of verbal abuse for Jay and his family when objects had been thrown at their house. On investigation Lynn was found guilty of racist abuse and verbal bullying. She was excluded for two days and was subjected to certain conditions at her re-integration. Many staff still felt that Jay had somehow initiated things but the Assistant Head felt that nothing justified the abuse that Jay had been subjected to at the hands of Lynn and her friends.
A meeting was held with both mothers and the Community Police Officer as Jay’s mother had contacted the police over the weekend incident. Lynn’s mother agreed that there was no reason for Lynn to be anywhere near Jay’s house and the issue was resolved with a promise to stay away. Regular contact between the Assistant Head and both mothers continued throughout Year 8. Unfortunately the situation has continued to smolder as several of Lynn’s friends feel that their loyalty to Lynn means that they should remind Jay that they feel the situation is his fault from time to time.
The education of both students involved has suffered. Lynn has lost time through exclusion and isolation on occasions while investigations take place. Jay has lost a lot of self-esteem. He no longer likes coming to school. They are both performing below their predicted levels of achievement. Keeping them separate has caused timetable problems.
Jay’s motivation has dropped off the scale, although much good work is being done by members of the PE department to raise his status within the school as a Sports Leader. He is also good at rapping and has become a leading light in the “Beat n Burn” group.
Lynn, in a perverse way, has quite enjoyed the notoriety but appears to have stopped bullying Jay. She has allowed the Assistant Head to deal with issues on her behalf despite a strong feeling that “Only pussies grass”. She will probably achieve what is predicted by the end of Key Stage 3.
The confrontation of these two has had ripples throughout the school. It has “entertained” many students in their year and has spread to involve older siblings. Many staff have been involved in counseling, re-arranging lessons, attending meetings, logging incidents, writing letters, dealing with enquiries from an authority and governmental level. We genuinely feel that both children are safe in our care but we need to remain vigilant long into the future.
3 students said - This incident would make us feel really upset and insecure and not really want to come to school. We would like the teachers and the students to get parents together and discuss what actually started the problem off, and what she took as offensive to start the bullying.
If we could sort it this way then we would like to have regular counselling meetings as a pair to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We would like the whole school to have an assembly about racism and let everyone know that there will be punishments if it carries on. We would want the student to be permanently excluded if the bullying continues so we wouldn’t have to see or speak to the bully in school.
We would also like an apology from the student and to see that she really meant it. Even with the apology we would still want her to be excluded permanently.
Student 4 - said that the bully may see the exclusion as more of a reward than a punishment.
Student 5 - said I would not want the bully to be excluded as I feel they may blame me and it could make things worse when I am out of school / at home.
Student 1 said:I would feel I did the right thing at first because I have chosen my victim because he said something that offended me and made me angry and upset. I feel I am not racist but it is the first thing that came into my mind when I saw him that day. I think because I saw a reaction and it upset him I felt I knew that I could keep getting my own back. It also made all my friends laugh and I enjoyed the attention.
I know I shouldn’t have thrown things at his house and I regret it now but I just get so angry sometimes and feel like I need help. I am having major stress at home and I can easily take it out on other people. I have got some regrets but I don’t want to say because I don’t want to lose my street cred and mates. I don’t want to make some of my friends think I am not as big as I make out.
If I stop calling him names my friends might start bullying me because they will think I’m weak and have just given up and backed down. I would apologise to him and take a second chance but I am worried if he said it again I would get angry and call him racist names again. If I was excluded I would feel ashamed and know I would have to stop it.
3 students said: We would feel really sorry for the victim but it was also really funny at the time. We did realise it was racist so it did make us feel ashamed for laughing. We would have probably made it worse for not sticking up for the victim.
We would feel nervous to tell a teacher because we would be scared she (the bully) would start bullying us so we would probably not let anyone know. We think he might have caused it and not realised that if he had offended her he should have apologised from the beginning.
The bullying incident appears to be typical of so many issues we experience at school where once you start investigating the incident, it becomes a lot more complex and less straight forward than first thought. Reading the description of the bullying incident, it appears the trigger was comments made by Jay towards Lynn, possibly of a sexual nature.
It is clear Jay is lacking in social skills and Lynn being streetwise picked up on this, and selected her ‘victim’. Where this then becomes difficult is finding out exactly who said what to whom and when, and who is making the first move when approaching the other. I feel it will be extremely difficult to know exactly what is being said and when, so it is important to deal with the facts first which is the racial abuse of Jay within school. Of course, this then becomes even more complex when this abuse spills over into Jay’s home life out of school and this will have an affect on both Lynn and Jay within school.
The issue appears to have been dealt with in a thorough and strategic manner. Both students were initially spoken to in order to resolve the matter amicably without the need to escalate the disciplinary process further. Friends of both Jay and Lynn were also spoken to which I feel was a good way of involving their friends in the process and ensuring that they understood that this behavior would not be tolerated. Parents were informed which with the support of both may have seen the issue very quickly resolved. However, Jay’s mother was of the opinion that her son was totally blameless and this may have had a detrimental affect upon Jay’s attitude, preventing him from taking responsibility for his part in the situation. SLT (Senior Leadership Team) were involved and actions were taken to keep both students apart. Once this escalated out of school, the police were involved which I feel is all the school can do in this situation.
The comments made by our students show that they felt a racist incident regardless of whether the aggressor was antagonized or not. They felt that a permanent exclusion was an appropriate punishment for an incident of this nature. They also felt a full and sincere apology from the aggressor would be needed.
Our students also admitted that as bystanders they would not have had the courage to speak up against someone with the self confidence of Lynn perhaps explaining why the situation escalated beyond an isolated incident and that it has ‘entertained’ many of the students in the school.
Firstly to combat the racism incident I would check if they understood the term racism and have a discussion with both the students involved. I would explain that as a school we take any racist comment seriously and explain that if this was to happen again that it would be reported to the Local Educational Authority. This would act as a warning and I would even show them the form that is required to be filled in by staff so that they can appreciate the seriousness of a bullying and racist incident.
The students commented that they would expect an assembly to be put in place tackling the wider issues of racism. I certainly would put this in to action and make sure the assembly was adapted for each year group. I would also ask PSHE and Citizenship staff to consider moving forward their schemes of work on racism.
I agree with the two day exclusion and would explain that if this bullying continued this kind of behaviour could and would lead to permanent exclusion. I would encourage the parents of the victim to involve the police if any incidents occurred outside of school and would like to be informed so we as a school would be able to monitor their behaviour in school.
I think the comments from the parents are reasonable and I would expect to be able to offer reassurance for both the parents of the bully and the victim. Overall I think the school in this case study has dealt with the matter in an effective and appropriate manner, using a variety of strategies.
Parent 1: If I was a parent of the bullied child I want the school to reassure me that racism is not an issue in school. I would expect assemblies to be given to the whole school.
I would not be happy that my child would be on report to the Assistant Head. I would want the school to offer my child some help with the nurse and dietary issues. I would be concerned that his weight issues could be because of the bullying.
Parent 2: If I was the parent of the bully I would want to find out exactly what the boy had said to her so I could deal with it at home. I would want her to be punished but I would prefer for her to have somebody to talk to her about racism and bullying and find out what is making her act in this manner.
Parent 3: If I was the mother of the victim I agree with most of the action taken by the school. I would consider withdrawing my son from school. I would be very concerned about him being over weight and would want him to have counseling before it gets out of hand. I would also want the Head of the school to take an active role in this as I believe the racism issue would need dealing with at that level.
Parent 4: I would want her to be excluded if she was making the boys life hell. However if there was an initial reason she needs to be given the chance to speak about it. I would also expect her to be given the option of counseling.
The school worked hard and took the incident seriously but there remain problems.
• Other children now involved
• The boy has not recovered (education standards)
• Neither has developed strategies for any future event.
School could have considered:
• Counselling for the 2 young people at a much earlier stage
• Could have tried to establish what had happened in the very first incident. There was confusion at the beginning as both were treated in the same way.
• Other options: group work for both same sex and mixed sex groups that focuses on specific strategiers to manage a) Bullying b) anger c) develops emotional literacy
As a counsellor I could offer both pupils the opportunity to tell their story. The problem developed from no-one really knowing the full story or the underlying background to the events or the pupil’s personal circumstances. Without this information it is very hard to design any form of restorative response.
The options for on-going support after this initial invovlement depend on the outcome but could be any of the following;
• Group work – living with differences (racism, bullying etc)
• Group work (the groups of people invovled in the initial
problems) with the counsellor/drama teacher. Focusing on
• Individual work for both young people or just one of them
• Counsellor joining PSHE groups in the class groups to
facilitate discussions around friendships including
Individual work on self esteem for one or both young people to minimise the impact of the incident:
• both pupils could be allowed the opportunity to “debrief” after
the incident with a counsellor and then possibly meet with the
Head of Year and/or parents
• On-going support for both pupils could be offered
• Meet with all involved (including parents) to discuss the
consequences of any on-going problems
It appears that counsellors were not involved in the support process. The counsellor would approach the subject in a different way (therapeutic) and develop a therapeutic relationship. This would enable each to tell their story, understand their part in the problem as well as consider how to responsibility for their actions. Allowing them the time to tell their story in a safe environment and to understand the context in which this occured (which includes their home circumstances) would lead to a more informed decision about how to resolve it.
The counsellor could help each develop communication skills to enable more emotional literacy and confidence. Faced with similar problems in the future they would have diffrent resources to resolve this more succesfully.
Both parties appear to have learnt that bullying works.
We have several options / policies which could have been considered in this case:
Objectives of our Policy / suggested actions
• All governors, teaching and non-teaching staff, pupils and
parents should have an understanding of what bullying is.
• All governors and teaching and non-teaching staff should know
what the school policy is on bullying, and follow it when
bullying is reported.
• All pupils and parents should know what the school policy is on
bullying, and what they should do if bullying arises.
• As a school we take bullying seriously. Pupils and parents
should be assured that they will be supported when bullying is
• Bullying will not be tolerated.
• When anyone reports bullying arrange a time to listen to their
concerns as quickly as possible, remember perceptions of
bullying can be as bad as actual bullying.
• Record the incident in writing
• Tell the pupil that you will inform their form tutor/Head of
House and action will be taken when the person has been seen.
• Written information will be passed to the form tutor/Head of
• If information is passed from another colleague then see the
• Discuss ways of dealing with the bullying
• Take action unless in your professional judgment the issue is
one for the Head of House eg. you do not know the bully.
• Report in writing any action taken or any referral to the Head
Head of House
• If a pupil reports bullying follow the above procedures
• If a colleague reports bullying decide on the action to be taken
• Record all incidents of bullying
• When dealing with a bully (depending on the severity if the
situation consider the following:
- first incident: issue a warning
- second incident: inform parents/issue sanction
- third incident: isolate in the inclusion unit and inform parents
- further incidences refer to The Headteacher
In serious cases parents will be informed and will be asked to come in to a meeting to discuss the issues.
In cases of racial, homophobic or other serious cases the bully may be reported to Derbyshire County Council and be placed on their register.
If necessary and appropriate the police will be notified.
Bullying behavior will be investigated and dealt with quickly.
Work will be undertaken to help the bully (bullies) change their behavior.
1) The bully (bullies) may be asked to genuinely apologise.
Other consequences may take place.
2) In serious cases exclusion will be considered
3) If possible, the pupils will be reconciled
4) After the incident / incidents have been investigated and
dealt with, each case will be monitored to ensure repeated
bullying does not take place.
• the school will promote a climate where bullying and violence
are not tolerated and cannot flourish
• we will continually develop best-practice based on knowledge of
• curriculum opportunities will be used to address bullying
• school assemblies will be used to address issues
• school – site issues will be addressed and safe play areas
• all staff will take part in CPD and are clear about their roles
• the school will work in partnership with parents, other
schools, Children’s Services and community partners to promote
This case study is about bullying in terms of racism and verbal abuse. It looks at the bullying from both the aggressor’s and the victim’s point of view and looks to identify the cause of the bullying (Jay’s inappropriate language) as well as the nature of the bullying and the effect it has.
The wider effects of the bullying are taken into account such as its effect on Jay’s home life, family and both his and Lynn’s friends. This is apparent in the way that the school deals with the incident by speaking to friends and informing the police when the abuse continues out of school. The school is aware of it’s responsibilities but also its limitations when an incident continues in the community.
The school’s action plan seems to have worked on the whole. Several strategies were implemented gradually from speaking to students, informing parents and altering timetables. A thorough investigation has taken place and Lynn was found guilty of racial abuse resulting in a 2 day exclusion. The school has stated that Lynn has stopped bullying Jay and that they believe both students are safe in their care.
However, it appears that there is still undertones of bullying continuing from Lynn’s friends and this is perhaps something the school did not consider or tackle initially, allowing the resentment from Lynn’s friends towards Jay continue. The case study does mention that friends were ‘spoken to’ at the start of the incident but perhaps this aspect of the situation was underestimated.
The parents interviewed as part of this case study have all stated that they would like to have seen some form of counseling offered to both the bully and the victim and for assemblies to be delivered to tackle this issue in addition to a punishment for the bully. They have also commented that they would expect this to be dealt with at the very highest level in school.
This matches what some of the interviewed students said when looking at this from the victim’s point of view, as they said they would like both their parents and the bully’s parents to have a meeting to talk about what caused the bullying in the first place.
Everyone agrees that when dealing with an incident of a racist nature, it is just as important to tackle the reasons for the racist abuse and try to change attitudes as it is to punish the bully. The school counsellor also agrees that getting the victim and bully together first for restorative counseling and mediation is vital before considering an exclusion.
However, the assistant head makes it clear that a racial abuse, regardless of whether the students are actually aware of the seriousness of such an incident, should be dealt with in the most serious of manners. They agree with the 2 day exclusion and would even consider a permanent exclusion if the problem was to persist.
To conclude, bullying of a racist nature is extremely serious and schools must ensure they tackle this accordingly ensuring its students know such behavior will not be tolerated. There are disagreements as to the merits of whether an exclusion for the bully is the most appropriate of punishments but what is agreed by teachers, SLT, students and parents is that counseling and changing attitudes is just as important as being seen to punish the aggressor. Whether or not schools have the time and resources is another matter.
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