"I Am Not Scared" Project
Bullying in a Science Lesson
The bullying first occurred during science lessons but then spread to other lessons in the school. A pupil discussed with his form tutor that he was being called an offensive name during lessons and was concerned that this name was sticking and being spread around school into other lessons.
The form tutor discussed and consoled the pupil being bullied and asked the pupil what action he felt would be best. The pupil was advised about the schools bullying systems and asked what he felt would be the best solution. The pupil and the form tutor agreed that the best course of action would be making the science teacher aware of the situation, asking the perpetrators form tutors to discuss this situation with them and cease otherwise it would be taken further. The e-mail was as follows (names deleted) …..
Hi, ***** is from 9*** as he is concerned about the bullying he has been having in Science lessons. He said that **** and ***** have been calling him a ' fat ***** ' in lessons.
*****, Could you please have a word with ****** and ***** for me in the morning and ask them to stop with the verbal bullying of *********.
This e-mail was drafted with the student being bullied and had his full consent.
The science teacher was unaware of this situation and took immediate action when informed and moved the perpetrators away from the victim. The bullying boys ‘form tutors’ also fed back about the chats they had with the boys to the victims form tutor.
The form tutor of the victim monitored the situation and used RG time to mentor and check on the victim to ensure that the bullying had not continued.
It was very clear that this bullying was having a profound effect on the victim and was spreading to other areas of his school life and was beginning to make school uncomfortable for the victim.
As the victim was comfortable talking to his form tutor, he was able to discuss this incident before it had resulted in becoming that bad that it affected his test results, attendance or general attainment in any areas of his school life. It was very emotional traumatic for the pupil concerned, as he was not only being teased about his weight at a very difficult stage of personal development, but it was being tagged to universally sexually deviant slang.
It was very clear that this was having an impact on the pupil’s enjoyment of Science. This was a concern as this had clearly been the victim’s favorite subject at the school. The student did mention that this had lead him to dread going to his science lesson and I suspect that if this had carried on it could have resulted in the student choosing his GCSE options to avoid the bullying students.
The bullying mentioned was a low level incident that was dealt with swiftly and effectively without the need for calling parents, or taking it further down the “Behaviour for Learning” system that exists within our school. The way it was dealt with had the full approval of the victim and has created a way for the victim to report any similar incidents to his form tutor.
This bullying incident also had no wider effects on the school community as it was focused on one student and therefore the wider impact of the bullying actions were very limited.
We would feel insecure, we would lose our self confidence, particularly in Science. We would be afraid to do things and wouldn't feel free to go ecerywhere in school - we wouldn’t be able to relax in school. We would try to avoid the bullies and maybe walk different ways around school. We would be worried in case the verbal turned to physical bullying.
We would also be worried about the fact that if they saw us like that what if our friends did too. We would maybe start to believe the hurtful things that were said were true. We would think we were actually the person that the bullies were describing.
We think it was brave to inform someone at school, a lot of people would be scared to grass (report the problem). They would fear some comeback.
If it was us we may have told our parents first. We think our parents would have noticed a change in our behaviour and asked us questions. If we had spoken to a teacher first though we would have expected them to react in the same way as that form tutor.
If we’d told our parents we would have expected them to contact school. We would also expect school to contact our parents to let them know why our behaviour had been different and what had been going on.
If we were the bullies we would probably have targeted the boy because he was maybe lonely and easy to call names. Maybe we were just opportunist though because he is alone and has no one to defend him. Maybe we were jealous of him or insecure ourselves, maybe we’d been bullied. Maybe we just wanted a laugh and something to distract us from our work.
We are not sure if we’d regret bullying the boy, unless we were caught. It would depend if we understood right and wrong.If it was explained to us how upset he was maybe we would. We may think that staff were making a mountain out of a molehill and it was just messing around. We might then think that staff were picking on us.
We also might feel we’d got away with it as the bullies haven’t really been punished; they’ve just been talked to. Also no one else on the staff knows about it just the form tutors and the Science teacher so maybe we’d pick on him in other lessons because we were annoyed at been told off.
We would probably blame other students for starting it and say we had just joined in, that we did not mean anything by it and it was just a joke
If we had witnessed the incident we would feel sorry for the boy. We would realize why he had been picked on even if we thought it was wrong. He has a weight problem and is on his own a lot. However this person has done nothing wrong. People have a right to be different. We can not understand why someone else would find it funny to make someone feel bad about themselves. We don’t understand why you would bully someone about a silly rumour.
We would have to tell a teacher or maybe our parents or report it to the Anti bullying Coordinator or use our schools systems to do this. We would probably go up to the boy and see if he was alright and maybe we would tell the bullies to shut up. We would have to know the other students to do this though. We do not think that we would be scared and not do anything. Bullies will pick on anyone and need to be stopped.
Awareness of the situation
From reading the case study it was apparent that initially no teacher was aware of the situation the victim was placed in. If the student had not had the confidence to speak to his form tutor this incident may have developed into a more serious case. Was there anybody else the student could have spoken to if he did not feel confident speaking to his form teacher?
How they managed to understand what was happening,
After the discovery of the situation the schools teachers acted superbly in determining the issue at hand. Speaking to the student is always useful and letting him draft the original email is a very good idea as it showed the victim that action was being taken to resolve the issue. Had the form tutor just said “I will look into it” the victim may have been left with the impression that nothing would be done and so may have been reluctant to come forward in the future.
The action taken would have alleviated the initial stress that the victim had. I think a conversation between all the form tutors would have been useful here to make sure there had not been any past disputes and/or issues surrounding the students in question.
What they did
If faced with this situation, we believe we would have acted in a similar manner. Contacting the teacher was right so the issue was dealt with in the lesson causing concern. Furthermore, logging the incident and sharing it with all the form tutor will hopefully stop similar incidents in the future. By dealing with it in this way meant that the perpetrators were given the opportunity to consider their actions without the implications of serious reprimand. There may be a case to share this information with other teachers that teach both the victim and perpetrators to ensure that similar situations are avoided/addressed in other subject areas.
Cooperation was received from the other teacher and from the school director. It appears that the quick and full support of the staff in this case ensured an effective solution to the situation and prevented escalation.
This type of bullying is the most commonly reported at our school. From our student surveys we are pleased to know that the vast majority of our students will look for support when they find they are in situation like this and are confident that when they do so action will be taken that will improve matters.
I am confident that most staff have the necessary skills to handle these issues in a sensitive and supportive manner and there are very few occasions where I would have to intervene in order to resolve any resultant conflict. Senior staff are only too willing to support less confident colleagues with such matters and structures are in place to enable this.
It is important that ‘anti-bullying’ is part of the school ethos and there is an expectation of looking after each other at all levels. In particular more confident students are encouraged to be observant of issues that more vulnerable students may encounter and regularly will report incidents or encourage victims of bullying to come forward to ask for help. The way the situation was handled is what I would consider to be our ‘normal practice’”
I felt that the incident was dealt with in the correct manner, but if it had been my son I would like to have been informed by school that the incident had occurred. As the students remarked I might have been confronted with behaviour at home that I did not understand. I would also have liked to praise my son for being mature in telling his form tutor and also thank the tutor for dealing with the issue in such a calm manner.
I would have felt angry and upset at the treatment my child received at the hands of the bullies, I would have been alerted to problems if my son started to not want to attend school or came up with not choosing Science as an option. If my son was quieter than usual or tearful, or angry a lot I would be aware that there were issues maybe. I hope then that I would be totally supportive of him and the school.
The school has created a safe environment in which the pupil felt safe to talk to his tutor.
The Head reports that this type of bullying is common within the school and the Science teacher was unaware of the bullying. It would be beneficial for the whole school to be involved in anti-bullying and there to be heightened awareness to this issue. Some schools have an anti-bullying week in which all pupils and teachers get involved to achieve a heightened awareness. In this process pupils could establish a reporting system for everyone in the school.
As a counsellor I would have:
• Provided a place where pupil could express how they felt
and ‘tell their story’
• Explored with pupil what they wanted to happen if anything,
being prepared to wait for the pupil to be ready to make a
disclosure to an other if that were their choice
• If disclosure chosen then explored options, eg to whom
• Provided acceptance of pupils chosen route, as long as it was
safe to do so.
The school did not involve counsellors, but could if the pupil wanted counsellor involvement. The involvement of a counsellor could have improved communication and co-operation:
• Pupils can explore their options, not time pressured to make a
• Focused communication and desemination of information if this
is what pupil wants
• Pupil empowered to make own decisions on how to handle incident
• Space provided for the bully and on lookers if appropriate
• Possibility of bringing both parties together if wanted
following individual work
There is not likey to be any long term impact on student due to way it was managed.
Positive impact: feeling empowered to access support and respected by the tutor.
• It is positive that the pupil felt he could approach his form
• Again it is positive, that the form tutor and the pupil
discussed the incident and jointly agreed on an action plan.
Pupils need to be reassured that the matter would be followed
• This was a shared concern, with several tutors involved and the
school counselor willing to offer support.
• Acceptance by the pupils at the second school that people are
different – “People have the right to be different”.
• Acceptance that bullying does occur in school and there are
strategies in place to deal with them. It is important that
schools have anti bullying policies, trained staff and the
curriculum which focuses on such issues.
• Interesting debate about whether the parents should have been
informed. This may need to be negotiated with the student in
order that he feels comfortable with the processes suggested.
• It is excellent practice that the school counselor mentioned
the possibility of, “bringing both parties together”.
• The Local Authority would be happy to offer support to
individual schools and leadership teams that request advice.
Firstly it is important to accept that the reaction by staff was successful and the bullying stopped. There is still a question over whether this is a serious bullying incident or just some unpleasantness amongst a small group of boys in a Science lesson. Getting the balance right is essential as the “victim” was clearly upset by the incident and it was impacting on his education. It could be argued that he is just over-sensitive and lacks strategies for dealing with aggressive, intimidating male behaviour.
However we see this I suspect that the “victim” will be looking over his shoulder for quite some time as he has not been given any strategies for dealing with future incidents. Counselling and support should be automatic with any incident that is logged as bullying.
This school may not have logged this as a bullying incident and this may have been a mistake – particularly if something resurfaces a few years down the line. It was good to read that the “victim” was actively involved in the resolution through the drafting of the email. This ought to be common policy in all schools.
The key issue will be what the school does in response to ensure that other children aren’t humiliated in similar ways. Students need to be reminded fairly frequently of what constitutes bullying and how they can deal with it. An annual “Anti-bullying week” allows a lot of time in which children can forget what they have learnt.
Comments about this Case Study
I Am Not Scared Project
Copyright 2017 - This project has been funded with support from the European Commission