"I Am Not Scared" Project
Girls Name Calling
• The event started at a ‘sleepover’ at a Y8 (aged 12) girls house
• Main actors CR Y8 (aged 12) & JM Y8 (aged 12) girls
• On return to College CR spread a rumour to all in form group-
resulting in JM being targeted in lessons and social time-
Breaks and lunchtime
• CR not attending school and JM being targeted in lessons and
social time-Breaks lunchtime etc
• Some text messages had been exchanged in friendship group
causing situation to escalate further
• JM then targeted CR: name calling, excluding from the group.
• Time period: I week.
When bullying is reported, Form teachers are usually the first port of call within the College’s Pastoral team and then it may be referred to the Student Progress leader and Anti-Bullying Coordinator - AFJ.
In this case as parents had contacted the College and due to the numbers of students involved 10-15, Student Progress Leader AJB and Anti-Bullying Co-coordinator AFJ interviewed all parties involved as School Anti-Bullying Policy and took student statements from all parties.AFJ/AJB then interviewed students individually.
AJB spoke to parents of CR & JM (Both very supportive of Colleges actions)
AFJ offered Restorative Justice meeting between girls when they felt they were able to attend
CR was a school refuser so AJB & HST (Director of Inclusion, Assistant Head teacher) referred CR to SCC Learning Support Centre to assist with reintegration and to continue with investigation whilst CR felt safe in college.CR parent happy with action taken.
School staff informed by confidential memo from AFJ re incident so they could monitor and intervene if needed, this is a regular procedure of AFJ to enforce the communication with staff and as all staff have seating plans in their lessons they can alter/amend to stop further conflict.
Also form teachers are kept informed so can refer back to AFJ/AJB if appropriate.
There is a clear pathway here included in the school’s - Anti-Bullying Policy- All staff regularly trained by AfJ
• AJB referred CR to experienced Learning Mentor to work with and give ‘fogging techniques’. After the sessions CR accepted responsibility of her actions, in that she had started the rumour after the sleepover and had brought it into College and she now realized the effect that this had had on her friend JM and the immediate friendship group.
• AFJ/AJB met with JM who was less forgiving, as she was the centre of the rumour and she had continued to exclude CR and actively encourage others to name call and give ‘dirty looks’ to CR.
• AJB spoke to JM again and reinforced the importance of the Restorative meeting and that it would be an ideal forum for JM to directly speak to CR with a mediator (AFJ) present and that the situation could be resolved properly without the involvement of bystanders.JM agreed.
• CR by now had returned to lessons and was accepted by some of the friendship group.
• AFJ met with the ‘bystanders’ and asked for their cooperation in resolving the situation and asked them to be supportive of their friends and report to AFJ if they felt they needed to at the Anti-Bullying Drop In that AFJ runs every Form period and lunchtime.
• From the start, it was clear that CR wanted to resolve the issue as soon as possible and worked with AFJ/AJB cooperatively. She wanted the friendship group to be ‘back to normal’ and indeed said she wished to ‘turn the clock back’. Her mother had grounded her for her actions- starting the rumour, and she ‘felt terrible. Her friendship with JM had historic problems, at her primary school they had fallen out regularly and they had been told to be friends. She didn’t trust JM at all and had continued to be ‘friends’ due to the nature of the group 10-15 and that she had genuine friends within it.
• JM wanted retribution, she was angry and upset that CR had spread the rumour about her and she didn’t trust CR. She wanted CR to be excluded from the group initially and didn’t work cooperatively with AJB/AFJ at all, indeed making the situation worse by encouraging others to join in ignoring CR. After conversation with AJB/AFJ it turned out that JM was ‘hurt’ by CR and had started to trust her after some incidents in Y7 and Primary school.JM wanted the group to be friends but didn’t want this sort of situation to reoccur.
• Safe to learn: CR had refused to attend school as she was scared of JM and the effects of the bullying, she thought that JM was going to ‘get her’ and had reported that she received a text message to say this.CR was brought back into college after 3pm and met with HST (director Of Inclusion) HST reassured CR mother of Schools policy re safe to learn and the placement in the Learning Support Centre for the following day was organized.
•AFJ had contacted all staff regarding the situation, including all Teaching Assistants, as their role within a classroom is the other pair of eyes and the Mid day meals supervisors. This was vital in the resolving of the breakdown of the group, all staff is confident to challenge negative comments from students to others. This ensures that all students feel that they are safe around College and that staff actively support this.
• Eventually after a period of a week, A F-J checked in with all parties and it would seem that things had settled down considerably. The group seems to have split into two, but there hadn’t been any negative comments reported or witnessed.
• JM had started this as the target but then had changed role to the bully, she had typically taken others with her and damaged CR as she herself had felt. When JM met with AFJ a week later she was keen though to attend the Restorative session as she felt the time was now right. With any mediation or Restorative process it is vital that both parties are happy to cooperate – it will not be successful if only one is willing and can actually harm the healing process.
• AFJ also met with CR and she still didn’t feel that the situation with JM had been resolved and was waiting for the next time. AFJ reminded CR of the opportunity of the Restorative meeting and how beneficial it could be in the long run.CR was going to consider this over the half term and meet with AFJ on return to college and inform her of her decision.
• As a couple of the group had passed on messages between the girls causing the situation to escalate in the earlier stages, AFJ met with them and, using a Anti-Bullying Resource, taught them about the role of the bystander and how they can switch roles to be more positive in the group and not the negative ‘stirring, tale telling’ roles that they had played. They understood how they had contributed to the event and how they had misread ‘helping’ by telling CR & JM what each had said about the other and how that had affected the group.
So if the student is happy at college then learning can resume. Social groups are the most important aspect of school life for most young people so it is crucial that any issues are dealt with effectively and sensitively so learners can achieve their full potential.
School integration issues-When CR was in the Learning Support Centre she wanted to be with her friends at the lunchtime and left the LSC without permission and encountered JM and some of the group, they ignored CR so she rang her mother from her mobile and her mother came into College, wanting to take her home. AFJ & AJB met with CR’s mother and explained what had happened. CR’s mother was reassured after the meeting that it was all being dealt with and withdrawing CR from College would not resolve anything. CR’s mother went home without her, happy to leave her until the end of the school day .CR was ‘grumpy’ with her mother and AJB spoke to her about using her mobile phone in College and reminded her of the reporting systems in place.
During the school year the student Progress leaders for each year group work with AFJ and several ‘topical’ assemblies are carried out. At this college there are also Diana Award Anti-Bullying Ambassadors (students) who are hoping to run Anti-Bullying Campaigns within the school and its community. The message at school is ‘Speak out and we can help!’
The school's PHSE curriculum teaches about all responsibility of one’s actions and the School has a clear Anti-Bullying Policy that was written in collaboration with students, staff and parents.
School is a Building schools for the Future School and was designed in collaboration with a student committee and student’s main focus was to feel safe to learn. The result is a state of the art building with several Learning Bases(PODS) where students can feel safe in their own mini community within the main school. Also there is a clear passive supervision aspect to the build enabling staff supervise wherever the students are. The toilets were designed with anti-bullying in mind with open spaces and CCTV in most areas.
There is also a strong presence in the School’s ‘Students Matter’ (council)with a section entitled ‘ Our Wellbeing’ focusing on feeling safe at college and promotion of education and the effective communication of all –This is student led with staff advisors in each section- (HST) assistant Head teacher and director of Inclusion and AFJ –Anti-Bullying Co-coordinator support this group.
A recent survey suggested that students felt safe in the school in comparison to the previous build and that clear reporting systems are in place.
The following three sections of the case study were worked on by a teacher during an RE lesson. Students were asked to empathize with the characters involved and offer their own thoughts on their behaviour.
In the main, students were extremely sympathetic towards the victim and this was the character who the majority of the students could relate to the most. The overriding feeling in the students’ comments was a feeling of betrayal, especially bearing in mind that the victim had spent time with the bully out of school at a ‘sleepover.’ Many students also claimed that they would have felt hurt and this could have led to anger and could see why the victim would want to retaliate and gain retribution.
Several students commented that they would have found it difficult to trust others had they been the victim and because of the uncertainty of what others were saying ‘behind their back,’ this would have led the victim to exaggerate every situation in thinking that ‘everyone was talking about them.’ One student even mentioned paranoia.
The feeling of humiliation was another big response that some students gave, as others were laughing at her and this could lead to students not wanting to come to school or put themselves in a position where they might be in the spotlight in preparation for failure in front of others, compounding the situation even more.
Many students felt that the motivation of the bully was quite possibly to try to gain popularity with her peers. Many thought that the bully would have quite obviously gained status and popularity with those around her. Accompanying this is an element of control that a bully may feel when in this situation. They may feel like they have control over the other person because the other student would not be in control of the situation and the bully would. They are the person who holds all of the cards (the rumors) and this puts them, in the eyes of the bully, in a superior or elevated position.
For many of the students who studied the case study, the victim was an easy target. They were the ‘perfect target,’ as the bully had secrets of theirs to keep and this information gave them a certain element of power to use as they wished.
In terms of regrets, the students who examined the case study felt that as a bully, they would have been hurt and disappointed by the split in the friendship group. Some students felt that the situation may have escalated to a level, which meant that the bully was no longer in control of the situation and that they ‘never meant to cause so much trouble!’
Many students who examined the case study felt that the students of the college would have been fully aware of what was happening, long before the teachers and staff were. It was commonly accepted by the whole group of 30 students, that teachers generally are 2 steps behind the students in their knowledge of what is happening in any situation in school and especially when it comes to bullying. (Something that the staff member writing up these notes is extremely fearful of)!
Many students felt that the causes really were not relevant. Some students said that this may have even begun as a ‘laugh, but gradually as time went on, the situation materialized and became more and more complicated. What could have started out as a bit of ‘fun,’ ended up causing much pain and division.
Finally, the students who examined the case study said that they felt that getting adults involved in the situation was key, as this allowed them to take some control over the situation.
Students also accepted though that they would not feel comfortable standing up to a bully. They mentioned that they would not want to be in the same situation as the victim themselves and because of this, they would not be willing to stand up to the bully in this incident. Some even said that they would not even want to inform an adult, unless that adult could guarantee that the bully would never find out that it was them who had informed the teacher.
• Incident dealt with really well. Teachers at College very quickly aware of events and how a target and switched to a “bully” and a “bully” to a target.
• Part of how the above was achieved was the time given over to interviewing all girls involved, but equally important for those girls was the attempt to address the issue of the others in escalating the incident – it would be interesting to know what anti-bullying resource was used for this.
• Meeting with parents was vital and good to see the teachers involved in being firm with CR’s mother when she wanted to remove her form school.
• Communication between all adults involved seemed excellent and vital to ending this issue and ensuring that the girl’s education continues.
The school is to be commended in having a clear Anti-Bullying policy with key personnel involved in its day to day implementation. It is good to note that Form Tutors are usually the first port of call within the school’s pastoral system as they have the holistic view of a student’s progress and personal development.
Key staff with clearly defined roles, for example Student Progress Leader and Anti-Bullying Co-Ordinator have the capacity to interview all parties. It is a positive step to involve parents at an early stage, parental support is essential in effective conflict resolution. The scenario expanded and the college’s structures were able to accommodate the greater complexities, for example one party CR refusing to attend school. Other key personnel became involved including an Assistant Headteacher. This reflects an integrated and hierarchical approach with more senior colleagues involved as complexities became evident.
The school is to be commended in tackling the peripheral activity of some students referred to as bystanders. In outlining that the role of bystander was having a detrimental effect and hindering resolution was helpful. In seeking mediation the college recognised the importance of both parties being ready for the restorative process.
Finally the school has consulted with the student body on the safety of students around the college during the Building Schools for the Future programme and clearly puts student welfare at the forefront of its activities through its Students Matter programme. It is to be commended not only on its policies but in the manner in which policies, procedure and protocols are implemented for the well-being of all students.
The parent (of second school) felt that the incident was ‘picked up’ quickly and was acted upon in an ‘expedient fashion’.
The parent felt that the school were a little too quick to put the girl in isolation. They felt that the problem might have been resolved by simply sitting the girls down and talking to them in a more informal environment, explaining the sanctions if the incident continued.
How would they have felt if it was their child?
The parent (of second school) said that they felt that the parents were right to support the school in the way that they didn’t get too involved and let the school deal with the matter.
The parent said that they would speak to their child and find out the full story. They then said that they would speak to the other parents (if they knew them). They would also want to know how the teachers were going to monitor the situation to ensure the safety of their child.
What signs would they have looked for?
• They would look for anxiety in their child, when it was time to go to school/return from school.
• Mood changes/ sadness. Reaction of their child when the other child is mentioned.
• Look for changes in friendship groups/routine changes (e.g. going for the bus at a different time etc).
If you had the possibility to modify the situation and how?
The parent said that they don’t allow ‘sleep-overs’ as-
• The child is then up all night.
• It ‘throws the child out of their sleep pattern.
• The parents have no control over what is happening.
• It potentially encourages situations (such as this one to
Prior to the restorative justice it could have been useful to offer counselling so that both parties could process some of their feelings to gain a clearer understanding of the issues for themselves.
A counselling service would explore whatever the client wanted, (usually the feelings around the incident). This often brings the client to a place of clearer understanding. If this was an ongoing problem we may look at coping strategies and what they want to happen and how this might be achieved. Usually, I would try to support and encourage the client to report this incident to a trusted adult in school, or to their parent. It is often difficult to get clients to report bullying as they believe that it makes things worse...which it often can.
Impact of the incident could perhaps been minimised by young people being able to freely access a counsellor via drop in or self referral can enable them to swiftly access support (students make the point that they are aware before the staff of underlying problems). If they can only access counselling via a named member of staff, this can close the door for some students and therefore issues can remain unresolved for long periods of time.
This school did not involve counsellors as due to funding cuts they were unable to renew the contract last year and so it does not have a counsellor available to students.
Counselling offers clients the opportunities to self reflect as well as process and make sense of difficult feelings. It offers a safe and non judgemental relationship in which to identify patterns, strategies and motivations around their own actions and responses in communicating with others. This can bring long term benefits to clients and the communities in which they live and learn. It can lower stress levels and improve client’s ability to cope.
Long-term impact will vary dependent upon a client’s resilience and ability to manage trauma. The school’s comprehensive response would help minimise this.
The involvement of a counsellor longer-term would depend on either party’s previous experiences or their resilience. It could give the client opportunities to reflect upon their reactions and their communication and behaviours. They may be able to identify patterns and influences and therefore make informed decisions about their behaviour.
The school dealt efficiently with this issue through clear systems and procedures. It would have been interesting to also reflect on how the two girls were helped to process their feelings. After all, it is often feelings and emotions that prevent young people from taking advantage of learning opportunities offered to them. It is being unable to deal with feelings that often lead young people into self harming and destructive behaviours.
The incident was dealt with according to School procedures and protocols. It was clear to all that both the students and the parents were kept informed at all stages and this helped them to work together, with the school, to resolve the problem.
The situation was dealt with, promptly and professionally as soon as it was brought to the attention of the school.
The key personal involved had set roles and they also worked in collaboration to ensure the situation did not escalate.
Communication between the parties was sensitively done and the student’s views were listened to and acted upon, at a time when it was right for the individuals. This ensured that all involved felt supported.
Strategies were used to reassure and empower the students involved.
The School is completing on-going work with all students re-Anti-Bullying as part of their studies and this will build on the work already done with the students involved.
It is also clear that when policies are written, that issues of student safety are paramount and that the students views are listened to and acted upon.
As a policy maker, looking at the procedures followed in this case, I think the situation has been dealt with very well and this is verified because it has been resolved.
As an interim measure, before the restorative meeting has taken place it might help for the students involved to write a letter of apology to each other, to offer the olive branch and this could reassure them that the restorative meeting is being looked upon by all parties as a positive move forward and not another opportunity unpleasantness between them.
It was not clear from the case study the reasons why the situation escalated in such a way as it did. It is extremely interesting that from something as simple as a ‘sleepover,’ an incident of such magnitude could escalate and it must be said is typical of the kind of people (teenagers) that we work with as schools.
The comments made by the students indicated that actually, as bystanders, they would have been quite happy to not get involved, for fear of the bully responding in a negative way also and one cannot help but think that this is a real worry. If students are scared to speak up and speak out then progress on the issue is going to be slow.
In terms of the way the school dealt with the issue, it is fair to say that there was a big investment of time, they were very thorough and that it is clear that direct policies were followed. Having teachers as pastoral leaders makes things very difficult as there is the constant battle of finding balance between time management for preparation and marking and having enough time to deal with pastoral issues.
The school though worked extremely hard in trying to ensure the best outcome for all and the organization and management of the situation overall was very good indeed and they are to be commended for this.
It was good to see positive parental intervention. It is important that parents are onboard and particularly important that they are behaving as adults!
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I Am Not Scared Project
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