"I Am Not Scared" Project
The event started at the beginning of Year 7, when the student started in the school, and continued into the beginning of year 8 and still occurs infrequently.
The bullying involves one victim and several bullies with one main instigator.
The bullying has taken on many forms from physical to mental, and has taken on both direct and indirect forms as well as cyberbullying.
To begin with the victim was complaining of name calling which led to homophobic comments. All of the ‘name calling’ students were directly sent to Heads of House (HOH).
At this point HOH discussed the seriousness of these homophobic comments and made it very clear that if it carried on serious action would be taken and they would be referred to the Assistant Head and then if necessary the Police.
All students involved including the victim were placed on HOH report- so through pastoral care we could monitor behavior and see if there was a pattern in their behavior (certain times and lessons etc.). This worked with immediate effect.
The victim was also spoken to in depth and it was decided that the victim needed a positive role model away from school and home and was therefore place on a positive mentoring scheme and was also referred to the school counselor.
Unfortunately, after some time the bullying continued and led to a physical attack on our victim. This resulted in the aggressor being placed in isolation for one day (the school behavioral policy) and a referral to anger management counseling.
Parents of both the victim and the aggressor were also called in for a meeting. During this situation the school was also informed of some abuse written on Facebook. Again all of the accused were spoken to and made aware of the seriousness of this offence. Students are encouraged to print the Facebook page to show their HOH.
The victim was immediately placed on a positive mentoring scheme and referred to the school counselor which this has helped him build up his confidence and helping him to detract negative attention. We have an Inclusion Unit where he is always welcome to go if he feels things are getting too much for him. He will frequently go there during break and lunchtime as he feels happier in that environment. The main aggressor has been kept on HOH report in order to monitor his behavior throughout the day and has continued to receive Anger Management Counseling which has helped him to deal with his own issues and consequently curbed the bullying.
Being able to go to the inclusion unit during break and lunchtimes helps the victim stay within a safe environment. The school environment consists of a large outside courtyard where students congregate during break and lunch if they are not in the canteen, learning resource centre or attending an extra curricular club. A minority of vulnerable students have reported on occasions feeling uneasy in such an environment, especially those students with communication and social interaction issues. A space which is much more calm and relaxed at break and lunch time has worked perfectly for the victim which has given him chance to slowly rebuild his confidence in a less stressful and intimidating environment.
The victim has a much better understanding of how to deal with being bullied and now knows what to do in order to report such incidents. Before the bullying action was implemented by staff, the victim was unable to deal with being bullied in the correct way which would quite often lead to the victim himself getting into trouble for various misdemeanors such as walking out of lessons and being confrontational with both staff and other students.
The aggressors also had no appreciation for the ‘secondary behaviour’ caused by their bullying. The victim is now much more aware of the best way to deal with bullying in order to prevent it occurring again. This has also increased the victim’s confidence around school which has had an effect on both the agressors and bystanders. They can see that the victim is now much more confident and assertive which has kept further bullying incidents to a minimum.
One of the aggressors who had a reputation as a ‘low level bully’ has made significant improvements in their behavior and attitude towards others. This student is under very close supervision by his form tutor who asked for frequent updates from his class teachers regarding his attitude towards his peers. All incidents are logged. The aggressor was also made aware of this and this appears to have had a positive impact on the relationship this student has with his peers. He is less confrontational; less inclined to distract and torment others and has started to develop relationships outside his normal friendship circle.
The victim appears to be a quiet individual who is shy and uncomfortable in large group situations. He may feel that he is being bullied because of these character traits. He doesn’t feel like he fits in with the other students and has therefore made use of the inclusion room during social times.
He has become ground down by the bullying and feels like it has become a habit for the bullies. He is an easy target because he does not want to “fight back” and therefore the bullying continues. He would feel let down by the school due to the long-term nature of the bullying and would possibly be thinking “if they were going to be able to stop it, it would have stopped by now.”
After he informed the school of the name-calling he was able to receive targeted support. He spoke to his Head of House and identified the bullies. This enabled the school procedures (inclusion, report cards, etc) to be implemented. The victim had also spoken to his parents about the bullying. The school and parents were able to work together to provide positive support for him.
The victim was lacking a positive influence in his life outside of school. The school recognised this and worked with external agencies to provide the support that he needed.
The aggressors appear to have picked on the victim due to his low self-esteem. He is an easy target because he finds it difficult to interact with other students and is therefore less likely to fight back or report the behaviour to other students. The aggressors are identified as regular bullies and you can therefore assume that they exist in a culture of bullying where they consider it to be fun to pick on a weaker student. Their motivation is self-gratification; they are taking pleasure from the victims discomfort whilst being safe in the knowledge that he won’t fight back.
The victim was well known to the aggressors. This is clear from the time-scale of the bullying and the fact that they could communicate on Facebook. This suggests that they will have selected him as they know a lot about him and can make the verbal bullying more personal and hurtful and therefore more likely to cause a dramatic response.
In general, it appears that the aggressors have shown a degree of remorse. One of the fringe members of the bullying group has accepted the support offered through the school’s pastoral care and shown a desire to change his ways.
All of the bullies have engaged with the pastoral support offered and involved themselves in anger management and counselling. This shows that they recognise that their behaviour is unacceptable. The concerning behaviour is that they have continued the bullying over a long period of time despite some level of pastoral intervention. They can modify their behaviour whilst on report and then revert to their previous tactics when the monitoring is less intense.
There will be a small group of students who were aware of the incidents as they provided support in the inclusion unit. They are similar students who require a degree of TLC and will have been able to empathise with the victim. The general school population was aware that the victim was being bullied to some extent. They regarded him as a victim with low self-esteem and therefore expected to see him unhappy and alone.
The majority of the students allowed the bullying to continue through their passive approach to the situation. They have shown a degree of self-preservation by allowing the bullying to continue. If there was a strong group of boys who actively bullied within the school the majority of students will have accepted that they always pick on the victim and that this is better than the bullies picking on them.
The teachers had been aware of the bullying for a long time due to the victim and his parents reporting it. They used a variety of techniques to ensure that they had a clear picture of what was happening. The Head of House used a reporting card to monitor where the flashpoints where and whether there was a pattern to the incidents. This also reduced the chance of further incidents happening as all members of the teaching staff would be monitoring the situation.
The staff member responsible for the inclusion unit would be capable of monitoring the situation at break times. The victim seems comfortable communicating with the staff and therefore in a secure environment will be able to report all incidents. This will allow the Head of House to continue their intervention activities as they can act quickly with all of the facts.
The good relationship between the Head of House and the victim’s parents has enabled the school to act quickly and obtain the evidence (Facebook printouts) that they require. The parents have supported the Head of House by allowing the victim to engage with the positive support programme initiated by the school.
There is no indication that the senior management team (SLT) in the school were actively involved in the situation, which is a pity as this is an incident which could have gone on throughout all of the student' school life.
It can be presumed that the SLT were involved in the writing of the school anti-bullying and other policies that the Head of House was following and the senior management will have approved the use of an anger management course for the bullies, but maybe the incident should have triggered a review of those policies to see if they are still effective or in need of updating.
The parents of the victim had been involved in the situation throughout and were well aware of the nature of the bullying.
They had acted quickly to contact the school and provide the appropriate level of support. They allowed the school to act on the incidents and helped to monitor the situation by completing the Head of House report card. They recognised that the school were correct to identify the need for positive support and agreed to support the victim with this.
The parents of the aggressors supported the school by allowing the behaviour support teacher to complete an anger management course with them. They did not provide the correct level of support before this though as the situation had dragged on for so long.
The school had made them aware that the bullying was going on but there does not appear to have been any change in the behaviour of the boys.
The school has worked hard to contain the bullying and it is clear that the student did feel confident about talking about being bullied with the school and his parents. The school have looked at the wider issue and recognized that the victim needed additional support and have worked to achieve this.
The process does seem to have taken some time and it is mentioned that bullying does still occur. It seems that bullying does remain an issue within the school
It is interesting that at the beginning the victim too was also put on HOH reports and I am curious about why it is managed in that way; that the victim is treated in the same way as the bully.
There may be some advantage in further anti-bullying work focusing on cyber bullying and encouraging parents to become involved in this too so that they learn more about this additional potential bullying opportunity
The school counsellor does appear to have been involved and there is no comment about how long the student was seen for. It is clear that the student has become more confident and has developed increased social skills
If I had been the counselor I would have focused on:
Letting the student tell their story to put what was happening into some context and ensure that he did not feel responsible or blamed for the bullying.
Developing coping skills to enable him to mange difficult situations in the future
Developing communication skills to empower him to develop friendship groups.
Explore what support he currently has and how he uses this.
It is hard to have a view about any long-term effect this bullying might have but already it is clear that he is developing positive relationships and is able to use the support that has been offered to him
Whilst the school has worked hard to contain this particular incident, I would probably approach this as an opportunity to look at the bigger picture in school in terms of whole school ethos and attitudes towards bullying and lessons to be learned from the incident.
Monitoring system put in place
Support for victim including outside agencies and counselling.
Specific work with aggressor (although not until 2nd incident)
Involvement and support from parents of both sides
The areas which appear to need looking at are
The development of the school policy which should have clear sections on reporting and responding situations, recording and monitoring AND preventative strategies
The role of the whole staff in implementing policy
Preventative strategies within the policy to deal with anti bullying issues in particular homophobic bullying and e-safety and Cyberbullying though PSHE/Citizenship lesions, whole school initiatives such as SEALetc.
The role of other students- i.e bystander behaviour and the involvement of the other students in AB policy development.
Time lines regarding when bullying was first recording and how long it took to take action.
Possibly some intervention needed for the group of boys displaying bullying behaviour as they show they can modify behaviour when monitored then ‘revert’ to previous tactics.- Restorative practices or small group work.
This is an interesting Case Study as, on the surface, the school has done a lot to combat bullying. Unfortunately there are indications that circumstances and a lack of forward planning have allowed the incidents to take place.
Open spaces are difficult to supervise and can lead to pockets of students getting bored and spicing their lives up by spreading rumours and tormenting other students. This is an issue of staff deployment and will not be solved by providing alternative (staffed) locations and leaving the initial breeding ground unsupervised.
There is also an issue over the school’s approach to gender. The ethos of the school should allow students who are unsure of their sexuality to be themselves without feeling they are different in any way. The crucial expression for me is the comment that says the school “worked hard to contain the bullying”. How long are we going to tolerate or ignore homophobia amongst our students because we still have a society that cannot fully embrace the fact that some people are gay?
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I Am Not Scared Project
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