"I Am Not Scared" Project
Τhe social network creates problems
On November 25, 2010, the 14year old Catherine decided to end her life by consuming an excessive quantity of sedative pills. That noon her parents had left her at home under the supervision of her 70year old grandmother, as they had to accomplish some of their business. According to testimonies of the old woman the girl was chatting in the website on Face book while some of her classmates who mocked and laughed at her inside and outside of school, a video uploaded on the website showing herself crying all alone in the school toilet. Another part of the stuff which was on her Face book wall was some photos picturing Catherine sitting alone in different places inside the school area. Under those photos had added mocking and ironic comments, such as “the foolish person” and “the whale is sitting and crying cause she is undesirable by her girlfriends while playing”. Catherine was found in an unconscious state, fallen beside her bed while on her book desk her computer was uploaded in her website at Facebook had herself written on her wall “my life was ruined since I matriculated at this school. Everyone is laughing at me. I hate you all.” Her grandmother who found her unconscious called an ambulance and informed Catherine’s parents. The girl was transported immediately to hospital where she stayed hospitalized for 5 days. By the time she recovered started to receive psychological support from an expert.
The incident was let to know next morning as soon as the parents of Catherine phoned the School Director. Her parents requested the Director to search through the case and find those girls who had uploaded the video and the photos with the offensive comments on Internet. They also warned that if the Director did not find the girls- perpetrators, they would sue against the school and follow every other legal instrument in order to protect of their daughter’s the mental health.
On the other side, the Director convoked the professors’ association and announced them the incident as above. The professors were stunned and almost all of them testified that they had no understood the tiniest thing. As far as Catherine is concerned they had noticed she was shy and timid. But they could not imagine that she would reach the attempt, experiencing so strongly the rejection of her new school environment and the teasing of her classmates. Certainly the upload of the video and photos of Catherine taken by the school place concerned particularly the professors, as the use of mobile phones is forbidden in the school area and obviously the three classmates who were embroiled in the incident carried mobile phones and took pictures of Catherine in the school toilets. Catherine’s responsible class professor indicated that she had tried sometimes to approach her as she noticed that Catherine was isolated and solitary from the other children during the school breaks. But Catherine was particularly shy and assured her that she was fine. Furthermore she had noticed that 3 girls of the 3rd grade of High School were disturbing Catherine by using funny teasing but she would not consider it so grave to interfere as Catherine herself had made no complaints.
As soon as this objection was known the Director asked to know the names of these girls and invited them in front of the association of school professors. They were informed about Catherine’s incident and when, although at first they denied any involvement in the matter, the Director announced them the intention of Catherine’s parents to resort to prosecution of cyber crime in order to identify the perpetrator, they were scared and pleaded guilty. Afterwards, the Director called the parents of the three girls and informed them about the incident. They also announced them that the association of professors decided the expulsion of the girls from the school complex as they had violated the school rules about the use of mobile phones and other electronic means and above all because of their improper behavior they had led their classmate to attempt suicide.
This happening, as was expected, caused great upheaval in the school place and around it. For a long time, about 3 months, the student performance as both Catherine’s and the three other girls who changed school environment was significantly affected. Catherine was trying to recover her strength, to win her shyness, to reinforce her self confidence and find a location in the school place and finally “root” in it. Unfortunately, this would not always work and she was losing any interest in learning and participating in the educational process, regressing to depressive attitudes. Her classmates who almost all of them knew about the event were divided into two categories. To those who had commiserated with her were trying to approach her, to incorporate in their companionship and make her feel happy and comfortable inside the student companionship. They were making effort to make her feel safety and gain her confidence. In fact, some girls started to request Catherine’s friendship outside the school area intending this way to change her bad psychological situation as well out of the school community. There was also that category of children who considered Catherine’s reaction excessive and inane opposite the behavior and the mocking comments and the teasing of her classmates. They found Catherine’s school behavior depressive and talked behind her back continuously about the incident. In particular, some of them interchanging messages on Face book were dropping innuendos about the “sensitive and delicate existence of school, who in spite of the mental suffering, did not lose any weight….”.
On the other side, the three girls after changing school environment and also fighting the comments and “whispers” of this new entourage, found at first difficult to incorporate in the school community and devote to their student duties. It is worth noting that each of the three girls, Natasha, Mary and Christina, matriculated as required in different school areas for obvious reasons. Their student performance was falling at first, but after three months approximately they began to incorporate in their new school environment and to appear leadership trends to other children. Their student progress got improved gradually and one of them, indeed, Natasha, managed to collect around her some classmates especially vivid and rebellious. The critical comments such of the student as the general social environment did not discourage them for a long time. It seems they got over the incident because they were supported as both by their families and new friendships and by their strong confidence that they were not the actual responsible for Catherine’s attempt to end her life. They believed and still believe that Catherine had her own psychological problems and that their innocent and childlike teasing was the reason that caused her attempt to suicide. The educational staff of school started to embrace Catherine, to place her in the breast of the school community and make her vivid. So the professors started to charge her with collective tasks in order to lead her actively not only at the student but mostly at the collective and participating process and above all intending to change her negative attitude towards the specific school and the student population. The email on the wall of Face book “I hate you all” made the professors to consider their responsibility and activated them to the attitude as described above towards Catherine. She though, is not always receptive and cooperative. She is characterized of low self confidence, defeatism and many times she refuses to participate in team works because she is afraid she can not accomplish and so will become subject of scornful comments.
In general, the surrounding school atmosphere is democratic and liberal. The school climate favors the development of healthy relationships among professors and students, as well the conduct of democratic processions that allow any’s student activation and shake- up. The Director and the association of teachers have always acted with the view of students’ security and the opinion that the students should consider themselves as members of a community that takes care and interested in their physical and psychical health and their mental and moral constitution. Any matter that shows up is worked out by the Director and the association of professors according to democratic process, looking after for the best solution, many times with the collaboration of the parents’ and guardians’ association .
Three months before the attempt to suicide Catherine was in very bad psychological situation. Her family had moved a year ago from Thessalonica. The child every day was experiencing problems due to the way she was treated by her classmates. Often she complained to her mother about the jokes and the teasing she suffered at school. The reason was the girl’s obesity and her region accent. Particularly she claimed that a company of girls laughed at her because of the weight and the odd accent of Thessalonica city. She would bow the head, turn red in the face; her eyes were filled with tears and often ran to the school toilets to cry without being seen by her classmates. But as she was very timid and with low self confidence she would not react to the teasing. She was a sensitive girl with artistic temperament. She was occupied with the painting and music. She would never intend to hurt anyone. She was shy as she could not repel the other girls’ insults. Often, as well, she asked her parents to change school area. She was complaining she had no friendships and some girls were violent and aggressive. In particular, Natasha, Mary and Christina had targeted her since the first day she matriculated at the school. Catherine remembered strongly that the first day of the school year they used to call her “whale” in front of the other classmates, many of whom broke into laughing, making her burst into tears. So after three months full of teasing and mocking comments Catherine could not endure any more and wanted to revenge them as she confessed after all these to the hospital psychologist. When she saw on her Face book wall the video and the photos that ridiculed her she neither could nor bear up and she lost courage. She consumed the pills which found in her grandmother’s drawer and in a few minutes she lost her senses.
The other three girls, Natasha, Mary and Christina, according to their confession they used to mock and make fun constantly of several, mostly timid, school students so they could hold their status among the other. They believed that they were superior to the other. They had never imagined that the consequences of their actions would be so grave for their classmate. The reason that they uploaded these photos was that days ago they had blackmailed Catherine not to mention anything at the professors and Director about their teasing. Catherine who was emotionally affected in her new school environment and petrified by the mocking of the three classmates that created laughs to the other classmates, in an unexpected outburst; she threatened them, that the following day she would confess every detail to the responsible class professor. This infuriated the girls and by the noon of 25th November they uploaded on Face book the video and photos with the insulting comments in order to embarrass and terrify her. In addition they claimed that Catherine was a girl odd and depressive. In other words, the girls would not consider that their photos of Catherine were the real cause who drove her to attempt suicide. In spite of all this they stated that they had regretted for their behavior.
All the school students were informed the following day about the incident. Many classmates of the victim thought aw well the bad attitude of the perpetrators. They called them quarrelsome, selfish and many times violent. They mentioned that more students, just like Catherine, had fallen victims of that mocking and insulting behavior. But Catherine was too timid and sensitive to front them. It was also mentioned that other students were afraid to defend Catherine or approach her due to the fear of experiencing similar problems. In addition, often they would not mention to the School Director the negative acts of these girls under the fear that they would be on target of racism and being ridiculous. Some girls, indeed, who chatting on Face book that evening had seen the photos and video uploaded by Natasha and five of them expressed “like”(approved the act of Natasha) in order to express that way their approbation towards Natasha and her friends’ attitude. They wanted to gain a nice relationship with the girls- perpetrators so they would not get bothered.
Many teachers supported that they had no idea about Catherine’s problem and had never been informed about any reaction or complain of her. The responsible professor of class had noticed that Catherine was a shy and timid girl and during school breaks she would not enter to the other companies but it charged to the fact that she was a new student at school and needed time to adapt to the new school environment.
In reference to the problematic behavior of the students- perpetrators many professors supported the opinion that these students had to obtain psychological support by an expert- psychologist. The whole association of the professors considered that these students should be punished strictly, even including the change of school environment. They suggested additionally, that their act should be subject of annotation and study in the whole school community, so all the students would get knowledge and any other similar phenomena appeared in the school community would be prevented. Finally the professors were palliative and patronizing towards Catherine and expressed their unreserved support.
The school Director was informed about Catherine’s attempt to suicide in the morning of 26th November. Indeed he got speechless when Catherine’ s father informed him on the phone about the incident and threatened that if the Director would not find the girls- perpetrators he would sue the school and follow any other legal path in order to protect her daughter’s mental health. Immediately he invited the professors association and announced them the happening. He asked them if any of them had noticed if Catherine had enemies and if there was peculiar strange with her behavior. After the responsible professor of Catherine’s class revealed the girls who had uploaded the photo and video stuff and they were found the Director acting in the concert of the professors decided that those girls who heckled Catherine and had taken pictures and video of her inside the school area making her ridiculous on Face book should be dismissed from school. After calling the three girls in front of the professors association and their confession of their act the Director also invited their parents and announced them the final and irreversible dismissal of the girls of the school unit. Suggested that each one of the girls should matriculate at different schools so they would lose every day’s contact. Afterwards the Headmaster informed by phone and Catherine’s parents and announced them that such he as the association of educators would act the best ever to help Catherine feel better at school and incorporate at the school environment.
Catherine’s parents had many times got to know her complaints about the teasing and mocking and her objections about the new school. In spite all this stuff, they believed that it was something temporary and their child soon would get used to her new school environment. They could not consider that that their child was under this bad psychological situation due to the teasing of her classmates so she would reach the attempt of suicide. Their increased professional obligations and effort to get used to the new city did not leave them any chance to comprehend Catherine’ s problem and take seriously her complaints.
On the other side the parents of the three girls who teased Catherine could not believe that their children had caused something so grave. They tried to comprehend their daughters’ point of view who claimed that it was just jokes and teasing among adolescents and take in mind the view of shy and feared Catherine. They insisted though that if Catherine’s parents had taken seriously her daughter’s complaints and if they had informed the school Director and the professors about the problem, then the attempt of suicide and generally the relations among the students involved perhaps would be better. Although they accepted without any objections the removal of their children from the school unit, they left school claiming that their daughters’ teasing was not such an important cause to lead to an attempt of suicide and that finally Catherine’s parents should search at different reasons the attempt of their child to end her life.
There is no reference to intervention by the school councellor of the school after the recording of the incident. However the contribution to the management of such incidents is essential.
Repeated victimization of a child at school often / leads to psychological problems such as excessive inhibition, loneliness and even depression. The victim has low self esteem, sees himself as a failed / or even ashamed. This increases the isolation from others and the chance to again become a victim. In parallel, showing changes in behavior such as refusing to go to school for fear of developing relationships with other children, intense feelings of frustration and appearance anxiety, and somatic complaints, eg headaches, pains in the abdomen. Often it and learning problems due to the fact that school life is the victim of an intolerable experience, reduced school performance and waives hobbies and interests
Her parents, Catherine had to perceive the seriousness of the poor condition experienced their daughter to school and the impact on psychology and had informed the school community as partners to help their child. Parents and teachers should have sought the assistance of the school board to refer the perpetrator and the victim to specialists (psychologists) if there were changes in emotional state and behavior of children.
With the help of an expert, the victim's family must instill the necessary confidence and pride in herself and in diversity, and for it to find the strength to ignore the perpetrators, giving them a clear message that is not so vulnerable as to believe. In addition, parents should help the child acquire interpersonal skills to make its own friends and friends and ask for help from a teacher or another adult when exposed to repeated verbal or physical attacks, social or electronic bullying.
The spread of the phenomenon is also due largely to lack of information, awareness of the school community education and ignorance regarding the management of such crises. Prevention should be based on training teachers in active, experiential teaching methods that foster attributes such as teamwork, cooperation and aimed at fostering self-esteem of the student and build empathy.
The cause of the crisis is the student’s lack of communication with the family and the school. At school level there may have been too few efforts on part of the teachers to approach the schoolgirl, who seemed to be a little introvert, although they were expected to do so. In addition, it seems that there is no communication between teachers and the students-abusers, whose deviant behavior appeared before the incident. In other words, mistakes were made by the teachers of the school, since they didn’t deal with the underlying problem behaviors that were systematically reported within the school environment and resulted in the tragic event. Furthermore, the lack of communication between the school and the students’ parents is evident. Still, after the incident, the School Director acted accordingly regarding the management of this crisis. He tried to defuse the tension and prevent any similar behaviors.
As a regional body we are trying to nurture the development of communication in the broad education community. The objective is to encourage the family to cooperate with the teaching staff and vice versa, as these are two very important environments in which students grow and manifest different sorts of behavior along with the development of their personality and particularly during the period of adolescence. For this reason we organize seminars and conferences that focus on not only the prevention of mental problems of adolescents, but also their effective management in cooperation with all mental health agencies. In this way we hope that we will raise parents’ and teachers’ awareness and promote their cooperation so that phenomena such as school violence and divergent behavior may be eliminated.
Through the incident as above it is perceived that the child who is introverted, shy and usually has a physical disadvantage becomes victim of school violence. At the specific incident Catherine experiencing strongly the change of school environment and simultaneously feeling bad about the mocking comments made by her classmates about her weight and her odd pronunciation, guided her in distress and hate towards her classmates. She wanted to express the violence that received at school through a violent act towards her, in order to take revenge of her classmates, as she confessed later at the hospital psychologist.
The reason that caused the incident above was the arrogant attitude and behavior of the three girls, who wanted, as they confessed to impose on the other children and distinguish. Those girls wanted to assure their leading capacities, by mocking and deriving children like Catherine, shy and introverted, and not strong enough to react.
On the other side, the school, the association of teachers and the Director, had no understood any offensive behavior of those children or, at least, did not evaluate it such as offensive, as they had no denounce of any child victim.
However now the situation at school has improved. Catherine with the support of an expert, of her professors and her classmates has managed to incorporate to the school environment. The classmates and generally the school students after a debate among the professors and students and also after speech of experts in the school area on the matter of school bulling, have been more sensitive on this issue and now are more informed.
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I Am Not Scared Project
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