"I Am Not Scared" Project
“Human dignity in rubbish”
Billy is a student of the 1st class of Lyceum (15 years old), who has adopted an aggressive profile and has caused many problems at school. He has been punished many times for his bad behavior, through ejection for some days from school, exclusion from a day excursion and school work in the library. But none of these measures eventually worked. Recently he attacked a younger student of the 1st class of Gymnasium, Christos (12 years old) and drew the attention of the school community. Christos was born in Albania and came to Greece with his family 8 years ago. He speaks greek fluently and does not seem different from the other students.
Everything started a few weeks ago, during a school break. Billy was throwing some batteries from the recycling box with his friends towards Christos and some other kids. They complained about that and Billy grabbed Christos and tried to sit him on the trash bin. The kids watching pulled him away, Christos got upset and called him bad names, which triggered Billy’s anger who punched him in his eye severely. After that they went to their classrooms. B went away smirking, though A was shocked, red from anger and started crying. His friends tried to calm him and none of them seemed to keep tangling with the event.
The bell had rung and a teacher went to Christos’ classroom in order to teach her lesson. Once she entered the room she saw Christos crying and noticed his red cheek. She asked what had happened, and the children referred briefly to the event, but tried to cover Billy and give no further dimension to it. The teacher decided not to conceal the event and informed another colleague and the school director of Gymnasium. Once he heard about that he asked Billy to go to his office and describe him the event. He really got angry and immediately called Billy’s parents on the phone and lectured them about Billy’s bad behavior, and also cautioned them that he would be expelled from school next time. Then he called Christos and asked him to describe the event from his side. In the meanwhile, the fact starts to get discussed among the teachers of the school, who ask Billy’s punishment. The Lyceum school director called the two students (separately) in order to get a whole idea of what had happened with no intention to punish anyone. But this irritated Gymnasium’s director who asked her to do something about the situation. After that she decided to contact the children of the 3rd class (the oldest ones) and asked for their help. They didn’t seem to get surprised from Billy’s behavior and denied to get involved. But after the school director’s proposal, we discussed the fact in the class during the lesson of Sociology and they agreed to help.
Lately the director called the parents of all children attending Lyceum for a meeting at school. Not all of them corresponded, but the meeting took place. Furthermore she decided to organize a two-day symposium at school with the help of the teachers and children as well, against racism and promoting children’s rights. (This has not taken place yet, but has been scheduled for 21-22 December).
This bullying event upset the school community in many ways. School life has been disrupted often by students’ racist behavior and thus the specific incident triggered teachers’ worrying on the subject.
The respect of children’s rights became a subject of discussion in many classes, especially in the 1st grade of Lyceum, where the phenomenon is more intense. Teachers’ punishments became more often and severe and enhanced the adhesion to school rules. The supervision during the breaks became more intensive and teachers’ attitude became stricter. This caused an intense atmosphere in school and a bad climate in general.
In some lessons, such as “Sociology” and “Politics and Law”, there were some didactical hours spent in studying matters of equal rights and violence. The students of the last grade agreed to take initiatives to solve such problems in their school in order to improve the communication and cooperation among schoolmates. This is the most important impact coming up from this unpleasant event. Older children decided to become more active in social school life and take initiatives for school’s sake. The role they were given made them feel more mature and responsible about their school.
Generally some students got very irritated by Billy’s attitude, though others tried to justify his action and express their racist concept. Younger children attending classes of Gymnasium denounced Billy’s behavior and expressed their worrying about feeling unsafe in school.
In the beginning Billy didn’t seem to understand the seriousness of his action and continued to act in a cunning way, trying to draw his friends’ attention by doing funny nasty things. But after the students’ intervention, he felt isolated and ignored by the others and thus he started to act in a more mature and serious way. He kept trying to draw the attention in his class, but was much more careful. He doesn’t seem to regret about his action though.
Christos became much more introvert and didn’t talk to others except for his friends. He also became more quite in class and hesitated to participate in the lesson procedure. His school performance deteriorated and his attitude towards his teachers became more frigid. He avoided contact with the older students of school and seems stressful and worrisome since then.
Apart from the disruption caused by the bullying action, the pursuit with finding manners to handle it benefited the school community in many ways. First of all, things like that happen all the time and could no longer stay hidden, because it would implicit that school does not bother and anyone could act the way they liked. Children with different origin use to face their classmates’ nasty behavior and this should stop. The intervention of older children, the awareness of parents and the organization of cultural anti-racism events and collective actions in school is a great step in changing the situation.
As mentioned above, Christos comes from another country and lives in Greece with his family for the last 8 years. Children in the village he lives with his family are prejudiced against Albanians, so his socialization was difficult. In the class is quite and kind and he generally keeps a low profile in school.
When he was asked about the event by school’s director, he hesitated to discuss about that. He didn’t blame Billy for his action and he stated that he didn’t want him punished. Despite his injury (physical and psychological) by him, he tried to cover him and he insisted that Billy should not get punished.
He attributed the bullying action to Billy’s naughty character, but did not want to discuss further about that. The only help he accepted was from the kids that witnessed the bullying action and stopped Billy from putting him in the trash. But after their intervention he avoided discussing about it with anybody, nor with the teachers that approached him.
He probably shared this event with his parents, because it was obvious that he had been hit by somebody, but we don’t know much about it, because they didn’t come at school to discuss about the fact.
Although Christos doesn’t speak about, it is obvious that he believes that kids like Billy behave badly to immigrants because of their different origin and cannot accept the difference in their cultures. This is a fact in many small places in Greece that blocks the procedure of their inclusion in the school community. But also he seems to be afraid of Billy and feel insecure. Our guess (coming from Billy’s statements) is that his parents are staying in Greece illegally and he may be afraid of that.
As mentioned above, Billy is a child that often bothers the school community with his naughty and violent behavior. He is a smart child with moderate school performance (which would be great if he would be more studious). He has some racist feelings about immigrants, as many other children in his village and generally likes to draw others’ attention.
When he was asked by the school director to explain his action, he argued that he hit Christos because he cursed at his parents and said nasty things about his family. He doesn’t believe that it is his fault, because Christos attacked him too (which is not true, according to other children’s statements).
Through the discussion though, he admitted that he reacted violently, because in the past he had been insulted by Christos’ father, who was at the same football team some years ago and used to treat him bad. So now he believed he had the right to hit Christos.
The school director tried to scare him and explained him that physical violence can cause district attorney’s intervention. But Billy assured her that Christos’ father would never contact a district attorney. He insisted on that, which made us have doubts about the legacy of Christos’ family residency.
Generally, he doesn’t seem to have any regrets about his action, but he seems to bother about his friends’ opinion.
Everyone in school knows Billy’s aggressive character and his tendency to tease others. His classmates join him in such incidents and like teasing others as well. His classroom (1st grade of Lyceum) is very often a point of discussion in teachers’ office.
In this school there are many children that share the same bad opinion about immigrants (especially those coming from Albania). So, these kids did not criticize Billy’s action. But there are also many children (especially in the last grades) that get annoyed by his actions and the disruption he causes to school.
The majority of children denounced the specific event and think that Billy crossed the line this time. They seem to care about him and want to help him, but they don’t know how. They attribute his general attitude to his bad family situation and the growing he received. When asked about Christos’ psychology, they didn’t seem to know much about it.
Students of the 3rd grade were informed about the event from the school director and got involved in order to find a solution and help Billy to comply with the school rules without being severely punished. They seem to believe that he deserves a severe punishment, but they don’t believe it would have any results, according to past experience.
They agreed to help, with the coordination of the teacher of Sociology, and they decided to make a group of five people (4 students and an older friend of B that is respectful by him), and discuss seriously the matter with B the next evening. They decided to face him with a strict and mature manner to show him the importance of the case, and this seems to have an impact on him till now.
The school director started to discuss the incident with the other teachers in order to get their opinion about the measures that should be implemented. They proposed to have a meeting in order to decide Billy’s punishment. They seem unwilling to accept such behaviors in school and they intend to protect school’s harmony and children’s safety.
In the beginning they intended to adopt severe measures to punish Billy’s action (through his suspension from school), but after school director’s proposal they are willing to adopt alternative measures to solve the problem.
They all work on the project of the anti-racism symposium and prepare many activities, such us an argument competition, film projections, a theater spectacle, and other activities combined with their subjects. They also started to talk about such issues in their classes and try to help children’s integration in school.
Generally they all show great willingness to cooperate with each other and with the school director in order to enhance a good school climate and insure children’s feeling of safety and justice.
School directors have been obviously troubled by this bullying event and they are both willing to work on this.
Gymnasium’s school director was informed about the event by a teacher that found Christos crying, and as mentioned above he immediately contacted bully’s parents to inform them about the incident. He asked Lyceum’s school director’s intervention and he asked for Billy’s punishment. But she preferred to follow a different way of intervention and tried to involve teachers, children and their parents to handle the situation.
First of all she contacted Billy’s mother and asked for her intervention. She defended her son and tried to excuse him. Then school director contacted (through phone calls) a psychologist, asked for her opinion and took her advice. Then she asked all children’s parents to meet her and discuss with them the situation.
Through discussion with students and Billy’s parents, she found out that they are separated and that they both live with other partners. Billy lives with his sister, his mother and her boyfriend and does not meet his father very often. She (the director) strongly believes that Billy’s family situation plays a great role to his inappropriate behavior.
She thinks that traditional measures, such as Billy’s suspension from school, cannot ameliorate the situation and has decided to take action in alternative ways, involving all the members of school community.
Billy’s parents as already mentioned are separated. They are aware of their son’s troublesome behavior at school. Billy’s father lives in another village and has not much contact with the school. Billy’s mother states that has worked much on her son’s behavior and that she has no responsibility for his actions. She does not believe that Billy has a bad character, and she just describes him as a little bit boisterous, but with no bad intentions.
She got informed about the fact by the director of Lyceum and justified him because of her son’s previous bad relationship with Christos’ father. She accepted director’s invitation and attended the meeting with other parents. She insisted on her son’s innocence and tried to justify him for another time.
Christos’ parents came from Albania and work in the field of agriculture. They didn’t contact school after the incident and thus we have no information about their opinion. They generally seem to have low profile.
There was not a Counselor at school. The counselor (Expert on student delinquency), however from the Youth Advisory Station, belonging to the Directorate of Secondary Education in the Prefecture, who was informed about the incident later stated the following:
Schools in Greece became multicultural the last two decades. It is a fact that students are not used in the consequences of globalization.
Delinquency is a major problem. Motivation is the problem too. I think that as nation we don’t have experience in multicultural societies. The first student in our story believes that offers something very important by behaving to the other student like this way. He thinks that only Greeks need education. The school is ‘ours’.
The other student is ‘in jail’. He lives in a world of division and he accepts the situation (like his family).
Communication and cooperation among our students should be improved by using a different model of teaching. New trends in teaching and learning such as collaborative learning and working a project could help to change the situation. But this is not enough. School actors should talk to the parents of the students.
The director of the school should invite an expert, a psychologist, to talk to the students and their families aiming in analyzing the problem and helping both sites to adapt in the new social situations of our every day life.
The Director of Educational Affairs of Directorate of Secondary Education in the Prefecture, who was briefed on the incident later, stated the following:
The interest of the class teacher for the case is obvious as she informed the Director of the school as she should be done.
The Director of the junior High School was not competent to call Billy neither to discuss with him, as he was a student of the senior High School nor to inform his parents.
The Director of the senior High School was informed but she did not intervene effectively. The invitation to a meeting with the parents of the children as well her idea to implement a daily workshop is a positive intervention. A positive reaction is the invitation of psychologists to the school as well.
The intervention of the Director of the junior High School both pedagogically and administratively is practically insufficient as during it Chris was not protecting, he was felt more insecure and he was continuing to experience the consequences of bullying.
The Director of the senior High School keeping in mind that the any kind of punishment has no result on Billy lost the control of the situation at school in where there is a climate of intimidation and delinquency. Actions should be taken, such as, discussions, updates, meeting of the teachers, to face the problem.
Cooperation and a harmonious atmosphere should be present between the two Directors of the schools. Their disagreements reflect on the smooth operation of the two schools. The two Directors should seek help from psychologists or social workers to help both students to avoid experiencing all these negative emotions and help Bill to recognize his wrong behavior, to improve himself and apologize to Chris.
Because Billy shows no remorse, school actors might decide other kind of inventions such as changing the school environment for him (ordering change of the school he studies). This decision should be made not as a punishment but for the purposes of developing a different school environment for Billy offering him the opportunity to improve his attitude and behavior.
At the same time this decision would help Chris to feel safe and free to interact with others in his school environment.
Billy has to deeply realize that the school community does not accept any physical violence and delinquent behavior, as this is not acceptable by anyone and as such a behavior has consequences.
Positive and effective intervention was the behavior of the classmates of the two students and the two schools should enforce this kind of responses.
The Directorate of Secondary Education, as long as people there were immediately informed about the incident, could help schools by sending specialist staff from the Youth Advisory Station or other appropriate bodies able to handle and help both students involved as well as all other actors of the schools such as Directors and teachers to handle this difficult situation.
The bullying incident described in this case study is a typical one in Greek province. It implies that there is much work to be done in order to fight racism and children’s refusal to difference.
The causes of the specific event are twofold. It certainly reveals the presence of racist perceptions, but also the importance of the role of family. Through the conversation with some students during the class of Sociology, it came up that Billy has not been raised in a harmonic family environment and this has caused him many behavioral problems. According to them, Billy has not received the care that every child needs, or any rewards as a child, and thus he tries to catch the attention of others in school by causing some troubles. This is a great feedback for us as teachers on how easy (or not) we say “well done!” or enhance their self esteem and encourage children to draw our attention for a good reason.
Our experience has shown that the traditional ways of punishment has not succeeded and we have to adopt other strategies in order to combat the phenomenon. Billy has been punished many times in the past, but it didn’t work. Classmates’ intervention seems to have great effects and we have to involve them and give them a significant role in dealing with conflicts in school.
Also cultural events with multicultural content can be proved really useful in helping children to share their traditions and ethos with others and enhance immigrants’ self esteem.
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