"I Am Not Scared" Project
Α racist controversy
This incident of physical and verbal abuse took place in October 2010 at the junior highschool’s yard while the students were having their monthly excursion.Two first grade students were involved: Eleni, a girl of Albanian origin, born in Greece & Yiannis, a Greek boy.
According to the two students, Eleni who was cueing to buy some food from the school canteen was pushed & sweared at by Yiannis, who took her place at the cue. The two children,who had been often quarelling, came to blows. Finally they were stopped by other students who were present at the time of the incident.
The fighting was stopped by other students who were around.The incident was also noticed by the teacher who was responcible for keeping the order in the school yard that day.He took the two students to the principal’s office.
After a while Yiannis’ mother arrived at the school ,supposedly by chance, to ask the teachers about Yiannis’ progress at school. Later she herself called her husband, Yiannis’ father.
A teachers’ council was held in the presence of Yiannis’ parents.The principal was absent that day due to health problems but the vice-principal was there and adviced the two children to get along with each other and tried to smooth down the situation. No penalties were given to the two students involeved, neither were Eleni’s perents called or informed. They were informed by Eleni herself later on that day, when she returned home from school.The two children apologised to each other in front of their teachers & Yiannis’ parents and the incident came to an end.
This incident, as it was expected, caused inconvenience to the students of the first grade. For a long time there was intensity between the two students and their school performance changed.
Yiannis (the victimizer), in his effort to show that he had regretted for what he had done, got a little better at school, but not in a permanent basis. While he was putting too much effort, there were moments when he was completely indifferent for the school subjects or his participation in any activity whatsoever.
Eleni fell behind at school as she seemed concerned about the incident & not being in the mood of participating during lesson time.
The two children’s relationship during classes was “frigid” for some time. This influenced the rest of their classmates and they were biased. The fewer of them defended Eleni and the rest of them Yiannis. So when there was need for group work, there was perplexity and refusal from some of the children to work with each other.
After a while, & with the perseverance and patience of their teachers, their relationship got better, although it never really got back to normal again. It should be noticed, that even today, more than a year after the incident Eleni’s & Yiannis’ relationship may not be tense but it is almost nonexistent. They still refuse to work as a team or to participate in common activities. They both prefer to cooperate with other students.
Eleni’s progress at school is generally low since, as she says, she doesn’t get any help from anyone. And which help she asks from no one! We, her teachers, are trying to help her as much as we can and to activate her but we don’t always manage to succeed since she seems to be full of defeatism and lack of confidence. Eleni still gets irritating comments from children of other grades, having to do with her nationality but also with a small deformity she has, since her one eye is smaller than the other. Yiannis doesn’t tease her any more but many others do. This has marginalized her to a point.
The teaching stuff of the school tries to make her part of the community and to activate her by appointing various group activities to her along with other students. She however doesn’t stand up for the things she would want to do or have. When for example, she wants to get involved in an activity designed for only one student, if there are others who want to do it as well she backs up believing that her teacher will not choose her. So it’s obvious that defeatism characterizes her, and generally she easily abandons any effort and this interferes with her progress.
Yiannis on the other hand, has a lot of confidence and his work at school is good, although not good enough. He believes he is quite clever and that’s why he doesn’t try hard, believing he is doing fine anyway. And although he hasn’t provoked Eleni since the incident he still isn’t a friend of hers. He seems not to mind about her and unfortunately ignores her.
In general, the certain school environment is suitable to allow healthy relationships to grow, democratic procedures to be used, and students to be active members of the school community in a safe environment. The headmaster & the teachers always act keeping in mind students’ safety and the fact that our students must feel that they belong to a social group that cares for them and takes good care of their progress but also of their physical & mental health. Whatever issues may occur are dealt, through democratic procedures, with discussion and we try to solve the problems as well as we can, many times in coordination with their parents.
Eleni was born in Patra by Albanian parents who were working there. She was going to school in Patra (a city with a population of 250.000 people) until the 4th grade of Primary School and didn’t have any problems with her classmates. But at the age of nine her parents got divorced and her mother got married to a Greek man and then moved, along with Eleni, her brother & of course their stepfather, to a little village. This was the beginning of Eleni’s problems. Her life at home was healthy but she was teased, as she says, by the other children at Primary School because of her Albanian origin. This continued to happen in Junior High School until it led to the incident with Yiannis.
According to Eleni, the reasons for Yiannis attack are clearly racist since neither they nor their parents had had any previous arguments. In fact the fathers of the two families are relatives. Yiannis pushed her with no reason and told her: “Move over, you old Albanian whore”! Then Eleni slapped him and they came to blows & she tore his T-shirt.
The fight was stopped by the surrounding students & was also noticed by the teacher who was responcible for keeping the order in the school yard that day & who informed the vice-principal.
Eleni didn’t call her parents. The school stuff didn’t call her parents either, trying to avoid any further climax of the insident. They were informed by Eleni herself later on that day, when she returned home from school.
Eleni believes that her reaction towards Yiannis was natural since she already had had to bear with all his teasing and espesially since she hadn’t had anyone to discuss her problem with or to get some advice from.
According to Yiannis, the reason for his usual teasing towards Eleni was the way she behaved and not her Albanian origin. Eleni, since he had first met her, was a lonely child but sometimes she was also irascible. She would react intensively and would become aggressive to the ordinary teasing among children. This is the reason why she was a target to Yiannis’ & other children’s teasing. And the “best” way to tease her was to mention on her origin.
On that day the Junior High School children had free time & played football in the school yard. So, when Yiannis went to the canteen to get some water & food, he pushed Eleni, to get her place in the queue telling her at the same time those indecent words, with no reason.
Immediately after their fight Yiannis felt also offended since Eleni slapped him hard and tore his T-shirt. That’s why he secretly called his mother, using his mobile phone, who arrived after a while supposedly by chance, to ask the teachers about Yiannis’ progress at school. Yiannis seemed to regret his action and that’s why he apologized to Eleni.
Some of their classmates were present at the time of their fight. At first they “froze” due to both their behaviors and didn’t react. But then a friend of the boy interfered and tried to stop them. For a while there was a fuss since others took the part of Yiannis and others that of Eleni’s. Most of the children agree that Yiannis shouldn’t act in this way but also believe that Eleni overreacted. For a time, this argument was transferred in the classroom, since the two children avoided each other and this caused problems.
Although today Yiannis doesn’t tease Eleni anymore, there are quite a few children who do it! According to them, the reason is her eristic behavior. As children say “she bites the bate” and this is a good reason for them to tease her. “She is an easy target” they say, due to her behavior and not due to her origin or the small deformity of her eyes, as she believes. They don’t perceive the impact that their behavior can have to her mental status.
Some of the teachers were informed by the vice-principal and others heard all the fuss and rushed to the point. But no one else was present at the time of the incident except the teacher in charge of the yard’s order. They were all surprised by the climax of the fight. They knew that Eleni was bearing remarks by her classmates due to her origin but they didn’t except that an ordinary argument could end in beating. They neither believed that Yiannis, who had never before had caused trouble would have used such foul language!
Immediately after the incident they called both children to the stuff’s room and asked for some explanations for their inappropriate behavior. At first the two children were very angry with each other and kept being aggressive. The teachers tried to calm them down and reason them.
Meanwhile Yiannis’ mother arrived at school, got informed about the incident and understanding how serious the situation was, she called her husband who also came to school. They told off their son for his indecent behavior but also Eleni for hitting him.
Parents & teachers advised the children to respect each other and to always keep in mind that with their actions they may hurt others’ feelings. After apologizing, the children returned to the school yard.
When the teachers were left alone, they discussed whether the two children should be punished or not. They decided that the incident itself offended and shamed both students enough so as to get their lesson hence an extra punishment would be unnecessary.
The vice-principal took personally the duty to talk to them and convince them that they should all be friendly to each other and that when there is an argument they should try to solve it by discussion and not violence.
Since then he was observing the behavior of the two children and was trying, through team work, to remedy their relationship. At first this was difficult but soon the incident was over with and their class regained calmness.
The principal of the school was absent that day due to health reasons. When she returned, she was informed by the vice-principal about the incident. Judging that her colleagues dealt with it properly, she didn’t emphasize on the event. She urged the teachers though, to try and develop the antiracism feelings of the students through subjects like social studies, Greek language & New Greek Literature that they are taught in all three grades of Junior High and to talk to them about respect to all nationalities & cultures but also about the terrible consequences of violence.
The boy’s parents didn’t know that their son had been harassing Eleni with his racist remarks. They say that they themselves had never said anything bad about Eleni or her family. And they had never had any problems with them. They do accept though, that sometimes they have spoken disparagingly about Albanians in general. This, obviously, had created a wrong impression to Yiannis about our neighboring people. This incident took Yiannis’ parents by surprise and made them understand that should discuss more with their son since he was the one crossing the difficult period of adolescence.
On the other hand, Eleni’s mother and her stepfather had already known that she had problems with some of her classmates and this made them very sorry but they hadn’t done anything more than that! Eleni on her part had avoided talking to them about the teasing she was bearing with, although she was really offended because she didn’t want them to be sad. So, most of the times, she didn’t share with anyone the bad events that happened at school. When she once talked to her older brother about some of her classmates that bothered her, he wanted to find them & scare them away. This option scared her ever more and she prevented her brother from getting involved. She was scared that the rest of the children would accuse her of not being able to deal with them on her own and that she was “hiding” behind her brother. Since then, she wasn’t talking about her problems even to her brother.
But if, Eleni’s parents had come to school to talk to the teachers about the problems their daughter was facing, those could have been reduced.
Unfortunately the school stuff didn’t ask a school counselor’s help obviously considering it, not necessary.
But discussion with quite a lot of the students and especially with Eleni
results to the conclusion that they would like to have a child psychologist permanently at school to advice and guide them. They believe that in this way they could solve many of their problems.
The intervention of a specialist (psychologist or social worker) is needed to manage such incidents in the school. Adolescence as a stage of development and of the person's identity is characterized by reactions such as hostility towards others, lack of confidence or feeling of omnipotence. Basic Care Advisor - Psychologist is to provide emotional support to students in their effort to meet the educational process and the awareness of teachers and parents in the peculiarities of children, to tackle collectively the problems.
The family is a key factor shaping the mature child's personality and learning socially acceptable behaviors and norms. Therefore, the teacher handled the incident had to ask the parents of the victim to attend the school the same day as the attack happened and talk simultaneously in two families, which have the same share of responsibility for the behavior of their children. It is obvious that Helen is afraid to talk to the family on that experience in school, they feel insecure, not waiting for a response to needs and that the family of John does not know that their child has developed cognitive representations of aggressive behaviors as effective and socially acceptable means of dealing with his peers.
The active involvement of parents in schools Parents coordinated by psychologists in schools is essential to train them to improve their communication with their children. Parents should discuss with their children about violence they observe through the television, in video games, probably in the neighborhood and its implications. Equally important is the teaching methods of conflict resolution, demonstration of correct responses when intense feelings of anger in children.
Parents and teachers need to help all children understand the value of empathy, acceptance of children who have a 'exploitable weakness' and are different. Foreign students often appear as victims, but also often accused as perpetrators of violent incidents. The premium of some Greek students
The problem that arose in the specific school derives from the racist feelings that linger among students. Certainly it is an issue which was handled with discretion by the teachers, taking into account the absence of the School Director. Perhaps the School Director should have arranged a meeting with the girl’s parents, since, considering her background history, she seems to have serious problems adjusting to her family environment, besides school. Of course, on the other hand, it should be emphasized that the student’s racial behavior largely derives from the family environment which encourages such stereotypes.
For this reason it is imperative that the school should provide an education policy which would aim to reduce racism and create a climate of cooperation by encouraging a positive attitude towards any social and cultural differences among students. In addition, it is necessary for the School Counselor to have individual discussions both with the student-abuser and the student-victim. If necessary, the latter, would be advised to see a school psychologist.
Because of its regional character, the agency provides schools the personnel who are ready to deal with crisis situations in school environments, provided that they are previously informed. Moreover, the agency arranges a variety of events every year, such as informative workshops for parents and pupils, as well as training sessions for teachers, in order to raise public awareness and achieve their sensitization on multicultural issues.
Today things at school are a little better.But not good. Eleni still bears bad comments by her classmates, in spite of the teaching community efforts.
Obviously racism is deeply rooted in both our conscious and subconscious & it is very difficult for it to be eliminated. Eleni’s classmates do not admit that they harbour racist sentiments and they defend themselves believing that her eristic behavior is to blame. They may be partly right. But why do they harass her with racist comments and not in another way?
Eleni on her part, having lost her sense of humor, gets angry very easily and takes everything too seriously. She is personally offended even by racist jokes. Maybe she’s not wrong! Even the existence of these jokes clearly demonstrates how racists we are! But does she also become a racist through her behavior? She believes, from the outset, that all Greeks have bad intentions and want to insult her. She isn’t easily convinced about the good intentions of someone.
The phenomenon of racism has unfortunately intensified during the last years, and no matter how hard we try through education to free our students from racist behaviors it is not enough. The state needs to take some more steps and help society as a whole to get rid of its’ racist perceptions.
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