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Hold over the girls by the boys of the class group

  • Direct bullying
  • Non-especific

When and how the event started, how the school detected it.
The events occur in a third secondary class made up of 18 pupils (girls and boys aged 14 up to 15).
The bullying of the girls begins from the start of the new school year and concerns all the girls, each one at her turn.
In the classroom, a total mutism prevails. The whole group has accepted this way of living and seems to live it like a normal standard.
As time goes by, the girls’ school results go down (although these ones work better than the boys). The teachers discern a problem but without being able to indentify it, because the girls deny the situation, fearing reprisals.
Just before Easter holidays, a girl finally “cracks up” with the assistant head and explains that the girls of the class are going through a living hell since the start of the new school year.

Main actors involved
Seven boys bullying all the girls of the class.

Time period
From September to March, that is to say 7 months.

Type of bullying actions carried out
Inappropriate gestures (stinging with compass, breaking material, knocks, touching the girls’ breast…), inappropriate talks, vexations (reducing the girls to objects, “you are ugly”…), threats (“lend me your mobile phone, otherwise…”).


Which actions have been undertaken ? Which strategies have been implemented to combat school bullying in this case ?
The person in charge of discipline (assistant head) convokes the girls. She asks them to express their pain and makes them aware that the events described are unacceptable.
She informs the parents and asks them to discuss the problem with their daughters.
Some parents send her mails completing the descriptions made at school. Other would like to file a claim.
The assistant head doesn’t dissuade them to do so, but she asks them an extension of time in order to impose the necessary sanctions to the bullies.
She receives the boys one by one. She asks them to write down their own version of the events and makes them aware of the seriousness of their acts. “Why do they behave that way when they would not accept the same for their sisters?”
At the time of a discussion, one of the boys started to cry. He confessed he has done to the girls what he had suffered at primary school. He was suffering. He followed because he feared to be bullied himself. He wanted to make amends and he wrote a note affirming the different bullying events.
Then, the assistant head convokes the boys’ parents in order to inform them about the events and the sanctions that will be imposed.
At the time of debates, some parents try to minimize the events, refusing that way the possibility for their sons to realise the situation: “the sanction is too hard; girls are not totally innocent…” For these parents, it is hard to understand their children’s acts. No doubt, they feared the complaint that could be filed?
The head assistant decides then what will be the sanction/reparation. Three days of suspension that will be useful to become aware of one’s own responsibility as well as to reconstruct: comprehension of the acts committed, respect of the others, letter of apology and disciplinary contract. One of the boys will also have to repair the damage caused: that is to say to recompose a pencil box.
The disciplinary contract will be written with the participation of the youth and given to his parents. It specifies:
- the school rules,
- the improvement of the “behavioural skills”,
- the monitoring of the youth (one time a week till the exams),
- the sanctions, in case of non respect.
Some of the parents have refused the 3 days of suspension, in particular the mother of the youth who had been personally bullied.

The prevention devices set up for the continuation of the school year

The pupils have changed of classroom. The pupils’ seats have been imposed by the assistant head (the boys in the front, the girls at the back).
Instructions for supervision have been given to the teachers.


Impact of the bullying action on the didactical pathway, on the students’ motivation, on the school environment…
The girls’ school results have gone down.
One of the girls “cracked up”. She felt excluded from the group because she expressed more and more her disapproval regarding some events.

Impact of the bullying action on school integration issues
We don’t always know what happen in a group or in a class as long as this one has its own rules…. But when we see or when we get wind of bullying, we act immediately.


Perception of the causes of the bullying action
The girls have minimized the events. They did not seem to realise the seriousness of these events.
They did not react when one of them was bullied, because they knew that their turn will come too.
They feared reprisals. It was the applicable rule at the beginning and evidently accepted by everyone included the girls.

Did they inform anybody ?
One of the girls « cracked up » and informed the assistant head (person in charge of discipline).

What help did she need and from whom ?
The girls have been followed up by the assistant head one time a week until the exams of the end of the school year.
They have been heard, listened, understood and counselled. Realisation, reminder of some values. Then, they noticed that things get better: no reprisals, immediate change of behaviour for the boys, greater welfare in the class.
They did not wish to be followed up by the CPMS.


As the girls, the boys have been followed up by the assistant head one time a week until the exams of the end of the school year.

What was their motivation ? Why did they choose the victim ?
The domination of the girls, but without being really aware of it. It was their harem, their fief…!

Did they feel remorse ?
One of the bullies (bullied himself when he was younger) collapsed when he was found out and he wished to make amends.
For the other ones: important realisation of the events, not letting things go on when we know that there is suffering….


Were they aware of what was happening ?
The other pupils were absolutely aware of the situation.
And maybe, at a given moment, they have acted like the others.


Were they aware of the situation ? How did they manage to understand what was happening ? What did they do ?
The teachers realised that there was a problem when they noticed the fall of girls’ results. The teachers have discussed the problem at the time of the staff meeting, but without being able to identify it.

Which cooperation did they receive from the other teachers and from the headmaster ?
An extraordinary staff meeting has been organised to explain the sanctions imposed and to give the teachers some advices (for instance, to look behind more often when they write on the blackboard …).
The tenured teachers have been seen repeatedly by the head assistant to speak about the evolution of the class.


Were they aware of what was happening ? What did they do to address the episode ?
The headmaster has supported the assistant head’s decision. He has organised immediately an extraordinary staff meeting as well as an immediate change of classroom.

According to them, what is needed to ameliorate the situation ?
Following the project approach, the school will try to set up a procedure to manage bullying situations, with one or two reference persons.
The school has also decided to work on “self-confidence” in order to prevent some risk behaviours. A prevention action about “self-confidence” is organised: what we accept from the other or not…


Did they notice what was happening ? Did they get informed and by who ?
All the parents have been informed by the assistant head and by their children. They had not noticed any abnormality concerning their children’s behaviour.

Did they have the possibility to modify the situation and how ?
Some girls’ parents wanted to file a complaint. Finally they did not do it. They felt satisfied by the sanctions imposed by the assistant head.
Amongst them, a parent still affected by emotion and anger wanted the contact details of the bullies’ parents. The school refused.
Some boys’ parents have minimized the events and some of them have not accepted the 3 days of suspension. Nevertheless the pupils have been punished and the parents have gone on trusting the school.
In each family the situation also led to fruitful exchanges.


Were they aware of the situation ? What did they do ?
The CPMS has been informed about the events that occurred and about the prospective request for help.
It has taken part in the reflection about “self-confidence” prevention.


The school authorities have not been informed. They only intervene in case of exclusion.


Concerning the veracity of the bullying event?
It is a real bullying event: numerous physical and verbal aggressions, during 7 months. Disproportion between the opposing parties (domination relationship, harem, fief), intention to harm.

About the causes of the event and the mechanism that allowed the phenomenon?
In this case, the length of the bullying acts linked to the lack of awareness of the seriousness of the events, the denial of the events both from the girls and the boys, are significant. The girls have accepted what is unacceptable. It was their school environment. It had become normal!
It is because one of the girls has felt excluded and the situation began to disturb her, that the problem could be detected.
Beyond the need of domination expressed by the boys, it seems that other elements have contributed to amplify the phenomenon.
The geographic context was not favourable. These pupils were sitting in an exiguous classroom. The nearness was there more important than usually.
The number of bullies (practically half of the class) has surely favoured the repetition of the events and amplified the fear of reprisals by the girls.

About the school reaction?
The sanction came with reparation. It seems that this has been successful. The pupils of this class are in the fifth class today. The girls have blossomed, but they have not forgotten. The school results are better, except for one boy who was already dropping out. The boys have a very good contact with the assistant head and they keep her informed about what happen between the pupils.
On the other side, for the parents the word « bullying » was difficult to understand because this terminology is only used for a short time in the schools (2 – 3 years). Before, we used to talk about scapegoat…. Some of the parents have not really realised the seriousness of the events.

Concerning the type of answer brought by the school (disciplinary or educational)?
Quick reaction of the assistant head, as soon as she was informed of the events. She seems to be firm and benevolent.
Her reaction is not emotional, she takes time. She meets the victims and the bullies. She builds up the sanction together with the bullies.
There was no exclusion of the bullies. The school has stuck to an educational logic: disciplinary contracts and days of suspension within the school dedicated to the reparation of the fault.
The school did not call for psycho-social counsellors (mobile teams, mediators, CPMS). However, it seems necessary to work on group dynamics in that situation.

Concerning the lessons learnt, concerning the mechanism for prevention set up to avoid this situation to occur again?
The answer has been punctual. The school has not set up special prevention devices to fight bullying.
However, following the research-action developed by the project, the school will try to set up a procedure in case of bullying acts with one or two reference persons.
The assistant head has been trained during several years by the school mediation service, and she has worked on the school rules together with the class representatives. For instance, ten unavoidable rules have been displayed in all the classrooms.
The device that places a referent person for bullying events is interesting. It strengthens the idea that the adult is the guarantor of well-being and security within the school.
The school should think of carrying out specific actions on the relationships between boys and girls in order to deconstruct the balances of power and the phenomena of discrimination. We should work on the bullying issue taking into account the gender dimension that seems to be here very important.

Comments about this Case Study

Date: 06.05.2012

Type of school: Youth school

Our school has also dealt with bullying among girls and boys from the same class. Since in our school studies pupils with behavioral problems, classes are not bigger than 12 students per class. There are classes, where only one or two girls studies together with the boys and it is sometimes difficult for them: everything depends on the girls’ character. The school also responds to such cases of bullying. Class meetings are organizes, where students can discuss about their feelings, their mutual relations. Also the students are punished for inappropriate behavior, caused material damage; they must pay amends to the other pupils.
Our school is quick at noticing such cases, because the students are observed during breaks, teachers inform mentors or specialists about bullying during lessons, so bullying actions are suspended immediately, though sometimes it requires considerable time, specialists' consultations.
If such case happens, we would get help from the mentors, educators, specialists, school administration; if necessary we consult with Pedagogic psychological service.
We can learn from this bullying case that bullying has to be addressed strictly, that the disapproval for the boy’s behavior would be clear.
We would recommend the teachers to monitor student behavior, emotions and especially the unexpected change in behavior (worse school attendance, sadness, avoidance to enter the classroom until the teacher is not there, bad learning outcomes), because it can show that the student is experiencing bullying.
Our school is participating in Olweus bullying program, so trainings are not necessary.

Date: 16.03.2012

Posted by: Diana Iovcheva
Type of school: Secondary school
Country: Bulgaria

In this situation, one can observe again an inefficient and outdated approach for solving the situation. The parents should have become an active part in achieving these ends. However, the school management could not involve the parents and explain them that their sons are actually replicating the models they had been observing at their homes and in society as a whole. The explanation of one of the bullies proves the theory that usually the bullied children become bullies themselves later on. The right approach would also involve a course on human rights and gender mainstreaming, because these students are rather unaware of their basic rights and liberties. Once again, the response of the school management involves primarily sanctions and acts in an administrative way.

Date: 14.03.2012

Posted by: Marian Tataru
Type of school: Vocational School, School Group of Arts and Trades HUSI
Country: ROMANIA

From the point of view of the school, the girls were abused and discriminated against by the boys who are their classmates. The most intriguing part of this case is that everybody got used to the situation and the aggressive behavior is now labeled as being “normal”.

My opinion is that the measures taken by the person responsible with reinforcing school discipline were fair but not very efficient. The first step in the right direction would be to organize educational and informational classes regarding woman’s rights within society and the rules that must be followed in order to prevent the discrimination and the abusive behavior towards women. Girls must learn that they do not have to be victims and that there are social authorities whose purpose is to offer support and protection.

Displaying the internal rules in order to make pupils aware of the rules of conduct and show respect for the educational environment is a very good measure that can be taken.

Date: 13.03.2012

Country: ROMANIA

Reading this study case, I recognized many of the actions taken by the head assistant with the purpose of solving the situation: talking with victims, bullies, parents and teachers and then taking specific actions according to the facts, attitudes and effects on all people involved. In Romania, many of schools have their own psycho-social counsellor and a significant part of these actions are conducted by this person. Moreover, schools in Romania emphases a lot on the role of the class master (a designated teacher who is responsible for the whole well-being of a class/group of kids) especially in dealing with this kind of situations. Usually, a strong direct cooperation is permanently kept between the counsellor and the class master with extensions on individual or group counselling at every issue observed by the class master.
This type of gender bullying (based on discrimination and lack of social interrelation skills) is very frequent and sometimes hard to be spotted immediately. It is based on a normal psychosexual stage (end of Freudian latency stage) but always accompanied by lack in positive structured interrelation skills.
I find that the use of the disciplinary contract (built together with the ‘protagonists’) is indeed an excellent start for assuming new patterns of behaviour and also deepening the understanding of rules in social environments. Also I sustain completely the calm and ‘taking time’ policy used by the head assistant. Sometimes such situations need time to be fully understood and to settle a main line which many times occurs from the ones directly involved.
I would use the same pattern of actions, including the contract and also deepening on a common mutual procedure to be followed by school staff.
Combining disciplinary and educational actions is the best way to deal with such phenomenon and this case followed both paths. I consider it a success.
Maybe I will take as a long term plan the mission to involve the kids in the classroom in common activities, projects, plans, actions (peer working, team building) in mixed teams so that they can explore, understand, accept and tolerate diversity but also common points with their colleagues.
Another focus could be on the informal leaders of the group (boys group, girls group) because there is always somebody leading and not always that person is the same with the formal responsible. Making the leaders understand the benefit of being a ‘team’ is sometimes more effective then working with the whole group or working with every kid.
Preventing such situation can be a long term objective of any school. Prevention can include teacher’s counselling on bullying phenomenon, establishing common procedures, monitoring the well being of the students and of the groups (the fact that even if the situation was going on for 7 months and the teachers did sensed ‘something’ was not enough), opened talks with whole classroom groups or smaller groups about the quality of ‘life in school’, screening questionnaires about school integration, problems, suggestions. A change in teachers’ attitude can reflect on not focusing about students only for obtaining excellent results on exams and being well prepared in particular school subjects but to ‘educate’ them in terms of life-handling and socially full adapted.
Two of the long term strategies used by my school in preventing/dealing with bullying are:
- working with classroom leaders (in a short range of practical workshops) focusing on forming their mediation skills, communication with peers and a deeper level of understanding about bullying and violence. They are also resource persons, being the firsts to find out when something has happened or something is wrong.
- working with class masters (teachers responsible with welfare of classrooms) in terms of plans, actions, resources, pathways, tips and tricks in order to be the first to find out and then to take appropriate actions for dealing with the situation.
It is very hard to work with parents (whom are many times very violent themselves) and also with large number of students dealing with personal exposure to various forms of violence (at home or in their neighbourhood) and therefore being often in a risk range for producing/being victims of bullying and violence.

Date: 21.02.2012

Posted by: Mrs B Humphrey-Lewis
Type of school: Comprehensive
Country: U.K.

It would be most unusual that a group of girls at school in the UK would allow themselves to be dominated by a group of boys to this extent. In our school culture it would be extraordinary that a group would willingly accept this level of domination or control at the hands of a group of their male peers.

From the moment they start in school as primary school students young people are taught about respect, relationships, what to do if someone behaves in an inappropriate way towards you. The social and emotional aspects of learning are taught/addressed from the early setting and this continues throughout secondary school. Personal, social and health education lessons deals with topics such as bullying, prejudice, stress etc.

Schools in the UK also use “buddy” or peer mentor schemes so that if a student feels unable to discuss difficulties with an adult they can confide in a peer.
It seems from the details given that schools in Belgium have very little by way of a pastoral system which addresses the wellbeing of each student. It appears that the teaching staff are “educators” who have no responsibility with regard to the pastoral care on their students. In the UK, academic achievement and pastoral care of students are inter-linked. Student’s problems and concerns have to be addressed in order to make successful learners.

It is not unusual that the “bully” is found to have previously been a victim themselves. It is common that victims become bullies in order to acquire the upper hand so as not to become victims again themselves.

Parent’s response: It is natural that parents are defensive of their offspring. . What is not clear is what then happened when parents refused to accept the discipline of the school?

Obviously, again, it is natural that the parents of the victim want harsh sanctions to be imposed. It seems that it is the culture of the Belgian parent to quickly consider legal action. This type of response is still relatively rare in the UK.
Within the school setting of this case study there seems to be no clear understanding or knowledge of “bullying”. The school needs a clear policy and procedures drawing up with regard to bullying.

In this case there appears to be a lack of suitable support for the victims. Nor is “restorative justice” used as a means of moving on from this situation.

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