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Young boy victim of bullying due to overweight and who could finally be treated for this disease

  • Direct bullying
  • Non-especific

Where and how did the event begin
The systematical and daily bullying of the victim in the group-class concerned by the event began mid September - end September of school year 2010-2011, spurred on by a pupil who repeated his school year, who made the victim’s situation worse in the group, and who had already faced difficulties (relational problems, integration) in the class during the previous school year.

The main actors involved
The main actors involved are: a victim (18 years old), a bully-leader (18 years old) and four other pupils (16-18 years old), who follow at different levels.

The type of bullying acts occurred
The types of bullying acts occurred :
- Verbal, moral aggressions (mockeries – unpleasant remarks, insults about the victim’s look, about his competences-skills supposed leak, his slowness in the carrying out of tasks (->moral sapping), depreciation-denigration of his family.
- Pilfering of personal belongings (given back later on) and, only on behalf of the leader: racket (from a few euros a day up to 10 euros at the time of a party).
- Moderated physical contacts (lightly pushed) but recurrent, sometimes harder physical violence (pushed on the ground, ferocity in pushing down his stomach).
- Ostracism (nobody wants to work with him in practice).

The length of the events
The events lasted from September 2010 until 2nd March 2011 when the victim left the school to go to a Care Center.


The victim confided in his mother, and in his grandparents.
The grandmother waited several times for the aggressors to come out of the school to dissuade them to go on bullying, but that produced the opposite effect.

Repeatedly the grandmother asked for help to the head foreman, but the responsible persons and the teachers of the section could not improve the situation. Attempts of dialog with the group in order to make the situation change took place several times, some sanctions were imposed at the time of some aggressions but the situation did not improve. The teachers also tried to encourage the victim to defend himself and they wondered about the victim’s role, maybe considered as partly responsible of the bullying he suffered (passivity, provocation?).

The cooperation of the headmaster was not asked.

Following the educator’s demand of intervention during the first trimester, the Psycho-Medico-Social Centre ensured an individual follow-up and handed over to a private (external) psychologist for a therapeutic aftercare.

Following the educator’s new demand of intervention on the 23th March 2011, the School Mediation Service of Wallonia, which has gathered her testimony, has brought a new light on the phenomenon to the educative team, and collaborated with the other actors to set up an intervention within the group-class.

The strategy set up by the SMSW is developed hereafter (see the school leaders’ point of view).


The victim had already faced difficulties during the previous school year.
Beginning of May 2011, the pupil temporarily left the school to treat his obesity problems. At this time, he was decided to take the exams in September 2011. During the school holidays, he has renounced to do so, discouraged by the number of exams to take and despite the fact that all useful documents had been provided by the teachers.
Concerning the school year 2011-2012, he is still in the same school. He repeats the school year. He is supported by his teachers and his integration in the new group is going well.
Concerning the organizational aspect, the SMSW intervention has had an important impact: an educator is still currently present at midday time (the time when vexations were the most numerous) on the section site. That was no the case previously.
The aggressor, who has suffered himself some vexations in the past, still feels the need to be aggressor, not to be himself aggressed. So when his victim left the school at the end of the school year 2010-2011, he started to bully other younger pupils.
The other pupils of this small class (only six pupils) sided with the strongest part, but they did not experience well the tension and the bad atmosphere that prevailed in the group.


The victim’s perception of the causes of the bullying?
- The victim experiences a major health problem, namely a handicapping obesity, and testifies that he has always experienced relational difficulties linked to this physical feature: the young man is born different, and as long as he can remember, this difference has been a source of stigmatization.
- He is aware of the relational stakes in the class and of the leader’s preponderant influence on the other pupils of the class.
- He experiences a blocking, an incapacity to react, to defend himself when he suffers aggressions.

Did he inform somebody?
What help did he need? And who did he need?

He informed spontaneously:
- his family (mother, grandparents) ;
- some teachers, the educator, at the occasion of aggressive episodes suffered.

Following the educator’s demand of intervention during the first trimester:
- The Psycho-Medico-Social Centre, which has ensured the individual follow-up and the relay to a private (external) psychologist for a therapeutic follow-up.

Following the educator’s demand of intervention on the 23rd March 2011:
- The School Mediation Service of Wallonia, which has gathered his testimony and has brought a new light to the educative team about the phenomenon. Then the different actors have planned a common intervention within the group-class.


This section will include two parts, because there is a distinction to make between the leader’s point of view and the followers’ one.

The leader
His motivation ?

To make sure he will be the leader within the group: to be aggressor not to be aggressed, to be on the « right side » rather than on the « bad one », to be the « strong one » and not the « leak one ». As he has lived a non-common family history, suffered himself bullying when he was in primary school and experienced stigmatization linked to the fact that his father was in jail for murder, he has developed a Manichaean vision of the world and of the human relationships.

Why did he choose the victim ?
The victim was not very integrated in the group. He was made fragile by his physical handicap, by a difficult social and familial experience that he confided to his fellows. Moreover he had shown his incapacity to react to the aggressions.

Does he feel remorse?
That is difficult to know with certainty: he declared that he did not wish bullying to lead the victim to leave the school (actually the victim left to treat his obesity). But beside that, after the victim’s departure, he has reproduced bullying acts mainly on another pupil of the class, on another one to a lesser extent (but without the support of the other pupils), and on a younger pupil of the section (paradoxically with the support of his new main victim of the class) and he has committed at least one act of aggression on a young pupil of another section.

The followers
Their motivation?
Why did they choose the victim?
Do they feel remorse?

Actually, the young people “had nothing against the victim”. They have experienced the degradation of the situation with discomfort and culpability. The fear to be rejected prevailed within the group. As well as a fear of the leader and a feeling of weakness to resist to his influence. After the victim’s departure, there has been a kind of consensus amongst the young people to avoid the leader who was victimizing two pupils, but fear was always there, so tensions and bad atmosphere persisted.


Aimless: the described bullying concerned all the pupils of the small class, most often isolated on a different site that the main school site.


Were they aware of the situation?
How did they understand what was happening?
What did they do?

The teachers were partly aware of the situation, as much as they knew that the victim was often suffering vexations but they had no tools to face the situation. Attempts of dialog with the group to make the situation change took place several times and some sanctions have been taken after specific aggressions, without the situation to improve. A feeling of weakness in front of this problem took hold, the situation has been lived as a “fatality” we can’t fight – indeed, the victim was slyly targeted, most of the time sheltered from the adults’ attention (…) – there has also been an attempt to make the victim react, to assert himself, to defend himself in front of pupils “often less strong than he is” – and questioning about the victim’s role, maybe considered as partly responsible of the bullying he was suffering (passivity, provocation?).

What cooperation did they get from the other teachers and from the headmaster?
The teachers of the section, mainly concerned by the class, are isolated on a site distinct of the main site, and they have very few contacts with the teachers of general courses. The headmaster’s cooperation has not been asked.


Were they aware of what was happening?
The leaders are the head foreman of the section, also teacher, and the headmaster.

What did they do to deal with this event?
For the head foreman, see here above (the teachers) – and as previously indicated, the headmaster has not been solicited by the team for cooperation.

According to them, what can be done to improve the situation?
Since the partnership with the SWSW and the light brought to the bullying, there is a better global understanding of the phenomenon, of the stakes, and emergence of tracks to efficiently face it, that are:

- the sanction of the aggressive behaviours is the stage 1 (> STOP)
- !!! > the « bullying-vexation » is not an ordinary violence > the sanction is ONLY A PART of the response, the sanction alone is insufficient even counterproductive
- a watchful follow-up is absolutely necessary
- reception, listening, protection of the victim
- in addition, a more specific intervention can be considered (> a support from the SMSW can be asked)

- main principles for any intervention :
- to stress on the behaviour, not on the person
- to consider each pupil as a person also able to act positively
- and able to make changes, to unlearn bullying
- toward a responsible, educative and remedial approach
- to involve everyone in the search for solutions in order to improve the situation


The victim’s family only has been concerned by the issue.

Did they notice what was happening?
Have they been informed? And by who?

Yes: the victim confided to his mother, to his grandparents.

Did they have the opportunity to change de situation and how?
No, repeatedly the grandmother addressed to the head foreman to share in her disarray in front of the situation, the victim became aggressive by reaction within his family.
Direct contacts with the aggressors took place when the class came out, the grandmother went there several times to try to dissuade the aggressors to go on bullying – with a counterproductive effect on the situation, the young people had complained by their teachers of being aggressed by the victim’s grandmother and had found there more arguments to laugh of the incapacity of the victim to defend himself…






Concerning the veracity of the bullying event? Concerning the causes and the mechanism that has allowed this phenomenon to occur?
This situation is an example of serious bullying event, with :
- A particularly fragile victim (at physical, social and familial level).
- A bully with an uncommon relational and familial past that has led to a worrying personality development. He is always on the defensive because he fears to become again the bullied one that he was. To avoid that, he is always searching for situations of domination by showing aggressive behaviours towards the weaker ones beyond the main described situation.
- Followers who are rather empathic, but dominated by the fear of the leader, of themselves expelled from the group…
The « geographic » isolation of the group-class on a site specific to the section has probably contributed to the development and crystallization of the phenomenon: each pupil of the small cell of 6 pupils particularly feared ostracism as “out of the group” social contacts are almost non-existent.
The bullying situation has developed within the group-class because the victim allowed the group to focus, to concentrate, to channel all the tensions on him. The victim played the role of scapegoat and regulated in some ways the dynamics of the group.

Concerning the answer brought by the school? Concerning the type of answer brought by the school (disciplinary or educational)?
The educational team was overtaken by the events and powerless to solve them.
The external services have managed the situation on request of the educator. The victim has been supported by the CPMS service. The school mediation service has intervened by supporting the educational team as well as within the group-class.
We will notice the headmaster’s position, keeping himself in the background. He has not been solicited! How is it possible considering the length and the type of bullying? Adults feel quickly powerless but they don’t think it is necessary to speak with their hierarchic superior. However the headmaster had the responsibility to intervene in the “group-class” in order to remind the functioning rules of the school.
A positive initiative is the attendance of an educator in the section during lunchtime (favourable to bullying).
The case study does not mention whether the bully-pupil has been sanctioned and how. The one who commits the facts must be taken into account as much as the victim. Did the bully-pupil show empathy towards the victim? A work with the bully-pupil on this empathy would have been useful.
It is amazing to note the absence of the bully-pupil’s parents. These ones should have been informed of the facts at least. They should have been led to collaborate in the problem resolution, even if their son is major.

Concerning the lessons learnt and the prevention devices set up to avoid this situation to occur again?
The collaboration with the mediation service seemed helpful to allow everyone to better understand the bullying and the scapegoat phenomena and consequently to be able to work on them, to deconstruct them.
Beyond that, the actors have to act now and to set up information, detection and supporting devices for bullying events within the school.


Вербална и физическа агресия, рекет.pdf

Comments about this Case Study

Date: 21.03.2012

Posted by: Phil Ormerod
Type of school: Special School for students with 'Learning Difficulties'
Country: United Kingdom

It is not unusual in school or even in life for someone who looks different e.g. who is overweight or who has a facial scar or another deformity to be picked on and bullied.

This should have made the problem easier to spot at an early stage and it is disappointing that this didn't happen. Perhaps one reason for this is because the students appear to be in some sort of segregated small unit and at our school this would not happen. All students are fully integrated within the main school and given extra support if necessary, sometimes even on a 'one to one' basis.

The fact that the teachers did not refer the problem to their Line Manager or the Headteacher is a cause for concern and perhaps this indicates a training need and a need for review of their anti-bullying policy, assuming they have one.

Strategies we would have tried include talking to the bully and his parents; putting the bully 'on-report'; Restorative Justice; moving either the bully or his victim to another class or even to another school; professional counselling for both the bully (on 'victim awareness') and the victim - on how to deal with bullies and how to improve his self esteem / confidence.

We would also have imposed some form of sacntion perhaps detention or even a fixed or permanent exclusion for the bully.

It was very brave of the grandmother to confront an 18 year old bully but it should not have been necessary and the school should have been listening to the family concerns.

Finally in respect of the stealing / robbing of money from the victim we would have treated this very seriously and perhaps even encouraged the familty to report this to the police.

Date: 13.03.2012

Type of school: V.MADGEARU High School IASI
Country: ROMANIA

-In Romania as well, students that have been left behind a grade are viewed differently and meet a hostile attitude from the other colleagues or even teachers, especially when the precarious situation of the student is unknown
- the negative leader of the class can be the aggressor when trying to “revenge” the class for having to take on a inferior student
- he thinks he got this role, making himself even more important in the group
- this situation is frequent when the positive leader has less influence in the class
-ways of responding to the newcomer are violence, aggressive verbally, moral ( swearing, cursing, name calling, mocking, etc.)
- sometimes the physical violence is intense ( pushed to the ground, beaten)
-isolation ( no one will work with him in the class or during extracurricular activities)
-Stress by harassment
-the negative leader care attract more followers
- the others are passive, not interested by wither sides
-suspicion from the teachers and lack of reaction of the family

-In Romania there is no Centre of psycho-medico-social and neither a Service of mediation in schools Their role is partly taken by the Center for Psycho pedagogy Assistance in the CJRAE
-calling on private psychiatrist is very rare
-there are some groups of mediation formed by trained students in some schools

Please specify to whom you would address and to whom would you offer help in case you would be presented with such a situation( the school administration, teachers, specialists, parents, public authorities, etc.)specifically : first of all to the psychiatrist and then to the parents and authorities. Respecting the fundamental principal of confidentiality allows that the principal and teachers are informed carefully. The school psychiatrist is the one who will put together the team and he will provide guidance for the teachers and parents regarding the way in which they can help and contribute to the situation .In this case they become partners in solving the case. This type of case can be taken on by the school psychiatrist. For solving the medical issues, we would bring on a doctor.

What could you learn from this case study?
-a multidisciplinary approach to the case (parent, psychiatrist, teachers, doctor or, the social assistant, legal guardian if the case)
- we could see that violence among students comes from prejudice about learning disabilities or another issues
-from actual cases, we could learn that auto exclusion from a group, running away is not a solution
- getting personally involved is necessary
- children , like any individual, need to be leaders, heroes, need to stand out to be valued. A lot of times education in the family or in society is not construction on authentic values ( mutual respect morality, spirituality, help and communication, understanding the need and the the different situations of your colleague)
- we must help them take on authentic values and positive interests
- it is necessary to help children know their strong points and weak points, their qualities and flaws, to understand that no one is perfect
-help them form a correct self imagine, not to over or under evaluate themselves.
- use the opportunities provided by the relationship and communication with the family, friends and colleagues. In this case getting the family involved was one of the reasons the case remained unsolved.
- the aggressor becomes so because he was also once a victim.

How would you intervene if you were facing such a situation of violence ? We invite you to mention 2 strategies in order to fight violence in schools, implemented in school by you.
- lessons focused on counseling with regards to violence.
- therapy groups for children that become victims

Would you implement the strategies presented in this case study? Do you consider them useful and aplicable in your school? The strategies presented are useful and we can use elements of these strategies in various situations.
The case can also suggest what we mustn’t do : discriminate ( both the aggressors and victims)

The importance of training teachers to deal with violence in schools
Have you participated in such trainings? What would such a program consist of ?
- during the project organized by ISJ , the Association “Social alternatives” and “Save the children” – Youth against violence
-Practical activities of projecting the strategies of prevention and limiting violence

Date: 13.03.2012

Type of school: « VIRGIL MADGEARU » High School IAŞI
Country: ROMANIA

This case study sheds light on a frequently witnessed manifestation of violence in Romanian schools. The way things unfold always follows the same pattern: the protagonists are people of completely opposite strengths ( a weaker person is harassed by a stronger one), while the passive participants usually take the side of the strong one. In our high school there was a similar situation not so long ago which was resolved by transferring the victim to a different building, the same resolve in the case of our Belgian partners.
What struck me as interesting about this case study is that underneath what is a very popular act of violence, hides the belief that violence is a behaviour which is learned, and usually appears as a result of a dysfunctional family where children are persecuted/harassed/intimidated by a parent or by both parents. From this stems the violent behaviour of these children. This case study offers some information related to this statement: the aggressor comes from a dysfunctional family, the father was serving time for murder. Moreover the aggressor had been himself a victim of violence in his younger school years. Apart from this, both the aggressor and the victim are part of the same social group.
I think it is very important to establish what are the causes that lead, directly or indirectly, to the creation of this situation and then what would be the strategies to fight this type of behavior. To this end, based on the information given by the Belgian partners, but also from my own experience with the case I mentioned earlier, I could say that one of the most important factors that brought on this type of conflict is the family environment. Studies about the role of the family in the development of aggressive behavior confirm the fact that violent adolescents usually come from families made up of parents with anger issues and that their disciplinary methods are often brutal. Then there’s the social factor which refers to numerous influences which can induce, stimulate or maintain violence in schools : financial situation, the weakness of social control, social inequality, crisis of moral values, mass-media, dysfunctional education, lack of cooperation of the organizations that are involved in education. As in the present case, the social environment negatively influenced this situation: the existence of two different buildings in the school, the lack of involvement of the principal, the late involvement of the institutions that should have supported education, etc. Also, the individual factor contributed greatly to this conflict : an isolated victim, who had an inferiority complex, low self-esteem, a negative imagine of him/herself and was incapable of facing his/her own problems.
In conclusion, I think that the best strategies to fight these types of conflicts are as follows: first of all, intervention in the family, when they are considered to be bad influences ( as in the case of the aggressor) , through counseling with the family and secondly a series of strategies of training this violent behavior through progress reports, self written records of one’s own reactions and emotions, role play, exercises that would improve assertiveness and empathy. Also, involving the parents, the school psychologist and the school officials is strongly advised.

I think that this type of violence knows many forms of manifestation and that it is not only present in schools, but also in our daily lives. Because of this, it must be corrected in our students from an early age so as not to let it manifest later in life in more dangerous forms.

Date: 21.02.2012

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

It does happen that a student can be picked upon or victimised due to having additional needs or being different. Vulnerable students make easy targets for bullies.
In the case study the students involved were obviously in a separate unit away from the main school site. This type of situation does not occur in UK schools as UK schools are totally inclusive and comprehensive. Students with even quite severe special needs are integrated with support, within mainstream lessons as far as practicable. This helps to engender between students an understanding of other people’s needs and problems.
When a vulnerable student is picked upon the perpetrator would face an appropriate sanction, their parents informed and “restorative justice” would be practised. For example when recently a student made unkind remarks about another requiring support from the school’s special needs department, the perpetrator spent a week at lunchtimes helping students with special needs.
The school within the case study appears to have no pastoral care system. The teachers are there to teach, they appear to have no responsibilities beyond the classroom, at social times etc. There appears to have been no adult supervision at lunchtime.
Considering that this was a serious event over a lengthy period of time it appears that the bully’s parents were not contacted. It is also surprising that the Head teacher was not involved at all. No sanctions appear to have been enforced.
The victim’s grandmother became involved challenging the perpetrator as they left school premises. This clearly indicates the family’s level of frustration with the on-going situation.
The victim appears to have been taught to defend himself, has been lead to believe that the bullying is his fault. It is, therefore, not surprising that the event concludes with the victim leaving to go to a care centre to get psychological help and therapy.
The school staff appear to have no expertise or internal school resources available to them to tackle bullying. Eventually an external service, the school mediation service, becomes involved.

The bully, having seen off one victim to a therapeutic counselling service, appears to have been left to move on to his next victim. The school lacks a pastoral system, an anti-bullying policy and clear procedures which should be adhered to.

Date: 12.02.2012

Posted by: Petia Marcheva
Type of school: Specialized school
Country: Bulgaria

This situation is also similar to the one analyzed at our school “This could have happened to me”. An unpopular boy, who has no support among his peers, becomes a victim of other class mates. The approach used for stopping the violence by appointing responsible watch, who are expected to monitor the relationships among the students during the breaks, as well as informing the teachers that they should monitor the discipline in their lessons and pay special attention to the potential victims and the potential bullies, is quite effective in the Belgian case. Obviously prevention has not been particularly effective there, but the situation has been curbed. The case analyzed at our school includes an inactive physical education teacher, who does not react in any way to the arising situation and closes his eyes to the potential continuation (after his period). The approach used in the Belgian school is quite simple and in reality generates more duties for the school staff, but also guarantees the safety of the children, because the potential bullies are aware of the punishment, which are in stock for aggressors, in case the latter are “caught in action” by those on duty.
The proper preparation of the entire school staff and encouragement of its members to participate actively not only in the educational process, but also in the formation of the characters and the regulation of the students' behavior, is obligatory.

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