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Case of Dysfunctional Behaviour in Primary School

  • Direct bullying
  • Non-especific

The conflict started during the optional activities that took place after the compulsory classes. Several pupils from different years of study were involved – a few girls from the third grade and a boy from the fourth grade.
The incident consisted of both verbal and physical aggression.
The violent acts happened during the first semester of the 2011-2012 academic year.


The event which led to the surfacing of the violent episodes occurred in December 2011 when one of the pupils involved told her parents that she had been physically and verbally attacked by the fourth grader. She pointed out that the incident had occurred several times.
The girl’s father immediately sent an e-mail to the teacher and to the group of parents; the e-mail contained information about the incident and was asking for prompt action in order to put a stop to the boy’s aggressive behaviour. The electronic message was accompanied by a phone message too, which was sent to the teacher, in order to let her know about the parent’s approach to the situation.
The teacher informed the principal right away. Together, they decided to offer a prompt answer to the parents who were aware of the situation after having read the e-mail. Also, they started that they would assess the incident as soon as possible and that they would bring further clarifications the moment they gather all the relevant information.
A team consisting of the principal and the teacher was formed. Together, they gathered information about the aggression from the parties involved: the professor who was teaching the “Photographic art” optional class, the third grade girls and the fourth grade pupil who was accused of hurting his classmates.
Each party involved had its own version of the story.
The professor stated that she had noticed the frequent quarrels between the girls and the boy. The girls were trying to draw the boy’s attention by using various methods that were specific to their young age. The boy was retaliating by pushing them and addressing words that were rather mean and not indecent. These incidents were not worrying the professor too much; they were associated with the fact that the optional class was formed of pupils coming from different groups of study and that the atmosphere was generally less formal than in the case of a compulsory class.
The 3rd grade girls stated that the boy had annoyed them at first, then cursed them and even hit them. All these incidents were taking place before or after class when the professor was not there to notice. They admitted to the fact that they did not inform anyone about the situation because they were planning on solving the conflict by themselves.
The boy stated that the girls were united against him and they were throwing pieces of paper or pencils at him, thus constantly annoying him. He chose not to tolerate their insults and to fight back; his aggression was strictly a response to him being bullied.
The conclusions drawn by the team that is usually formed under such circumstances – the children’s teacher, the principal, the psychologist and the institution’s representative – are as following:
• The pupil came to our school in the second grade, being transferred from another institution where he had been having problems with integrating in the community of pupils. The parents offered an explanation for it, saying that their child hadn’t received the support he needed in order to get along with the other children.
• The main teacher, as well as the rest of the professors, noticed that the pupil had a tendency of being aggressive, both physically and verbally, which they considered to be borderline normal behaviour for his young age.
• The girls from the third grade further provoked the boy; because he had a special status in the class, being the oldest taking part in the optional activities, the girls felt intimidated and they did not report his behaviour that was becoming more and more aggressive and out of control.
The pupil’s aggressive behaviour manifested itself not only in the presence of the girls from the third grade; various pupils from different years of study reported such incidents, thus the boy becoming the main party who is accountable for the incidents.
The following steps were taken to remedy the situation:
• The boy’s parents were invited to school to discuss the issue.
• The school promptly applied the necessary corrective measures.
• The school informed all the parties involved regarding the steps taken.


The situation of conflict had a major impact on all parties involved.
At an institutional level, our school offers support to pupils in order to be integrated and accepted as much as possible by the rest of the children. The aggressive pupil has been helped since his arrival in the second grade so he would feel that he is part of the collective. His family situation changed when his parents divorced; both parties collaborated with the school’s psychologist whose job was to mediate the relationship the pupil has with each of his parents.
All these factors create the premises for an institutional commitment to the pupil.
He normally lived with his mother and occasionally visited his father. His parents were being supportive by participating in school meetings and extra-curricular events.
The inner conflicts and frustrations started to grow and the pupil’s behaviour gradually changed; he became a „celebrity”, he drew the attention of both adults and children by acting in certain ways, non-violent at first but more and more inappropriate as the time went by.
The teaching activities were disrupted, his classmates became annoyed, he created a rift between him and the rest of the group, and tried to find a new place as a leader in another collective.
His precocious physical growth was helping him to dominate the other and reinforce his behaviour, apparently; he became aggressive, especially verbally. No child had the courage to correct him.
However, the girl’s father who was informed about the situation brought into attention the problem that was lingering, being tolerated by the rest of the children and that seemed to be under control.
A thorough and objective assessment of the issue shows that the current incident is actually the tip of the iceberg; the school is confronted with a much more serious situation that requires urgent, radical, and realistic measures.


The victims of the incident, aged 9 or 10, felt vulnerable.
Even if the verbal aggression was accepted at first, the physical one led to a feeling of fear so they sought protection by letting their parents know about the problem.


The attacker felt anger towards the girls who seemed to unite against him; he could not distinguish the difference between them and him and did not think that his actions could have consequences.
He felt threatened and frustrated, adding the school incidents to his overall feeling of unhappiness.


The other children involved were astonished and frightened, especially because they were younger. They could perceive the boy’s behaviour as a model for coercing the girls – in the case of boys – and for intimidating the others – in the case of girls.


The teachers understood that tolerating such signs of violence can lead to unfortunate events and that if his violent tendencies had been reported earlier the school could have had prevented the incident.
The optional class teacher regrets that she did not seek advice from a more experienced colleague and that she limited her actions to moderate the obvious aggressive tendencies that led to the conflict.


The principals mediated the communication between the parents and the psychologist. However, they did not assess the growing tendency of the child’s inner conflict, or they choose to act in a permissive way without evaluating the boy’s influence over his classmates.


The boy’s parents were offered prompt feedback after the assessment of the factors.
Initially, their point of view was different from the school’s because they knew what their child had told them only.
When the parents participated to the meeting together with the teacher, the psychologist, the principal and the pupil, they noticed discrepancies because the boy had omitted important information.
The mother and the father have different points of view.
The mother believes that her child is the victim of a conspiracy between his classmates, their parents, and the institution, meant to remove him from the school.
The father understands the gravity of the current and especially of the future situation if the child’s aggressive behaviour is not corrected.
They both accept that immediate action must be taken, starting with being informed about any aggressive tendency the child may have and ultimately having their child expelled for a limited period of time that will be established with their cooperation.


The school counsellor has been involved in all actions taken since the boy’s arrival to our school.
She has been conducting group and individual counselling together with the other parties involved. She noticed that the boy seemed happy to see his parents together at the meeting they had with the school’s representatives, regardless of the situation he was confronted with.


The Parents Representative Council supports the educational marketing activities and is involved in deciding the educational package and the Internal Regulation Policy, together with the institution. By consulting the parents, the school decides the implementation of a number of measures that will consolidate the proper functioning of the institution and the children’s appropriate behaviour.


The case study stresses the school’s weakness when confronted with the children’s personal issues and the lack of a concrete plan of implementing coercive measures that would offer support to the great majority of the pupils.
The Administrative Council considers the identification of measures that will be widely accepted and assumed by pupils, parents, teachers; the measures must be rigorously applied during critical situations.

Comments about this Case Study

Date: 19.03.2012

Posted by: Mª Ángeles Lobatón Ayala
Type of school: Concerted
Country: Spain

I have similar situations.
The optional class teacher, should never have left the class alone.
At first the child has a problem due to the separation of their parents;
psychological needs of both the school and Health Menta.l
There should be coordination between mentor and other teachers.
Lastutorías are important individual tutoring to group themselves capacez are looking for solutions in problems as presented in this student, always keeping the anonymity of it, through regular mentoring, tutor-student, tutor-parent, guardian, parent-students.

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