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Mockeries, insulting drawing and tussles against a studious boy (15 years old)

  • Direct bullying
  • Non-especific

Where and how did the event begin
The events take place during the school year 2010-2011, in a 4th secondary class of technical education, artistic option.
The bully-pupil had already been detected as a disturbing pupil and the class was hard to manage. A bad feeling prevailed in the class.
Both groups of the class defied and sized each other up for a certain time. Some pupils were complaining about the bully-pupil’s attitude and comments.
One day, an insulting and evocative drawing (caricature with sexual evocation of the bullied-pupil) has circulated in the study room.
Then, there have been remarks and mockeries addressed in particular to the bullied-pupil who was a kind of representative of the studious ones group.
Finally, the bullied-pupil reacted at the time of a workroom-class (where each pupil needs to pay a great attention in order to carry out his/her project). The bully-pupil’s group was making noises of animals and disturbing the course. A confrontation between both pupils took place. The bullied-pupil has finally taken the bully-pupil by the throat and knocked his head on the bench.

The main actors involved
Two boys aged of 15.
Two groups in the class: a “cooler” group, the bully-pupil makes part of it. And a more “studious” one that does not tolerate disturbance anymore, the bullied-pupil makes part of this group.

Time period
From the middle of November till Easter, that is to say 5 months.

The type of bullying acts occurred
Initially, an insulting drawing. Afterward, remarks and mockeries. Finally, a hard tussle between both pupils.


With regard to the bully-pupil (supported by two followers), a context of constant disturbance of the courses prevailed.
This pupil had already got a disciplinary contract because of his behaviour in the class. This contract included “the respect of the fellows”. Thus it was regularly evaluated.
When the unpleasant remarks were heard and reported by the teachers, they were sanctioned.
He had also got 4 hours detention for the insulting drawing that he denied.
The assistant head is immediately informed of the tussle by the pupils of the class and a report is written down by the teacher.
The assistant head informs the parents about the event. She meets the bullied-pupil’s father for a clarification.
Both culprit pupils are immediately sanctioned: the bully-pupil gets 4 hours detention for having disturbed the workroom and the bullied pupil gets one day suspension, the next day, for his violent act.
The assistant head also organizes mediation between both pupils (with the school mediator’s advices who is present in the school). Two days later, a one-week school trip starts, and the school does not wish to exclude the two pupils.
During the mediation, the pupils express their feelings, their needs as well as solutions to exit the crisis. A “gentleman agreement” is concluded and signed by both pupils. It is about the respect of the fellows and the work conditions in the class.
Both students will take part in the school trip and there will be no more incidents.
Nevertheless, the school mediation service will intervene towards the bullied-pupil, because this one showed integration difficulties and a kind of fragility.
The aim of the school mediation intervention is to help this pupil to find his place in the class-group and to react in an appropriate way, validated by the group. Experiences of real-life situation have been organized by the school mediation service.


Didactical pathway
Both pupils failed at the end of the year. The bully-pupil implied he would change of school the next year but he finally came back. The bullied-pupil also stood in the school.
They have been placed in two different classes. Currently, they are both succeeding. The staff meeting has noticed an improvement in the behaviour and the integration of both pupils.

School integration issues
The bullied-pupil who seemed fragile and who faced difficulties to integrate the class has been followed by the SMSW (School Mediation Service of Wallonia).

School environment
Bad work atmosphere within the class. Permanent distrust amongst the pupils
After the tussle, the atmosphere has improved. No new event reported. Furthermore, the school year was ending.


The victim’s perception of the causes of the bullying?
The bullied-pupil did not express himself about that.
He made part of the more studious group. He took on the role of a righter of wrongs.
At physical level, this pupil seems relatively fragile. He is not self-confident when he speaks (he stammers when he is nervous).
He knows what can be done and what can not. He does not tolerate inequity
He expects many answers from the adult, and, if nothing happens, he intervenes clumsily and puts his life at risk.

If she informed anybody
The parents and the educational team were informed.

What help did she need? And who did she need?
The school mediation service has intervened to help this pupil to find his place in the group-class as well as to react in an appropriate way.


Their motivation ?Why did they choose the victim ?
The bully-pupil did not express himself about that.
He seems to come from a well-off environment. His parents are separated. According to his mother, the father has not many contacts with his son (he lives abroad). There is a kind of reject. She thinks her son is not really happy.
It seems he needs to exist. He does not tolerate the ones who tell the others what to do.

Do they feel remorse?
The bully-pupil did not show any remorse. He trends to show himself like the victim (following the tussle) and to minimize his own acts. He has shown some regrets and has apologized. Nobody felt a real questioning from him.


Awareness of what was happening
The bully-pupil did not show any remorse. He trends to show himself like the victim (following the tussle) and to minimize his own acts. He has shown some regrets and has apologized. Nobody felt a real questioning from him.
They have more reacted concerning the drawing and the tussle (that has shocked them). They were also affected by the class atmosphere and the infringement of the working rules.
The have regularly complained of the bully-pupil’s behaviour by the assistant head noisy, irritating, disturbing…).

Perception of the causes
According to them, the bully-pupil was wrong, especially in his attitude to work and in his lack of respect of the discipline.


Awareness of the situation, How they managed to understand what was happening, What they did ?
The teachers were living the situation mostly regarding the bully-pupil’s outbreaks toward them. The pupil had a contract to fulfill, they kept an eye on him.

Cooperation received from the other teacher
The class was working wrong. Three disruptive pupils, included the bully, had been identified.
The headmaster and the assistant head had been solicited in the framework of the staff meetings organized especially for these three pupils. These ones had to attend this staff meeting and they got a disciplinary contract.
All the teachers of the staff meeting were concerned and they regularly attended the staff meetings organized to evaluate the contracts.


Awareness of what was happening
The headmaster’s office was aware of the situation and informed about its evolution. It had approved the headmaster’s decisions and organized the special staff meetings.

What they think is needed to ameliorate the situation.
The adult has to be the leader. That is not always easy, for instance at the time of technical courses (larger rooms and pupils dispersed in the classroom).


If they noticed what was happening
The parents have been informed by their children as well as by the headmaster at the time of the tussle. They have been convoked to make the situation clear.
The bullied-pupil’s father has informed that he also faced relationship difficulties in his work environment.

If they had the possibility to modify the situation and how
The parents have agreed with the sanctions as well as with the mediation session organized by the headmaster.
The bullied-pupil’s parents did not file a complaint after the tussle.


If they were aware ?
A request had been made by the CPMS following the pupils’ intervention who were complaining of the lack of seriousness and of the unpleasant remarks from some pupils in the class. The CPMS has proposed to the bullied-pupils to be listened and to work on the way to answer some attitudes. This proposal has not been accepted.
The school mediation service has intervened by the headmaster (advice to solve the problem) as well as by the bullied-pupil (support to help him to find his place within the group).

How they would improve communication and cooperation
The psychologist of the CPMS is regularly called to organize mediation sessions between the pupils.


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 case: varied aggressions, with the intention of harming, during several months. But this case is mainly emblematic for the victim who becomes, at his turn, aggressor. A victim who explodes and commits a foolish act.

Concerning the causes and the mechanism that has allowed this phenomenon to occur
The bullied-pupil’s physique and his way of speaking show a lack of self-confidence. This pupil has a sense of justice and puts his life at risk setting himself up as righter of wrongs.
On the other hand, the bully-pupil shows a more « fashionable » look. He is self-confident and is able to argue his talks, even if he is not always right.
The bullied-pupil is not self-possessed. When a situation seems to be unfair, he expects a lot from the adult, otherwise he reacts himself but not always with the appropriate attitude.
The bully-pupil has caused some outbreaks in various contexts and he has not been called enough to order, and this has led the bullied-pupil to become “responsible”.
Some teachers have had the opportunity to be more watchful concerning the framework. Other ones hesitate to intervene in pupils’ conflicts fearing to worsen the situation.
Some factors of the geographical context and of the courses have also favoured the event.
This one has occurred at the time of a 4 hours practical course in the workroom which has a rhythm totally different from the one of a classic course (ex-cathedra). There is no break, some pupils work while listening to the music… The pupils have a drawing to achieve. They are alone to manage the work.
The classroom is not large. There are two-way windows, artificial light and a very bad acoustics (resonance). The smaller perturbation is disturbing for everybody.
Three incidents have already occurred in this room, but not possible to change, because the school has not enough classrooms.

Concerning the anwer brought by the school ? Concerning the type of answer brought by the school (disciplinary or educational)
The one day suspension imposed to the bullied-pupil is a hard sanction, but the schools react strongly concerning violence. Indeed violence can not be legitimated.
Compared with the 4 hours detention that the bully-pupil has got, this sanction seems disproportionate. As both pupils have committed a serious mistake, we expected the same sanction for both.
The call for external services to support the bullied-pupil is appropriate.
An intervention of the headmaster’s office by the « goup-class » would have been useful to mark the occasion, to remind the pupils of the school rules: right to security and well being for everyone.
We notice that the bully-pupil’s disciplinary contract has been more or less fruitful despite its constant evaluation. But we can not expect a radical change just because a contract is agreed. It is a support system and we also have to be able to notice what has improved.
A work with the bully-pupil would have been interesting. But he was not interested. No questioning from him (he did not admit to be the author of the drawing)

Concerning the lessons learnt and the prevention devices set up to avoid this situation to occur again ?
The school brings answers, case by case, most of the time to simple quarrels. The real bullying events are not numerous.
There is no global school policy in that matter. The school regularly calls for the CPMS and the school mediation service to solve the problems.
However, informing the pupils and the teachers on the different forms of bullying and its impacts can be considered. The school is conscious of that, now it has to act.
Other information and awareness devices concerning addiction (cannabis, tobacco) as well as emotional and sexual education already exist within the school (in 2010, the school detected 5 pregnant pupils).

Comments about this Case Study

Date: 20.03.2012

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

It is disappointing that the bullying continued for this length of time when there were a number of early warning signs: a bad feeling in the class; other pupils complaining about the bully; previous problems in the same classroom; the bully was already on a disciplinary contract.

With these warning signs we would have considered a number of supporting measures such as a regular 'drop in' on the lesson by a senior member of staff; support for the class teacher from a Teaching Assistant; a different contract for the bully - we have sometimes put pupils 'on-report' for their behaviour. This means they have to carry round a report card which they need to show to their teacher in every lesson. At the end of the lesson the teacher writes down a short report about their behaviour in that lesson and this is then reviewed by their form tutor every day.

If unacceptable behaviour continues we would call the parents in for a meeting about the problem and we would keep calling in the parents until their child's behaviour was satisfactory.

Another strategy, if the size and shape of the classroom is not beneficial for teaching might be to try a different seating plan.

A fixed term exclusion for the fighting is an appropriate punishment but we would probably have also excluded the bully as well, because it was his behaviour provoked the retaliatory action.

We would also have offered counselling support to the bullied student, although in this instance the mediation produced a positive response.

Date: 16.03.2012

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

The resolution of this situation would have been more successful for the bullied-pupil if there was a timely reaction on behalf of the school management. The conflict has been left to escalate for a long time until it reached a turning point in which the whole class became involved in the conflict. This requires a different approach for resolution which should have included not only the main victims, both the bullied pupil and the bully-one but also the class as a group and as a tool for mediation. In addition, once again, it should be noted that according to Dan Olweus and his model for prevention of violence and school, sanctions most often have the opposite effect and cannot reach satisfactory resolution for everyone. According to this model, which is quite relevant for this specific case, usually both the bully and the bullied are victims who need relevant psychological assistance and advice. In this situation, there is also a third party - the class which in a way triggered and ignited the conflict and was thus an active part in it. The mediation and the signing of the “gentlemen agreement” was a positive approach in solving the situation, however, it probably came a bit late and was not entirely effective and relevant for all parties.

Date: 14.03.2012

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

An aggressive pupil who was in fact known as one of the troublemakers of the class made an inappropriate drawing that was targeting one of his classmates; more so, being accompanied and encouraged by two other pupils, he continued his aggression by mocking and insulting his classmate. The victim reacted in a violent manner and banged the abuser’s head against the desk.

In my opinion, the school took action and monitored the case in an efficient manner; however, taking into account the emotional and family context of the two parties involved, the professional intervention of a psychologist or even of a psychotherapist is a must. Also, I think that the school should organize a supervised meeting with the two pupils, giving them the occasion of expressing their points of view. This process can help to empathize with and understand the other’s point of view in order to reach a balance between the radically different opinions of the pupils involved.

Date: 21.02.2012

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

The long build-up of this bullying behaviour gave some “justification” to the victim’s outburst. However, the annoying nature of the victim’s behaviour had also been a contributory factor. If the situation had been recognised and addressed earlier the two boys/groups could have been separated and perhaps the victim might have benefited from some counselling.
The lack of involvement of the teaching staff allowed this situation to develop and carry on for five months without any intervention. This ultimately affected all the students in the class creating a poor atmosphere. It is surprising that none of the other students drew attention to these events either at home or in school. There seems to be a culture of silence, perhaps because there was no one to approach within school to discuss these incidents.
This is very different from this school where if the bullied student could not approach a trusted member of staff other students in the class certainly would report this type of behaviour. Any mention of this behaviour at home would also be fed back into school by parents, especially if it was affecting the other students in the class, with the expectation that it would be addressed immediately.
Classes often contain different groups of students. Some who are “too cool for school” and others who just want to work and get on with the lesson. There may often be an element of annoyance caused by persistent low level friction between two students as other students recognise the behaviour of the victim can be as disruptive as that of the bully. Teaching staff would soon recognise that this is happening and take steps within the class to separate students by the use of a seating plan. If the poor behaviour persists either the bullying student or the victim may be moved to another class, especially if this is affecting the progress of the whole class. During social time the victim would be offered somewhere to go, where the bullying student would not be allowed access, if they wished.
The exclusion of a student for a violent act towards another student would be the normal route in this school. It sends a clear message to other students that, even with provocation, violent behaviour towards another is completely unacceptable.
However, persistent bullying behaviour towards another student and the resulting disruption of an entire class would also be regarded as equally serious and result in an exclusion. The events would then be recorded in the school bullying log.
Both students are in need of counselling and support. The bully needs to understand and accept responsibility for his behaviour in order for him not to do the same thing in the future. It is very common for bullies to present themselves as “victims”. The victim needs to understand how his behaviour may have contributed to the situation and how to avoid finding himself in the same situation in the future. Teaching staff also need to be more vigilant and intervene to prevent such a situation continuing for such a long time.
It was interesting to see the involvement of a school mediation service, which must be a recognition that such situations occur within schools. However it was concerning that there was no school policy on bullying and, therefore, no guidance for staff, students or parents in such a situation.

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