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“Innocence in its purest form”

  • Direct bullying
  • Non-especific

Angel is a 12 year-old boy with Asperger Syndrome. He has speaking and understanding people difficulties, making friends and is so hard for him to change his rutines. Aparently looks like a boy without difficulties, but he is actually a quite special boy. His classmates think he is a strange boy who speak only about things he is interested in and, most of the times, he doesn’t understand what the others say such as jokes, double meaning... Nevertheless there is a boy and girl group that help him out understanding what he doesn’t get, or at least they try and join him in their group.
In Angel’s class there are three repeating-year boys who use to be bothering the rest of the classmates, insulting and hitting in all the classes. Sometimes they are even picking on the teacher but they take it out particularly on Ángel. Everytime they pass by him they slap the back of his neck, pull his hair or just make jokes about him. Some other times they approachhim to talk to him pretending they are actually interested, but they only make bad jokes that Ángel doesn’t understand. Besides they take his shool supplies and destroy it. Then Ángel gets realy nervous start shouting and everyone loughs at him. His father has gone to talk to his tutor several times, but she says to be bburned out of her students’ behaviour, opening disciplinary reports and trying to talk to them.
Two weeks ago Angel came home with a bruise on his arm because the three bullies cornered him and hit him. Next day the father met the director of the center. He told him the teachers had seen bad behaviour, but nothing like physical aggression against his son. Nevertheless, he asked them to pay more attention. In spite of that, Ángel always trys to talk to them and tell them what he likes; say hi to them and is polite. Yesterday they locked him up in the tool cabinet. Some friends of him faced the aggressors
The teacher saw what was happening and sent the aggressors to the director’s office to find a permanent solution. Today, a meeting between the parents of these boys and the director and the tutor has taken place. They have been talking about their children’s behaviour and the center has made the decision of binding them to attend the convivencia class for a month. In this class they willd deal with several aspects related to the improvement of convivencia and behaviour both in the class and out of it. The center also proposed a plan in order to reinforce some of the areas in which he has more difficulties, such as understanding social situations, and teaching him strategies to cope bullying situations.


About the strategies used by the characters of the case in order to respond to this peer bullying situation. Students think they faced the aggressors and helped Ángel to understand them and get along with his classmates. Teachers say that talking to the aggressors, reporting to Head of Studies at any moment. The actions were carried out quite late, they think it’s important to bring forward to prevent cases of bullying and this one was an easy one to foresee. They forget to work with the whole students of the class since their actions will determine whether the situation change or not. They turned to direction and the parents. They could have paid more attention if they had already been reported about the situation. Actions must be fast and severe with the smallest evidence. Parents say they talked to the teacher.


Students, parents, teachers, director and counsellor think this situation affects learning an teaching in class and they agree about its ramifications. Students say that the teachers pay attention to the aggressors and Ángel, but not so much to the syllabus and teaching. Teachers point out it will affect learning. It’s difficult the use of cooperative strategies, for instance. The bullied student can lose his motivation and even develop a school phobia.
Regarding the situation affects stundent’s motivation (interest, effort…)
The participants think it affects indeed, but they don’t go further.
About the student academic results. The students think they can get worse as they have a problem in class and they don’t pay attention to the studies. Teachers think victim’s results get considerably worse, whereas the aggressors’ don’t. It can affect the results of the rest of the class depending their affinity with the victim. The must create a secure, confident and mutually helpful environment in order to make an ideal student performance.
A teacher thinks the situation must be long and serious so it affects. If there is a preventive work it shouldn’t affect. It can work out for positive motivation of the group in the future. Others say it’s a wrong strategies learning mostly if the aggressors end up without punishment. Parents think it doesn’t affect those who are not involved. The counsellor points out that bystanders don’t intervene because they think it’s none of their business and they can do nothing to remedy it, even underestimating victim’s complaint.
This passivity can end up with unsupportive attitudes and a wrong concept of personal validity. Inequality situations with relations based on control-submissiveness schemas are established, what leads to an inferiority situations for the victim, provoking helplessness, powerlessness, subjection and isolation and even think he is the responsible of the aggressions. This maze with no way out can provoke school failure , psychological trauma, physical risk, anxiety, unhappiness, personality problems, etc. The aggressor who gets what he wants will consider this behaviors as acceptable, rewarded, overestimating them.
Regarding posible school integration problems. All the participants think there will be school integration problems. The victim and defender classmates can become the aggressor’s goal if the center doesn’t take measures. The victim would get isolated and even would deny attending the shool. Counsellor thinks the interpersonal relationships between people involved are more and more unequal, provoking the class to divide, preventing to meet each other, communicate and cooperate.
Regarding the influence made by the situation of bullying on adulthood, everyone thinks that it shows influence. Students think that bullies will behave in the same way when adults. These influences and forms of behavior can influence also to the rest of the class, as they would copy them. Teachers suggest that bullying behavior is built based on practice, so their role would be teaching students to respond assertively to inappropriate behavior independently whether they are directly involved or not. The counselor also agrees bullying behavior (and victim role) may be perpetuated into adulthood. In relation to the influences on school environment, all of them think that school climate would get worse if bullying behaviors are usually developed.


Students think if victims do not understand the situation where he is involved he deserves to be isolated. They think the victim do not tell to anybody because he was scared the problem could get worse. They state in most of this cases the victims do not use to tell to anybody what is happening.
When we focus on what help the victim would need, students suggest: psychologist advice, more friends and invite him to tell to someone (parents or friends).


Concerning the bully’s point of view, students mention bullies think they believe to have the rights to trait others like in this case (especially, when victims have a problem). The bully thinks he is better than the victim and behaving in this way he will gain others’ respect. If we focus on why they choose that victim in particular, students think it is because of the Asperger (a sample of weakness), that makes the victim in a "sitting duck". Finally students state the bully is not feeling remorse for what he had done.


Bystanders knew what was happening but did not react in fear. They mention the most effective strategy would be telling to an adult about the bullying.


Although teachers are apparently unaware of the severity of attacks, participants on this study think most of them have probably some information about the episodes. To this respect, it is clear that bullying episodes are usually out of the teachers’ view (and the high number of students in classroom make to notice the problem even difficult), but they have to be alert to detect signs of possible aggressions. To do that, teachers can use: talking with students and parents, individually and collectively; giving information to the class about the characteristics of Asperger's Syndrome; establishing some practical guidance to school staff to deal with bullying. Teachers turned immediately to the director, without asking to the counselor (who is a good resource to stop these episodes), so they would need to think about the use of a protocol to act when bullying occurs.
Teachers think that these problems should be manage by the Educational Team (all the teaching staff) in coordination with the counselor (not mentioned in the description of the case), and if no results are achieved the problem should be sent to the school board (with representatives of parents and students).


The head teacher (participant) has no clear idea regarding the information his counterpart had about the bullying episodes, but the thinks these episodes should have been commented in coordination meetings (especially because Asperger put the student at risk). So, what should have done in this situation? Developing programs of transition to make easier the pass from primary to secondary; applying specific tutorial activity; reacting to bullying since the first episode.
According to him, disciplinary measures should be consistent, in this age group in particular, and show an exemplary character. However, this response must be complemented with educational and restorative measures. Sanctions should involve also to the bullies’ families, such as the suspension of the right of attendance for an appropriate time period. This is important, otherwise bullies feel powerful and assume this kind of negative behavior over the adult life.
Concerning the role of the head teacher in such situations, the participant thinks they must be the guarantors of rules compliance, taking the necessary decisions from the beginning and coordinating all the process.


Participants thin Angel’s parent did not notice what was happening until there were no clear evidences. They think families should encourage their children to tell others if bullying appears. This attitude would have improve the situation as friends could have helped before.


The counselor would have act from the very beginning, but without creating alarm. To deal with situations like this the best action is prevention. The first step is to establish programs to prevent and detect bullying episodes with teachers, students and family. If bullying appears school should have clear strategies to address it, based on educational and restorative practices that keep the proportionality with the students’ degree of participation in bullying events. In this action, counselor and school should consider the episodes in social networks. Response has to start as soon as the school realize there is a problem (and do not wait the victim’s complaint), and should show discretion and confidentiality throughout the process.
As part of the prevention, the school should improve communication and cooperation among students, talk a lot with students and implement methodologies and strategies for bullying prevention and resolution of conflicts such as: hosting plan for new students, peer mentoring, cooperative learning, programs to develop social competence, emotional education or social skills, class assemblies. It should be also added: stimulation of protective factors such as emotional self-esteem and emotional control, techniques for peaceful conflict resolution, and asking for family complicity. Finally, if the situation of vulnerability in the victim requires, counselor would recommend to the family psychological treatment.


I am asked to directly issue my opinion on the psychoeducational treatment that must be given to a case of bullying, I must say
A) That all cases of bullying must be detected before it becomes an established phenomenon with its known structure: bully-victim dynamic + bystanders in their different roles, so the first analysis should refer to the anti-bullying school policy. At present all educational center in Spain has a policy which includes cases of bullying. This anti-bullying school policy should be analyzed and identify why the case appeared.
B) Every school have to use a device to detect and prevent bullying, especially with higher risk students, as it is the case of pupils with special educational needs (victim in this case seems to be like that, possibly Asperger syndrome).
C) It cannot be left to the opinion of each other such a complex issue as it is, on one hand the bullying phenomenon, and secondly the even more complex school organization, school climate and convivencia.
All the above elements should be taken into account in the analysis to be made of the behaviors, attitudes and thoughts of professionals (teachers, counselors and head teachers) and the actors involved (students, victims, perpetrators, bystanders, and their families). It is necessary to distinguish between those who are the subjects of a psychoeducational phenomenon and who are the players involved, among them there are a professional responsibility that differentiates them. Any psychoeducational analysis must include this argument.
A scientific analysis based on evidence must lead treatment and psychological approach to prevent bullying and reduce its effects. This requires a scientific analysis which does not consider all the contributions in the same category, but clearly distinguish the role it occupies and the importance and value of their opinions.
Finally, my recommendations are to conduct a well-defined categorical analysis of the responses to the interviews and/or the subjects who answered. This analysis should include the scientific knowledge we have from practice, as well as from the phenomenon we are studying and trying to prevent.
An analysis which cleans the spontaneous expression of the participants and allows us to identify similarities, differences, trends and therefore definitions of what they think.
It would be very helpful too starting the analysis considering the proposals made by the general policies of the educational administration to deal with the bullying phenomenon. Only then it makes sense to assume, as the case assumes that the existence of a so-called "convivencia classroom" is, or not, an appropriate strategy in this case.


This is a case of traditional bullying towards a child with special educational needs. First, it is worth mentioning that the solution has take a long time, but once it has been decided (peer support) it has shown to be effective (as it appears in research).
According to participants, the strategies used to solve the case were effective, but late. There is consensus about the negative consequences of the bullying action, influencing the teaching and learning process, motivation, the academic achievement of the students, school integration problems, influence in adulthood (for victims and bullies) and school environment.
The thoughts of the students involved objectively bring us to the possible causes of bullying. There is a need for a positive and communicative interaction between them and the adults. They are scared to act, thinking they become in risk if they do. Teachers know the protocol in terms of people who have to intervene in a case of bullying, but do not know effective tools to be applied into practice. The school suggests that they know the needs that Asperger Syndrome presents, but does not know how to work with them (pointing out a lack of initial training of teachers in secondary education when cases of children with special educational needs appear). Families are not informed of the procedures carried out in such situations.
Only the counselor knows the ways of dealing with bullying situations. He proposes comprehensive and systemic prevention. Training and information is needed by the educational community in general.


Самата невинност.pdf

Comments about this Case Study

Date: 30.03.2012

Posted by: Marta Cortés Pozas
Type of school: Concerted
Country: Spain

This case seems very interesting to discuss because the victim is a child with Asperger Syndrome and as such, he already has their own needs and difficulties in adapting to everyday life. I agree that all educators must educate ourselves and also to take the initiative in wanting to know more about the guidelines and strategies for working with children with special educational needs that are increasingly part of our educational community.
I also believe that we should reflect on the education children are receiving from small, on the part of teachers, media and family, and who are often parents themselves who label other children.
I think that society should give a change of mind and interest in learning how to think and act like children with special needs, in this case we are talking about: Asperger's Syndrome.
It seems fundamental to promote the participation of a group of fellow students work cooperatively, a recreation aide able and willing to help and engage with the students and professionals interested in implementing a guidelines and use strategies to help students to develop in the surrounding environment. To avoid such cases we must educate students about non-violence before they occur cases like this.

Date: 22.03.2012

Posted by: E Spolin
Type of school: 11-18 Comprehensive
Country: UK

Like Ian Thomson most of our students on the Asperger scale have a statement of Special Educational Needs which entitles them to TA support. The amount of support is comensurate with the complexity of their needs. The English school system tries to be inclusive and offer places in main stream education for almost all students with Special Needs. From the evidence in the Case Study it would seem that Angel can be suported in Main Stream Education but will need specialist help with his Aspergers. In my school this help would come from a sympathetic tutor who has been trained to deal with Aspergers Syndrome. At my school we placed all three of our Year 7 Aspergers children in the same Tutor Group when they joined us and then worked very hard to ensure that the other members of the group understood what Aspergers entails and were shown how best to support their classmates with Special Needs. We were very fortunate and the group responded magnificently and ensured that the three boys concerned did not receive any unpleasantness both from within their Tutor Group and from the general school population.

The major problem that Angel faces is that the boys who are being unpleasant to him are being made to repeat a year. They will have no sense of loyalty to this group and will want to establish themselves as "Alfa Males". Angel has unfortunatley become a soft target.

Clearly just sending the bullies to the Headteacher is not always an option and I suspect that Angel was fortunate that his Principal was able to act on his behalf. I am, though, concerned by the expression "actions must be fast and severe". Is this what the author meant to say or is there a problem with the translation? Actions should be swift but severe punishment will simply re-inforce the message that hurtful behaviour is okay. These bullies have to build up some empathy with Angel and develop an understanding of Aspergers.

What is convivencia?

Date: 13.03.2012

Posted by: Ian Thomson
Type of school: Catholic Secondary
Country: England

Students at our school with similar difficulties have teaching assistants who work closely with the pupils in as many subject areas as possible. Obviously, there is not always funding for this and it is difficult to let a child develop if they are constantly in the presence of a TA.

I personally believe that all of the pupils should be made aware of the difficulties of the student. Prefects or older pupils could be used as mentors/helpers and there should be a united front throughout the student body to help and support this pupil.

Staff should be made aware of the best strategies to use for pupils like this and he should never have been left in a scenario where physical bullying/ 'pranks' can take place. Although this is hard to manage (particularly at break/lunch times) maybe the pupil in the example could attend clubs that keep them busy/safe at break times. For example at our school there is a 'break through club' which involves carrying out team building/confidence building games for more vulnerable pupils. Other clubs are implemented, such as homework club. Clubs are ran by TA's and teaching staff.

There should be a zero tolerance policy towards bullying of this sort. The pupils should be excluded on a temporary basis and parents of all children (both victim and bullies) should meet with the head prior to the bullies return.

This incident reminds us that where there are vulnerable pupils, there will sadly be bullying incidents of many different types. PSHE lessons could be a time when pupils are educated on the importance of treating people equally. All credit to the voluntary group that helped this individual.

Date: 13.03.2012

Country: ROMANIA

First of all, I never worked with a student having Asperger Syndrome so I cannot appeal on personal direct experience with this type of problem. But since the main core of this syndrome is related to the diminished capacity to understand and cope with social interactions, doubled by several symptoms specific to autistic behavior, I would say that from the very beginning, the case of this student should of been carefully judged by the school board, accepting the fact that he was the first to be included in a risk group. The fact that the class has many students (including those 3 repeating-year boys) and that in the case there is no reference of the existence of a supporting teacher for this kid exposed him for the very beginning to these acts of bullying.

This is not only a classical case of bullying towards a child with special educational needs, but a general problem concerning working with children that need special care. As far as the case presents, the school understands Asperger Syndrome but does not know how to work with it (pointing out a lack of initial training of teachers in secondary education when cases of children with special educational needs appear). While I sustain a general training concerning general approaches and educational patterns for children with special educational needs, I don’t believe it’s necessary that teachers follow a training program especially for Asperger Syndrome. Their focus should be to support a therapeutically and educational path designed by a multidisciplinary team (including the doctors, the counselor, the therapeutic) and sustain a program that could be specially adapted for this case. But it’s not teachers’ job to do this program!

In Romania, there is a private national program concerning children with ADHD and the general procedure in this cases sustain that the multidisciplinary team should be functioning not only internally to the school but out of it (cooperation between the doctors and their medicamentary intervention, therapeutic and his therapeutically program, school counselor, school doctor, the class master or the main teachers in that classroom). The school is a partner in sustaining programs and plans already designed by this team, monitoring, applying special requirements (for example, Asperger Syndrome requires that educational work should be done in small group of kids – which is not the case, in the study presented).

So I consider that the presence of this kid with Asperger in mass school is itself a separate issue, for which the school board should have a policy including preventing, creating appropriate conditions for learning, working with out-school resources (specialists that can support learning for this kid).

The bullying aspect of the case is related to the three repeating-year boys, who are a problem themselves, regardless Angel existence. In the case is mentioned the fact that these boys use to bother the rest of the classmates, insulting and hitting in all the classes and even picking on the teachers. This is the issue, the fact that they found the weaker link (Angel, because he ‘has problems’) is just a detail.

I understand, from the case presented, that this is an old problem, did not started recently and the solution does not involve Angel at all. It’s about children being reluctant to the school, showing already school failure and having behavioral problems. These kids should of been already in the attention of the counselor but the case does not offer any information about this aspect, neither the causes of the failure or of the bad behavior of those kids. Causes can be multiple, including their personality and capacity to follow the school requirements, family support/problems, peer support/problems.

These kids should be sustained in a double key: disciplinary but also educational. The issue can extend to the general attitude toward school, toward people and social interactions. It is not understandable why the counselor was not involved already in the case of the three boys and why the school has no clear strategy/procedure to follow when cases of bullying appear or students fail to be promoted to the next classes.

Several ‘little’ aspects can be taken into consideration: places in the classroom for the three boys, moving them (one by one) in a different classroom (to break their ‘team’) having a remedial work plan for them to improve school performance, having a educational plan for them to improve social/cooperation/communication skills.

For teachers, improving ways to spot bullying or any dysfunctional problems within a classroom (especially when everybody, students, teachers, counselor, director believe that this aspects can affect learning and teaching in class) and more preventive programs based on encouraging direct opened dialogue between teachers and students, to express their problems and suggestions for a better life in school.

Date: 07.03.2012

Posted by: Diana Nikolova
Type of school: Specialized school
Country: Bulgaria

The described case is not directly related to the practices from our school, but it does concern us deeply, considering the character of the bullying involved and the status of the victim. The children and youth from our school have special educational needs, to which we, as specialists try to respond in the best possible way, in order to prepare them as reliable and productive members of society. Situations in which youths with special education needs are being bullied and isolated are particularly important for studying and researching. Understanding the problems in depth, we consider very important the preparation of the entire school staff regarding the specifics of certain conditions, as well as the manners for supporting such children to follow the development patterns of which they are capable without external and unnecessary stress. It would be extremely important for us to be aware and up-to-date with similar cases in other countries and the approaches used for their resolution. I consider the voluntary involvement and support provided by a group of class mates as honorable and efficient, as well as worthy of multiplication in other countries and schools.

Date: 07.03.2012

Posted by: Mª Carmen Carneiro Rodríguez
Type of school: Secundary School
Country: Spain

I chose this case because this course I have a student diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. My relationship with him is recent, in the first evaluation was assigned to another group, but because of poor relationships with other students and I think because it had a "friend" in the current group, it was decided to change supported by references to the tutor, counselor, parents and teachers, not without some doubts. The aim was to improve relations in the group and improving the performance and behavior of that student.
My first impressions are, of course that a student is "different" or "special". Before him in class, casually watched the beginning of the year he wrote in an "abnormally" correct, no spelling mistakes, which is totally unusual for a boy his age and educational level. I do not know whether this is due to assistance to the Learning Support classes where you are in a very small group and specialized assistance or is a characteristic of children with this syndrome.
Since joining my classes and the new group, the situation has fluctuated be welcomed and protected by a group of students (imagine the novelty) to the indifference of those to him. The rest of the group, obviously finds it "weird", they send him to shut up and do not understand their behavior. Sometimes they "team up" with him when they want fun as this student interacts with others through play, laughter and jokes but has a different view of them than the rest. It is clear that his presence the group dynamic has changed.
The tutor, as mentioned, has had on another occasion a student with the same problem and referred us to certain websites with information about the syndrome (also the tutor had done before). She also raised the possibility of communicating to the group the problem of partner (after consultation with parents) and treated openly in the class so that everyone is aware of it. Personally I do not think a bad idea, but not having adequate training know if this is correct. The counselor is aware of these details.
Prior to the change group at recess constantly complained of harassment from peers and not leave him alone, and sometimes I saw that there was some animosity toward him by other peers, almost never in your group and it came to worry because in the hallways had been teasing, shoving and booing. (It's different). But he did not shunned but did not pay attention when the sought. At present, these behaviors have decreased, I have become accustomed to it.
I think it is important for successful integration of this student and any ortho to submit problems, influence the specialized and individualized care by professionals. As teachers we can access the information given to us and we can get on our own, but you can not drop all the responsibility on our hands. We need help from the true connoisseurs of these problems and help us on the guidelines to follow. With thirty students in a class becomes very complicated and more individual attention even when there is some kind of pathology in this case.

Date: 05.03.2012

Posted by: Maramotti Loretta - Pancosta Barbara
Type of school: High School
Country: Italia

Closing in themselves by victims of bullying
Menacing attitude on the part of bullies
In Spain, the victim of bullying 'of Chinese origin while in our case none of the victims' of foreign origin.
In the Spanish case you do not have the intervention is 'part of the households are' of the school as not aware, while in our case we have the involvement of families, teachers, psychologists and authorities
In Spain you would have found support in families and institutions, while in our case and we are 'made use of such media
From the Spanish case shows that it would be appropriate that there be greater observation on the part of teachers to understand the attitudes of some students, while in our case and we 'realized that the intervention of institutions helps to overcome some problems related to bullying
It would be appropriate that the projects were made on the behavior of citizens through the support of external experts such as police and psychologists so that students have knowledge of what can lead to behavior not correct.
It would also be desirable to train teachers through courses in sociology and psychology.
The teacher training is crucial to deal with any bullying events. It 'important that the Faculty Council is prepared
Required courses in teacher training would be appropriate to dedicate themselves to the issue of forms of bullying. Important is the presence of experts such as psychologists and sociologists that illustrate the strategies used by teachers to address issues related to bullying that might occur in the classroom.
It would also be appropriate in these meetings there was a confrontation with teachers who have already faced this kind of experience.
Important is to create a network among teachers who have experienced and overcome these problems and teachers who are involved in the same issue, so it would be appropriate for the classes that they live such a problem might confront students who managed to overcome this difficulty.
Our experience has taught us that the class action at all in law enforcement with the aim of illustrating the rules and the sanctions resulting from behaviors that violate the rules leads to a self-reflection and self-analysis following students on their inappropriate behavior resulting in behavioral improvement.
Therefore it would be good practice to include any case of police intervention, police, army into the classroom to illustrate and clarify the rules on citizenship regardless of whether or not issues related to bullying in the classroom.

Date: 12.02.2012

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

Despite the fact that the reaction to this case (similar to the one played out by our participants in “This could have happened to me”) comes a bit late, it is surely appropriate. The approach for training the bullies how to coexist peacefully and to get close with the members of their community without prejudices and discrimination is bound with mental level changes, which, in case the convivencia is successfully implemented, should change the society stereotypes in a positive direction. Regardless that in Bulgarian society the reasons for discrimination and bullying among the children are to a great extent different than those in other European countries, training in the spirit of “peaceful coexistence” could only have positive results.

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