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A case of psychological and physical harassment on sexual grounds

  • Direct bullying
  • Homophobic
  • Non-especific

The discussed case is real. The harassment towards a boy with initials DP starts when he is in 6th grade. The bullying has various manifestations, including, at the culmination moment – sexual harassment on behalf of a class-mate. Due to the exceptional cruelty demonstrated during the last bullying occasion the case goes to court. This last bullying act will not be included in the description of the situation which DP finds himself in.

The main actors involved are DP and several of his class-mates.

During a specific violent situation DP is trying to stop one of his class-mates – a girl with initials BS – from bullying and teasing another student. As a response BS directs her anger towards DP and starts slapping him on his face. After this the other students start teasing DP and asking him “how does it feel to be beaten up by a girl?”
Most harassment actions on behalf of DP’s class-mates are connected with anti-homo comments and calling DP with a nickname “Mr. Smooth”, due to the fact that the boy does not have intimate hair. The harassment however is not just verbal. During March 2005 an unknown student breaks into DP’s locker, urinates on his clothes, tosses him shoes in the toilet and writes obscene sexual insults on the locker walls and door with shaving cream. Later during the same spring the students put a poster “Mr. Smooth” on DP’s locker door.
After that, once again unknown students vandalize DP’s locker and write and draw on it obscenities and sexually oriented drawings with a permanent marker.

The bullying period for DP is school year 2005-2006.


The initial reaction to the signals of the harassed student is obviously inadequate since the culmination moment with sexual abuse and bringing the case to court is reached. What should be done, despite the delay, by the school administration and staff is the following: explanations to be sought from the form tutor and the pedagogic advisor why they have not informed the school administration about the manifestations of violence in this class and cooperation has not been requested; to be requested information on BS’s status in the class, her behavior during periods, at school, during extra-curricular activities, positive / negative actions, family situation, whether she is a child at risk, whether she has friends in the class or at school from her form tutor and the pedagogic advisor; a meeting to be organized with BS’s parents in order to inform them about their daughter’s role in this situation and to offer them a meeting with the pedagogic advisor and a psychologist; sincere apologies for what has happened to be expressed to DP’s parents and support to be provided to them for the moving of their child to another school; a training at school for all form tutors and teachers to be organized by a psychologist on the following topic: “Violence at school – forms and methods to combat and prevent it”; a meeting with DP’s class to be conducted in order the role and responsibility for preventing different forms of bullying of his school-mates to be clarified to them; a class training to be organized by a psychologist for overcoming fear from bullies and learning methods for dealing with bullying situations; the school SCCDM (School committee for combating delinquency of minors) to be assigned the task to investigate BS’s role in all forms of bullying inflicted upon DP and ff necessary, ask for the support of an inspector from Children’s pedagogic office. If BS appears to have an instigator’s role, propose BS for punishment in accordance with article 139 of the Regulation for the implementation of the Education act.


This bullying action had a substantial, long term and complex impact.
When we take into consideration the great amount of attention on behalf of bullies, bullied and witnesses diverted towards the topic of “I wonder what is going to happen to DP next”, we can easily assess the loss of attention towards the educational process during the time of the evolvement of the unfavorable events. Afterwards, instead of focusing on their classes and lessons, the participants in this harassment will have to divert substantial amount of attention and time towards discussions, lectures and trainings, which are going to be organized for them by the form tutor, the school psychologist and external expert psychologists because the case reached a graveness of consequences that had to go to court. The teachers will also inevitably suffer from this turn out, because they need to adapt their program time-wise, as well as topic-wise.
As far as the motivation of the students is concerned, we must state that this event definitely effected DP’s motivation. Systematic harassment, insults, humiliation and defamation, which culminate into direct sexual harassment on behalf of two class-mates, rob DP’s from any motivation, interest, willingness for self-expression and self-development. He only wishes so receive the long awaited protection and his torturers to bear their punishment and responsibility. Constant harassment is the reason for DP’s grades to mismatch his potential. His attention is not directed towards achieving more, but towards being left alone and not picked upon by the others. The deeply instilled feeling of inferiority, inadequacy and even abnormality will follow him in the next educational establishment, to which he is about to be moved. Regaining his confidence and self-respect is going to be a matter of long-term and specially targeted efforts. In the new school there will probably be other bullies, because violence and aggression are inherent for all humans, regardless of age or gender, which is why DP must learn how to behave and what groups to cling to, in order to avoid repetition of the experienced horrors.
BS’s achievements as well as the achievements of the other bullies are at an average or below average level in the class. Too much energy is spent in unproductive activities such as focusing on and exploiting others’ characteristics and differences, making plans how to harass and to mock others, as well as how to manipulate as many of their peers as possible, because this makes them feel special and they avoid the danger of becoming somebody else’s victims.
Most of the other students, willing or unwilling witnesses of the cruelties and vandalism acts, are not influenced as far as their grades and achievements at school are concerned.
Intra-school integration has also been influenced by this case of bullying. In the first place there is a new or a freshly intensified sense of inability to cope with the children, because a situation that started from the will of one boy with particular physical characteristics to protect another fellow student escalated to a long term harassment and inflicting damage with sustainable psychical consequences. The school staff recognizes and admits an inability to successfully function in collaboration. The victim considers himself isolated and unwanted both from his fellow students and the school team, which until the very last moment and the fact that the case was brought to court, fails to pay adequate attention to the situation. The victim does not have any sense of integration in the school environment, because his differences from the others, his “abnormalities”, have been constantly rubbed in his face and no attempt for his integration has ever been made either by students or by teachers. DP is surely grateful to his parents for their help, even if it looks a bit delayed. But DP is responsible for this delay in their reaction because he stayed silent for what was happening at school for too long.
The bullies will also suffer disintegration from the school from now on, because they have distinctly been pointed out as not trust-worthy, as children who should not be followed as role models by the other students and whose influence is obviously bad for the class and the larger school community. Their influence has been described as destructive for the class and the school in general. Both the bullies, who have to be punished, and the other students have to reconsider their behavior and the effects from their reactions and avoiding responsibilities.
The active citizenship philosophy advocates that members of nation-states have certain roles and responsibilities to society and the environment even if those members have no specific governing roles. Within the school universe active citizenship can be seen as an articulation of the debate over student/staff rights versus responsibilities. School gives knowledge, future and certain rights to minors. It also creates employment and opens a field for self-achievement and expression to a group of one of the most valuable and cherished professions – the one of the teacher. Therefore these groups that we mentioned have certain responsibilities to uphold. In a bullying case such as this one, active citizenship is disrupted at all levels and in all directions. The victim considers that his/her rights are unprotected and unsecured and he/she therefore is not fully responsible to the institution which should have protected them. The bullies on the other hand have believed that they have more rights than the others, which again misbalances the situation.
In bullying situations it is crucial that the return to balance of rights and responsibilities is as quick as possible, because the negative effects of violence on the one hand and the feeling of hurting, misunderstanding, lack of love and appreciation can lead to grave effects especially when we consider the fact that we are speaking of young and very impressionable (therefore vulnerable) minds.
In this particular case the attempt of the return to balance came quite late and with unsatisfactory results.
The school atmosphere has been polluted by improper behavior of students, the lack of interest of the school staff members, the appearance of lack of trust among staff members, an understanding of the graveness of the cruel and unconsidered actions.


The victim considers as the main reasons for the occurrence of the harassment events his attempts to stop BS form bullying other children and allowing her to slap him around without any reaction. According to DP the weaker you are, the more they harass you.
DP did not share with anyone.
He does not know what kind of help he needs. Probably some martial arts training.


It is quite possible that BS actually likes the first boy she was teasing, when DP interfered. She was aggravated by DP’s interference and brought her anger upon him.
DP’s class mates make the best out of the situation and start teasing him on other grounds.
A great part of all the bullying takes place quite by chance.
The victim has been chosen because he allowed a girl to hit him and did not protect himself. So everybody else can also attack him.
None of the bullies feel any remorse. BS most surely NOT, and the others are just а “enjoying DP’s show”.


At first Bs did not comprehend what was actually happening, but later on she started to understand what consequences her reactions have brought upon DP. The rest of the bullies do not comprehend the graveness of the situation and will not be able to do so unless something similar happens to them.
The students suppose that the reasons for this harassment is that fact that DP is the weakest in the class and can allow to become a victim of their insults and mocking. Besides they cannot forget the fact that he let a girl beat him up.
The students think that they have just found a playing field and have taken advantage of it. They showed themselves as strong. They got amused and interested. Besides they react in this way also because they feel a kind of fear from becoming someone else’s victim.


The teachers understand what is happening and are extremely concerned from these events.
They found out what is happening from some students and from the pedagogic advisor.
Their reaction, after they found out about the bullying situation, was to start talking with everybody. The started discussions with all participants in the events.
They most surely need all the possible help from the other school staff members – especially on behalf of the form tutor of this specific class, the pedagogic advisor as well as the respect-inspiring influence of the headmaster.


1. The intervention of the headmaster should have been registered immediately after the first vandal act during March 2006 as a chairman of the SCCDM (School committee for combating delinquency of minors). He should have requested information from the form tutor of the class in which studies DP on DP’s status in the group, his behavior during periods, in extra-curricular activities, positive / negative actions, family situation, whether he is a child at risk, if he has friends in his class, whether he is in some kind of conflict in his class or in the school.
2. After receiving this information the headmaster should have reached BS. He should have requested information on her from her form tutor and reach the bottom of the conflict – the protection, which DP tried to provide to another school-mate.
3. The headmaster should have required the pedagogic advisor to conduct a meeting and discussion with BS for clarifying the situation and discovering the reasons for her aggression. After this to conduct a meeting with BS’s parents and if necessary, request a consultation with an expert psychologist.
4. The headmaster should have received information from the school guards and, in case there is video surveillance available, to go through the recordings.
5. The headmaster should assign to the class form tutor and the pedagogic advisor the task to conduct meetings and discussions with the class in order to analyze this paradox that occurred – how a protector turned into a victim.
6. The headmaster should have found time to meet DP and show him his support for DP’s braveness to oppose a bully and to assure him that the things that happened to him will never happen again. He should have conversed with DP’s parents and express his regret about what happened to their son and to assure them that their child is safe.
7. The headmaster should have met BS and reprimanded her for her behavior and, if he considers it necessary, impose some kind of punishment, additional or extra-curricular work.
None of these measures have been undertaken, which unfortunately allowed the aggravation of the situation and the violence forms that followed. After the situation escalated so much that it had to be brought to court, the headmaster is now obliged to:
1. Request explanations from the class form tutor why he/she has not informed the school administration about the violent acts in this class and has not requested support.
2. Request explanations from the pedagogic advisor why he/she has not informed the school administration about the violent acts in this class and has not requested support.
3. Request from BS’s form tutor and the pedagogic advisor information on her status in the class, her behavior during periods, at school, during extra-curricular activities, positive / negative actions, family situation, whether she is a child at risk, whether she has friends in the class or at school.
4. Meet BS’s parents and inform them about their daughter’s role in this situation. To offer them a meeting with the pedagogic advisor and a psychologist.
5. Express his sincere apologies for what has happened to DP’s parents.
6. Provide help to DP’s parents to move their child to another school.
7. Organize training at school for the school form tutors and all teachers by a psychologist on the following topic: “Violence at school – forms and methods to combat and prevent it”.
8. Conduct a meeting with DP’s class and clarify his school-mates’ role and responsibility for preventing different forms of bullying.
9. Organize class training by a psychologist for overcoming fear from bullies and learning methods for dealing with bullying situations.
10. Assign to the school SCCDM to investigate BS’s role in all forms of bullying inflicted upon DP. If necessary, ask for the support of an inspector from Children’s pedagogic office. If BS appears to have an instigator’s role, propose BS for punishment in accordance with article 139 of the Regulation for the implementation of the Education act.


DP’s parents noticed that something was happening, because their child grew restless and insecure.
BS’s parents and the parents of the other students, who took part in the situation, did not notice anything unusual or inappropriate.
All the parents have been informed about what happened by the pedagogic advisor, the form tutor and the headmaster.
DP’s parents would have changed the situation by conducting discussions with the child, assuring it that good is not necessarily and always punished. If however DP continued to be restless – they would have undertaken the necessary actions to move him to a different school.
BS’s parents would have changed the situation by reprimanding their daughter, convincing her to apologize to DP for all the consequences from her improper deed.
The parents of the other school mates, who participated in the incident, are trying to clarify the moral damages, which their children have inflicted upon their peer explain to them the possibility of becoming the victim in a similar story. How would they feel if they were in his shoes?


The psychological advisor must have surely known about what was happening. She should have immediately met all students involved in the events. She should have met DP and BS, who is at the bottom of the occurrence of the problem, first and then all the other students, individually and then jointly together with the form tutor. She should have studied the situation from all sides for analyzing the paradox, which turned the protector into the victim of group harassment.
She should have informed the school administration, the headmaster, the SCCDM for the violence manifestations in this class.
She should have conducted meetings with the BS’s parents and with DP’s class mates.
In order to improve the communication and interaction, she should have conducted individual meetings with all students from this class; should have demonstrated her support to DP for his braveness to oppose a bully and to assure him that the misfortune that had taken place will never happen again; should have reprimanded BS for her behavior and together with her should have analyzed the situation that has arisen; should have explained to the participants in the sexual harassment, which followed, their unethical behavior, reminding to them the simple, but “golden rule of ethics” and organized a meeting with a psychologist; should have analyzed the situation in the class for revealing the reasons and consequences; should have conducted lectures on moral topics; should have organized a training for the class by an expert psychologist for overcoming the fear from bullies and learning methodologies for coping with violence situations; should have organized, if necessary, a meeting of the class with representatives of the Child’s pedagogic office in town; should have organized an emergency parents’ meeting, joined also by the students and the school administration.


In this particular case there is no adequate intervention for preventing the aggression towards DP on behalf of the school institution. As a consequence of the culmination of the cruelty – the sexual assault on the boy, all follow up actions are beyond the school authority. What the school team in the face of the headmaster, the teachers and the pedagogic advisor could do is support the victimized boy and his family for the purpose of long-term psychological recovery of DP and reintegration in the school environment, even if this is to happen in another school. Of major importance is that all interested parties work in the direction of teaching the children about the benefits from dialogue and sharing of problems that trouble them, so that similar cases of such extreme aggression and violence are prevented.


One of the reason for the violence – nobody reacted immediately after the boy (DP), who tried to protect a class mate, got slapped by the bully girl.
Due to this, provoked and empowered by the feeling of impunity and DP’s personal problem, his fellow students become literally unleashed and bring the situation to the culmination point – cruel sexual harassment.
The untimely intervention of the teachers, the pedagogic advisor and the school administration allowed a physical aggression to unlock an escalating sexual harassment in this class – the extraordinary cruelty, direct sexual aggression.

Comments about this Case Study

Date: 25.03.2012

Posted by: M Stankova
Type of school: Secondary school
Country: Bulgaria

What could I add to the comments made?! As teachers we have to face new challenges on a daily basis. Unfortunately, no matter what we do, we are unable to foresee or foretell each and every demonstration of aggression among our students. It arises unexpectedly. Regardless how unpleasant this is, when we find out about such acts we need to act immediately. The situation requires our involvement. In our school almost all colleagues have passed training courses for fighting aggressive behavior. Our pedagogic advisor, two psychologists from the teaching staff of Sofia University and the Burgas Free University, conduct violence trainings in our school every year, on the invitation of our headmaster. The changes however happen slowly. The young generation does not want to follow the behavior norms of our society. The parents are also not such a good example in many of the cases. The street and the media promote another type of behavior, which is more attractive and better matching the model, followed by the youths. In order for the students to change, their parents need to undertake the responsibility for their upbrining. The parents does not care, because he has a lot of problems and cannot deal with upbringing, besides this is what the teachers are for. So how can the good things happen if the teachers are blamed for everything bad, while the parents sneak out innocent.

Date: 21.03.2012

Posted by: Al. Demireva
Type of school: Secondary school
Country: Bulgaria

I read the analyses done by our colleagues and do agree with them. My opinion is closest to the one shared by our Greek and Romanian colleagues.
What we all want is never to find ourselves in such situations, but if and when this happens we should be prepared. Such examples gives us more confidence about how to deal with similar situations.

Date: 21.03.2012

Posted by: Radka Bubarova
Type of school: Secondary school
Country: Bulgaria

I am very satisfied with the comments and with the fact that our colleagues from the other countries share our opinion.

Date: 19.03.2012

Type of school: „CONSTANTIN PĂUNESCU” School for children with special needs, IAŞI
Country: ROMANIA

Indeed, the case describes a situation of a very serious act of violence, which fortunately is very rarely found in schools from Romania. It is also alarming that occurs at a very low age. The cause and the intensity of the violence manifestations are also alarming. The fact that DP has been beaten and humiliated not only by his colleague but also by the other pupils, appear to be hard to believe that nobody noticed the pupils behaviours, which led, of course, to the long period of time for the aggressions.

In this kind of case, first of all, the abused children should report immediately the colleague’s behaviour to parents, teacher, school counselor or someone from the institution's management. If DP would have done this, it would have been prevented to some extent the repeated abuse and worsening the acts of violence.

Without doubt, the school should be prepared with strategies to prevent and solve these types of abuses and their stakeholders should know what to do and to engage in mediation and to deal with these types of situations at an early stage. Teachers should participate in various trainings on how to prevent the bullying acts between students, based on needs analysis conducted in the school. Students also should have be informed and learn how to manage violence situations, even involved in role plays mediating conflicts themselves.

Such serious situations can be managed efficiently only if all stakeholders have the availability and skills to get involved. Also a viable solution in such situations is to involve students who present a risk or those with a potential aggressive behaviour, in extracurricular activities to develop the spirit of fair play, their responsibility in their harmonious development, communication and interaction, non-aggressive behaviours and empathy.

Date: 15.03.2012

Type of school: Vocational School, GRUP SCOLAR ECONOMIC DE TURISM - IASI
Country: ROMANIA

First of all I have to say that the case of little DP is very serious and we have to reconsider our attitude towards those students who are more sensitive or more vulnerable in this world of violence. I think we should focus our attention on them first. But before this we should try to identify these students in each class, with the help of the form teacher or the school counselor.

These students are not very communicative and perhaps this is a sign they have a problem at school or at home and they do not want to discuss it or are afraid or ashamed to speak about it. We have to admit that we do not have the necessary time to talk to each child and give him/her the best possible advice. But from time to time it is absolutely necessary to do this. I think there are more and more students who need our support these days.

Teachers and school in general should reconsider the role they have in their students’ life. Usually, the school counselor has long talks with the students at risk. But only one person cannot solve all the students’ problems. Therefore, each form teacher (but not only him/her) should pay more attention to each student. And the collaboration with the student’s family is essential.

I have never heard of such a situation in our school. Maybe verbal and psychological harassments are common enough, but students do not go any further. It is very important that teachers stay with the students and talk to them. Or just notice their behaviour and their way of addressing the other students or the school staff. This is what the teachers on duty do when the students take the break. During the break the teacher on duty has to stay on the corridor and supervise the pupils. There are also surveillance cameras at each floor and in the schoolyard so that we can see each area inside and outside school.

In this particular case I think that the girl BS should have been advised to move to another school because her behavior was a very bad example for the other students in the class. It was not DP’s fault that he was raised to be polite and to help his classmates. Why should HE be moved to another school? And maybe this way the case would not have continued with such cruel actions.

I think it is necessary to organize training at school for all the teachers, not only for the form teachers on the topic of school violence, how to prevent it and how to deal with it. It is very important to have the opinion and the advice of a professional in such extremely serious situations.

Nevertheless, the problem is how to make parents understand the role they have in their children’s life, how important is to talk to their children, to notice their changes in conduct, in language or in school results. I think they also need training on how to be good parents.

Date: 15.03.2012

Posted by: Machaira Anastasia , Christopoulos Panagiotis
Type of school: Gymnasioum
Country: Greece

The fact that the negligence of the school stuff in this particular case had such unpleasant consequences is truly sad.
It is obvious that proper attention to the initial incident of violence was not given in time and this, in consequence, gave the time and space to the relationships among the children involved to get worse and escalate as awfully as they did.
The school stuff showed interest for the following incidents of violence and although late, tried with personal discussions to smooth the situation. But this was not enough since the victim and the victimizers had already been quite influenced psychologically and maybe morally.
The victim marginalized himself, hushed up the violence he suffered and even worse, he did not support himself. On the contrary, he felt guilty for what had happened.
Obviously, it is no accident that this behavior of the victim is common in all cases we have studied (The Greek as well). So children that suffer violence need special psychological support from trained stuff so that they do not acquire behaviors that will follow them throughout their lives. We believe that when the teaching stuff is not trained well enough (like in Greece), it is not quite effective.
Also, the victimizers had the time to act undisturbed for quite a while and this gave them the illusion that they are the best, the most powerful, the ‘chiefs’. All they had in mind was how to organize the next bullying prank against the victim and they lost any interest whatsoever towards their studies. Since this behavior was established, the discussions that followed with their teachers were not enough to stop their next step, sexual harassment. If there had been an instant intervention by a child psychologist maybe they would have regretted their actions and they would have stopped.
Comparing the two incidents of the Bulgarian and the Greek school we would also like to mention some differences:
We believe that the students – viewers in the Bulgarian school were cruel to the victim and took advantage of the situation to have fun. In contrast, in the Greek school the majority of the students that were present during the incident defended the victim, and those who didn’t, in fear of being the next victims of the victimizer, at least felt sympathy for the victim.
We also believe the reaction of the school stuff in the Greek school was much more immediate and that made it much more effective. The situation that occurred wasn’t totally eliminated but at least it was quite smoothed. The fact is that if help from a child psychologist had been asked for, it would have helped a lot.
Closing we would like to add that we, the teachers, should always have our eyes and ears open to monitor behaviors and take care of our students. We should also not hesitate to ask advice from child psychologists and counselors.

Date: 13.03.2012

Posted by: Bogdan Budisteanu
Type of school: Vocational School, Vasile Pavelcu School Group of Iaşi
Country: ROMANIA

In my experience, I have never dealt with such a case, because these kind of outbursts came later on in their development as humans, not at the age of 5, the age of children I educate.
I would probably put the aggressive child into the victim’s shoes, just for a second, to feel what the victim feels, to reflect on his actions and behaviour.
Specialized assistance is always the most welcome guidance in a teenager’s life.
Being a teenager you always try to be popular, everybody to love you or to fear you. They would always try to stand out.
I believe that specialized courses would help these kind of children.

Date: 13.03.2012

Type of school: technical high school
Country: i

This is a very serious case study and we have never seen a similar case in our professional life.
This bullying was on going for long time. We believe that the bullying should have been taken into hand as soon as possible and the school seemed to offer no other support for thevictim at any stage of this bullying process. We believe that in our school the victim would have much more help.
We disagree with the way in which the situation was dealt. We think this is growing a number of legal and moral issues as the victim and the abuses seem to be in the same school.
Our school seems to pay attention for that situations and the family seems to receive much support.
We think that this incident can’t escalate in our school, because the suitable strong action would have been taken.
If the bullying is known, in time, by the school system would have identified and the problem ended.
We believe that this case study is a very difficult case and from discussing with colleagues we think to be addressed at completely school system.

Date: 28.02.2012

Posted by: A Lowe
Type of school: Secondary
Country: England

This is indeed a very complex case. I have dealt with similar harassment cases and have to say the way this school has dealt with the case is very similar to how our school have dealt with similar situations. I feel there are very little examples of cultural differences and believe this to be a positive. Both the aggressors and the victims would be monitored closely as they would be placed on Head of House reports. This allows teachers to comment on many aspects of behaviour and the impact their behaviour has on others and their learning. This can lead to parents coming in to school on a regular basis and allows us to build evidence which may be required on the case. We also have a computer system called SIMS which allows all staff to log any bullying incidents allowing all members of staff access to upto date information. This I deem as very important as all staff need to pay close attention to any bullying issues which may occur within their classroom. I think homophobic bullying needs to be dealt with on a whole school level. We are doing this through extra PSHE lessons, assemblies and outside speakers. Homophobic bullying is treated as seriously as racism in our educational authority and our students are made aware of this on a regular basis.

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