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“The lying shepherd – or who's the bully here?”

  • Indirect bullying
  • Non-especific

The event started one month after the beginning of the previous school year.
The main actors involved are almost an entire class plus one student A, who is the victim.
Type of bullying actions carried out.
Student A presents himself as the victim of physical bullying! However, there are no proves for that. The form tutor speaks with the class after this signal, but finds no reason for A’s obsessive thought that he is being physically bullied. The student shares that he feels stalked and constantly afraid. He is even found to be in possession of a small pocket-knife, which he states he would use in case he is attacked. His classmates are now starting to make fun of him and demonstrate total indifference to him.
A description of a specific case: One of A’s parents is at a meeting with the class form tutor at school. Right before the meeting there are still 10 minutes to the ringing of the bell and the class still has a math period. The parent arrives at school and goes to search for the form tutor. At the time of the meeting the parent receives a call from A that he is hiding at a shop near to the school, because he is being chased and sneaked upon by fellow students with knives (according to him). Still, all the names he mentions are actually in the school, having a math period. A’s attempt to show that he is a victim of bullying is unsuccessful. Still, that particular day, he chose a very appropriate moment to try to do so.
A’s classmates initially show compassion and desire to integrate A, however, they eventually understand that A doe snot wish to be a part of the group and they let go of the idea. The attitude towards A includes verbal attacks and mockery.
Time period – the entire school year.


After all attempts of the headmaster, the teachers and an expert psychologist to help the boy to overcome his unreasonable fears and integrate himself in the class remain unsuccessful, during a school council, the student has been proposed by the form tutor to be moved to a different institution due to too many unexcused absences and according to the regulations of the vocational high-school he has been expelled after unanimous decision of the pedagogic council.


The presented case by this school is a bit awkward, due to the fact that the so called victim is actually terrorizing his classmates and teachers and implementing actions, which are cutting him off from everybody else and making his situation and integration in school far more complex. Thus the direct effects on student A – he is expelled on trivial grounds – too many unexcused absences. With his entire behavior A demonstrates that he is not willing to become a part of the group of his class and achieves isolation and negative attitude on behalf of all of his classmates. His achievements in school suffer inevitably, because he is too busy with his phobias and stalking manias. Besides he actually spends too much time outside lessons.
As far as the so called bullies are concerned, his classmates, the effects upon them mainly take the form of a tense and nervous situation and environment and an obstructed educational process due to A’s blockages. This is due to the constant and unsubstantiated complaints delivered by A and the compassion and support he is receiving from the teachers without this to be deserved or even necessary to him.
Effects upon the teachers, the school management and the entire school team are not observed, because they have all exerted all necessary efforts and have provided all necessary support both to the “victim” A and to his parents. The teachers who have been communicating with A on a regular daily basis have always been available to him for conversations, to hear him out as well as to support him. They have done everything, which is expected of them in a similar situation, but they have also reached the moment, at which they had to make an effective decision, in order not to endanger the results of the other students and to guarantee the successful achieving of the objectives of the institution.
Serious integration problems have been evaded. The ultimate result is the total exclusion of A, who, in the end, is even moved to another educational institution. The school integrity and relationships within it are protected and preserved.
The experience, which A’s classmates have accumulated in their attempts to integrate and understand him is quite interesting. This case has surely improved their emotional intelligence and has opened before them new dimensions of human relationships, which they have not imagined before. This must have had a positive influence on their self-evaluation and must have helped bond the class even to a greater extent. In their attempts to make A a part of the group, his classmates have proven themselves as active citizens, who understand their responsibilities to the educational institution and society as a whole. Unfortunately A himself demonstrated antisocial behavior and self-excluded himself.


The victim A: actually manages to attract and give rise to aggressive behavior on behalf of almost all of his fellow-students. A tries in all possible ways to establish a distance between himself and the rest of the class. He feels different form all the others and demonstrates to them his closeness to the teachers. This is really aggravating to his class-mates. In the course of time he managed to direct the attention of all students towards himself, by literally “stalking” them during recesses and demands from them that they talk to him. This amplifies the negative treatment on behalf of the class-mates. He feels restless, insecure, vulnerable and shares this with the teachers.
A actually likes the role of the victim!


In the beginning of the school year A’s class mates actually try to accept him and even, feeling his weakness and vulnerability, to watch over him, to help him. They demonstrate compassion to him on a number of occasions. However, little by little, they understand that A does not want their help and that he prefers to play the role of the victim, which A masters to absolute perfection. The attempts of the class mates to attract him and make him a part of the group are unsuccessful. He simply does not want to become a part of the group. This desire to be different and to stray from everybody else makes them insult, avoid and exclude him.


The class-mates understand very well what is happening and they stop paying whatever attention to A. He likes that however. He needs to be a victim and is always in search of someone who can protect him, guard him. Still there is really nothing to be protected or guarded from.


A great part of the teachers, who have lessons with him, know what is happening and are trying to help him by responding to his constant pleas – “let’s talk during the break”. This is not enough for him though. The student comes up with a new strategy: he presents himself as the victim of physical bullying! There are no proves for that of course. The head-teacher speaks with the class after this signal, but finds no reason for A’s obsessive thought that he is being physically bullied. The student shares that he feels stalked and constantly afraid. He is even found to be in possession of a small pocket-knife, which he states he would use in case he is attacked. His fellow students are now starting to make fun of him and demonstrate total indifference to him.


According to the headmaster of the school, who knows about this problem form the beginning of its occurrence – „This student is not a victim, he is the aggressor” (exact quotation), he creates aggression and very skillfully increases the tension in the class. The situation there is nervous enough as it is. The students are nervous, over-agitated, everybody is sick and tired of all the whining and complaining on behalf of their fellow student. They are angry because the teachers are allowing him, when he states that he feels bad, to leave class or to leave early from school. According to them, it is not fair that he is allowed all those privileges.


The parents of the so called victim have been informed from the mere beginning about the problems in school, but they refuse to accept the truth about what is happening. The boy manages to manipulate also them. They consider that their son is the victim of aggressive behavior and should/must be protected and guarded (but from whom and/or from what???) After the insistence of the head-teacher, they hold a meeting with a psychologist, who tries to help but the results are far from satisfactory. Actually, what is happening is that the parents are trying to prove that everything is fine with their boy and he really is the victim, despite admitting on certain occasions and during certain conversations that they do not accept his behavior and they promise to speak with him.


First possible turnout
If the pedagogic advisor had been informed about this case, he should have done the following:
- conducting a comprehensive interview with the student.
- conducting a comprehensive interview with the parents, for the purpose of gathering more information about: the student’s behavior outside school; early childhood; preceding and current illnesses as well as other details for the purpose of building a hypothesis for the function of the provocative behavior.
- presenting to the parents the forms and function of the provocative behavior – in principle – to receive or to avoid something.
- receiving the informed consent of the parents for further work of the counselor with the child, for discovering the function of this behavior and specifying socially acceptable alternatives.
- work with the student following the АВС model for dealing with provocative behavior. /1. Registering the case. 2. Forming a team – form tutor, parent or an influential adult, pedagogic advisor and a friend of the child. 3. Functional evaluation – what unlocks this behavior and what maintains it?/
- if during diagnostics it turns out that some kind of disorder is in question, the parents are advised on a certain psychiatrist or clinical psychologist for specifying the diagnosis and the treatment.
- informing the teachers, whose attention the student calls for, about possible alternative responses, which do not support the provocative attitude.
Note: If the parents refuse to cooperate or take the student to a physician, the pedagogic advisor informs the school headmaster, who on his part has to inform and seek the support of “Child protection” department. He describes the specific manifestations, the negligence towards the problem on behalf of the parents and that a certain risk for the psychological and physical health of the student exists.

Second possible turnout
If the pedagogic advisor is not informed about this case, then this would probably take place before the conducting of the sitting of the pedagogic council.
In this case, prior to the pedagogic council, it is necessary that the counselor informs the school management, that “Child protection” department needs to be informed and a representative from this department to be invited to attend the sitting and express the opinion of the department on this case.


In this particular case, the decision makers who decide to punish the student are the form tutor who advises the pedagogic council to fix a punishment and the pedagogic council itself.
The view point of the form tutor is supported by the fact that he is certain that the student is implementing psychological bullying towards the entire class and the parents’ reluctance to admit the problem, through which they actually tolerate their son’s behavior and thus torment the entire community. Due to this belief the form tutor requests the student to be expelled.
When the proposal for punishment by the form tutor is formulated, it is necessary that “implementing psychological harassment towards the fellow students” is listed as a reason, besides the unexcused absences and the other reasons. If this is not done the student and his parents will not be convinced in the irregularity of the student’s behavior and may seek their rights in court.
In this case it is necessary that the sitting of the pedagogic council is joined by an invited representative of the “Child protection” department, who can guarantee that the student’s rights are defended and that the procedure for informing all interesting parties is observed. Sending a representative to the sitting can help the “Child protection” department to decide on taking action in case of a child at risk.
The decision making body in this case is the pedagogic council who hears out the student or his representative, as well as representative of the class.
The point of view of the pedagogic council could take a very hypothetic stand on the basis of the fact that expelling students is not good for the school, because they mean funds for the establishment and their number influences the financial situation of the school or on the basis of the fact that such behavior demoralizes the community and could escalate into direct physical violence on behalf of the other students, or on behalf of the “victim” who is already armed with a knife.


The analyzed case could probably be described with a single expression “auto-bullyism”. The boy who puts himself in the role of a victim has no real grounds and reasons to consider himself as such and is actually just lighting the fragile and unstable bridges, which represent his relationships with the surrounding world and his peers in particular. The analyzers are pleasantly surprised by the fact that his peers actually tried to give him a chance, showed compassion and understanding, tried to make him a part of the group. Blaming them unreasonably as bullies the “victim” makes his choice of isolation and in fact tortures everybody around him with his complaints, phobias and persecution manias. The boy most definitely needs specialized help and work with an expert, because he is obviously able to convince his own parents that he is in fact the target of various attacks. Despite admitting some peculiarities in his behavior and lose elements in his stories, his parents are more inclined to believe him, than to admit openly that their son has some behavioral problems. The school administration and teachers are persistent in their attempts to understand him, to support him, to be on the lookout for all eventual signs of aggression towards him. They sacrifice their resting periods and their free time in order to speak to him and to try to capture the reasons for his behavior and eventually some reasoning behind it. Despite these efforts and the meetings with an expert psychologist, the “victim” continues to insist that he is being harassed – even after he is caught lying blatantly.
In situations such as this one, it is really hard to say what actually allowed for this turnout to be reached. The boy surely has issues, which would manifest themselves in any other educational institution. If he fails to start solving those, he faces the risk of falling in a similar situation at his new school. He and his results and achievements at school will be the only ones suffering. A disturbing idea is connected with the possibility that at the new place the classmates are not going to have the same approach towards him and react in the same way as his current classmates. What if in the new place the peers do not tolerate his whining and his complaints? What if they really decide to give him a beating in order to show him that he is out from the group? There is a need of change in his attitude or self-education at home. The choice which his parents and the headmaster are going to make with regard to the new school, to which the boy is going to be transferred, is quite important. Important is also the admittance of the problem, both on behalf of the child and on behalf of his parents and the start of systematic work with a psychologist, who could find out what the reasons for this constant fear could be based upon and how it can be overcome.

Comments about this Case Study

Date: 28.02.2012

Posted by: Mr A Lyne
Type of school: Secondary School
Country: United Kingdom

This is an unusual case and one that I have not come across. I would first of all consider the differences between this educational establishment and my own, a mainstream secondary school. My initial reaction is that this student has special educational need which manifests itself in his paranoia and belief that he is being bullied. I do not think that any cultural differences would be responsible for the difference between this case and the majority of those I encounter as the suggestion is the students suffers from a psychological disorder which would not be influenced by country or culture.

The student who claims to be the 'victim' actually psychologically torments his peers to such an extent, that the headteacher labeles him the 'agressor' or bully himself. I have come across incidences where another student makes a false claim of being bullied by another student but this is usually dealt with quickly and clearly with very little effect on the students. In this incidence, the student manipulates the situation to such an extent that it causes emotional harm to the rest of the students affecting their education and learning. I agreee therefore that the initial 'victim' is actually the 'bully'. I think the school management have dealt with this extrememly well in resolving it to the benefit of all involved. It is a complex and unusual case which I am sure was very difficult to get to the bottom of. There are a lot of sensitive issues surrounding this and it is important the school works cooperatively both with the new educational establishment and any further outside agencies in light of the possibility that the student in question is suffering from a potential psychological disorder.

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