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A bad affaire in a multiethnical school in Milan

  • Direct bullying
  • Ethnic-cultural differences

HIGH SCHOOL Year: 2nd .
 Bully: Marco(fictional name) – Victim: Monica(fictional name)
 AGE: 15 Years “BOTH”
At the beginning of the schoolyear, when students met for the first time,it was not easy to realize it was an authentic episode of bullysm.
It seemed an act of intolerance against foreign people.
Marco spoke contemptuously about Chinese people.He used to say they smell,they are filthy,they are inferior and not worth living in Italy.
All this went on for about a couple of months.
Gradually the real nature of the problem came out.Marco had pointed Monica,a Chinese classmate, to be his target.Since then Monica used to be continuously offended,sometimes in very bad terms.
She was often mocked at,humiliated,verbally attacked.
These episodes occurred not only during lessons but in particular, during breaktime, Marco tried to involve other mates against her
so to cut her off any kinds of relationships.
Since the young girl was not able to speak Italian well yet and being very shy,Marco could successfully exert any action or harassment against her which would soon cause serious psychological problems.


In response to Marco’s behaviuor, Monica looked for protection in adults,relying on teachers and the school vice-master in particular, to whom she tried to sort the problem out.
The girl was soon questioned in order to make things clear and the whole board of teachers took awareness it was an authentic act of bullysm which required a quick and adequate strategy of intervention.
Monica’s bad command of the Italian language made things more difficult as she could neither react or defend herself verbally.It was therefore useful to have another Chinese schoolmate able to better communicate in Italian to back up her cause.
Initially teachers decided to switch students’ seats within the classroom.All teachers managed to organize talks at different levels,
students,teachers,headmaster,implementing monitoring strategies too.
A major attention on the Chinese student helped her feel more secure.
Her request about being moved to a different class could not be met for logistic reasons.Nevertheless,teachers had by then understood how unconfortable Monica felt in such an environment.
As to Marco,a talk with the headmaster was soon necessary.
His version of facts,even in front of his parents,denied any of the faults he was accused of.
Not only Marco declared himself innocent but his behaviour against Monica did not change actually,thus increasing Monica’s deep sense of failure and demotivation.


Monica began to unattend school more and more,compromitting her school profit and social integration.
As a consequence of this series of circumstances,Monica experienced a loss of self-confidence and started suffering from frequent panic attacks.
In such a conflictual situation,also the general learning process of the whole class was slowed down.
At this stage it seemed necessary to protect Monica, helping her take back confidence and,at the same time restore Marco, by entrusting him with roles of responsibility with the hope he would give up his old habits.On the other side, Monica started showing indifference to him walking away or ignoring him.
Nevertheless he did not want to surrender and looked for bystanders
who might join him.
At this point the board of teachers felt the urge to take up a much stronger line against Marco.A meeting with him and his parents was held on which occasion he was openly given charge of evident bullysm and warned that heavy measures would be an inevitable punishment for his bad conduct.
As a public institution the School system must grant safety to any student on a level of equality and mutual respect.
Marco promised he would adopt a correct behaviour and no more
unpleasant facts would ever happen.
As a matter of fact,Marco stopped harassing Monica openly but he continued in a more subtle and hidden way.
Therefore the board of teachers have recently decided to adopt a new didactic line,involving all students and introducing complemetary activities alongwith the curricular ones:
-boosting social skills;
-implementing strategies to improve the students’ emotional consciousness,since this can prove positive on both bullies and their victims.
A lot is still being done on students’ confidence in order to foster its development.For example cooperation and mutual support are being promoted.
The writer of this article is an olistic medicine expert.
By means of a “wellness lab”, a self-assertion training is being carried out in order to foster the following skills:
-Responding to insults;
-Move away from bothering attacks,ignoring them.
All efforts aim at teaching students that such values as respect,observance of rules and equality are fundamental within every social community while any forms of violence,either verbal or not,can only turn to the disadvantage of every single member,with no exclusions .


At an early stage Monica had not realized Marco might really have an edge on her although a negative attitude for him was evident.It needed time until she could be aware of Marco’s intentional harassment.Monica’s uneasiness manifested itself in form of physical symptoms even if of psychosomatic nature such as panick attacks,nausea et cetera.She had even considered leaving school attendance and it needed her teachers’ confident support so that she could change her mind.She almost completely relied on her teachers rather than her class mates whom she quite frowned upon also due to her very poor command of the Italian language.


Marco had on several occasions manifested his anti-chinese attitude, labeling them as inferior and even filthy.His personal belief might have triggered the whole chain of further actions against Monica which eventually led to clear episodes of bullysm.
Moreover,the victim’s vulnerability turned her into an easy “target” to hit.
Fortunately,Marco’s attempts at involving other mates in his subtle plan qite often failed.The more Monica suffered, the better he felt.This is undoubtedly the most cynic aspect of the whole occurrence.


The initial attitude of other students in response to Marco’s behaviour was of indifference to him although they felt bothered by his racist manifestations.
It took some time until his clear intentions against Monica were understood.At this stage most students joined Monica’s cause and started to support her emotionally,others kept on the line of indifference probably scared of possible negative personal consequences.
As previously stated,the strategies carried out by teachers in orderto cope with this difficult situation proved successful and sorted out gradual but positive results(laboratories,in particular)


All teachers’ efforts aimed at helping Monica recover self-confidence and overcome her feelings of failure and frustration,especially as far her negative attitude towards her school attendance and educational pathway were concerned.
A synergic intervention was therefore undertaken in order to develop integration and enhance students’ sense of cultural respect.


As teachers,we have also greatly relied on the schoolmaster’s policy aiming at a factual recognition of the widespread bullying phenomenon and activating “listening” workshops that could involve the different components within the school community.
On several occasions the schoolmaster’s task has required a delicate mediating ability within such conflictual parts as teachers/parents which has nevertheless been successfully fulfilled.


As for Monica’s parents,they had not taken awareness of their daughter’s real condition until she started suffering from physical problems.
Only then they took awareness of the problem’s gravity and met the schoolmaster to look into the matter.
Teachers felt the urge to undertake an immediate issue aiming at
helping Monica catch up with her self-confidence encouraging her as much as possible to express her skills and the wide range of abilities she was endowed with.
A strategy which has proved effective consisted in having her involved with the good part of students within the class,through the organization of home parties at her place which would help her build up sincere friendships and consolidate a spirit of self-assertion and an upbeat attitude towards her schoolmates.
It is a matter of fact that teeneagers who are socially weak often fail establishing relationships with other mates.It is necessary, therefore, to
rely on their parents’ understanding and co-operation with the different school components.In our case, the initiative undertaken produced positive results.
Monica’s parents were then asked to meet Marco’s parents at school,under the supervision of a psychologist who had a talk with them separately at first.
Further meetings were held afterwards during which
both students’ parents took the opportunity and advantage to exchange opinions,suggestions and resolutions.


Since the very beginning there was an awareness of the real problem.As above specified a series of actions were undertaken to take control of the situation and handle it properly.A didactic and educational strategy to cope with such phenomena consisted in showing students the French film ”La classe” by which students could take consciousness of the real consequences the action of the bully can cause on the whole group,involving especially the weakest who may even feel pleased at having fun in such a challenging game.
The experience shown in the film proved fruitful as opportunity to open a debate on the topic as it actually was.During the debate it emerged that such episode reproducing what was affecting their mate Monica,needed urgent solution through communication and co-operation.As to Marco,students were suggested avoiding any form of support that could reinforce his behaviour,keeping him at a distance and nearly isolating him.All this not to criminalize Marco but in the hope he would realize that such actions produce only negative effects on the subject.


As above stated,the solution of the problem has been sorted out by the
effectiveness of the synergic co-operation of all parts:school components and families involved.
A remarkable effect was produced by the vision of the film above mentioned which actually led students’ sensibility towards a real awareness of the problem.
As teachers,we are still working on the definition of strategies which can help to provide effective solutions to such cases.

Comments about this Case Study

Date: 25.03.2012

Posted by: Irina Nikolova
Type of school: Secondary school
Country: Bulgaria

Despite the true involvement of the school management in the resolution of the case, it was not successful. Marco did not understand his guilt, and Monica could not feel more secure or accepted by the class. A more successful intervention would take more time and concrete measures, which would involve the boy and his family. Cultural intolerance is usually a result of an overall family intolerance, which is portrayed by the children upon their classmates within their daily interaction patterns. Here again the importance of tolerance - ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, gender, etc. - should be presented via training courses for children and parents at school or through provision by external third parties, such NGOs or decision making bodies at the local authorities level.

Date: 14.03.2012

Type of school: V.MADGEARU High School IASI
Country: ROMANIA

What the two case studies have in common is the tendency of some students to become leaders in the school through methods that create physical and psychological damage to those around.

In the case of the school in Milan the cultural differences lead to the creation of a conflict, unfortunately, a physical confrontation including a Chinese girl, which disrupted the entire educational process as well as the relationships between the students.

Surely in such cases of intimidation, the people recommended to get involved with the case are: the school administration, the teachers but not only. Obviously I would have confidently asked for help from one of the mentioned people.

After each conflict, the school learns that they must be on top when other similar situations appear and that each problem which needs solutions will aid the teachers in solving the next conflict. Any of the teachers in the school can offer to help students who find themselves in a conflict, and they do so through an open attitude towards everyone, so as to assure every student that they can find the support and help they need anytime.

Efficient strategies can be those which establish from the beginning the reason/reasons for the dispute, but also those that address the initial state as well as the resulting one. Debating/discussing with the involved parties together with a specialist (counselor, school psychologist) could lead to eradicating these unpleasant situations. Also, viewing films that would portray the effects of these types of confrontations on the victim and analyzing the psychological and educational damages that they bring on ( as was the case of the Chinese student).

The strategies used by the Italian teachers lead to a quick solution and efficient solution for the case through the involvement of authorized personnel but also of the families of the two students. This is why I consider them useful, but also suited for our school as well.

YES, I have participated in training courses in the “House of Efficient communication Strategies of the Teacher Body” which discussed the problem of violence in schools, among others. I think that a training program must stem from the reality that surrounds us and then talk about ways of implementing the best methods of solving conflicts in the classroom.

Date: 12.03.2012

Posted by: LEILA SLIMANI - criminologist
Type of school: Use right service
Country: Belgium

When I read this case study, I wondered why the difference between the school’s perception of a fact of racism or of bullying was mentioned. Moreover, I’m not sure that the developed situation has not been influenced by a racial cause.
Another point that must be bought up concerns the position taken by the other pupils of the school. Even if some of them have ignored the bullying events that occurred under their eyes, other ones has been strongly opposed, and the whole of the students has refused to join the bully.
The position of the fellows is here also meaningful when we point out other pupils’ involvement, of the same origin as the victim. These pupils have helped him to defend himself despite his bad comprehension of the Italian language.
Furthermore, we must emphasize the importance for the school to have the right to fail in a conflict management. It is essential for all the school actors to admit their limits of action and to orientate, if needed, towards services more able to bring a concrete help to the demand expressed by the victim, the bully, their parents, the other pupils, the teachers…
In this case, the school has asked for the support of a expert doctor.
Maybe it would have been interesting to ask for the intervention of an Italian service such as the CPMS in Belgium, of an external mediator, or any other external service which can lead a specific reflexion on the conflicts within the school.
Finally, I think that it is very interesting that the school has allowed Marco’s and Monica’s parents to set to work (exchanges of opinions, of suggestions, of possible solutions).
So, the youth and his parents are made aware of their responsibility (in the framework of the meetings with this one (reminder of the right and the duties and participation of the parents to the reflexion).

Date: 16.02.2012

Posted by: Stathoulia Asimina
Type of school: High School
Country: Greece

It is fact that where there are children there and school violence. Children that are vulnerable to incidents of bullying are different from all the other students or the group that bully them because of some particular characteristic. One such feature may be appearance, religion, speech pattern, a particular skill or difficulty, shy behavior, rivalry, origin of a child as the occasion is refered above.
The consistent policy of each school not to indirectly encourage violent behavior and that the school must teach that attacks and violence are unappropiate, can contribute on the prevention and combat the phenomenon of school violence. All this surely requires harmonious cooperation of all school components such as managers, teachers, students, parents, institutions, experts say.

Indeed, there is difficult coexistence of foreigners students in a school and especially during the period of adjustment and student acceptance of this "otherness" of others. Especially in multicultural schools the exchange of other cultures is the first step of communication between them. Students can learn about foreign countries through narratives, descriptions, audiovisual projections and excursions. However, everyone will have the opportunity to get to know each other and reduce the gap that separates them by meetings where traditional food and sweets from every place will be offered and students will attend with their families.
Moreover the establish went of rules between students and teachers and the respect them by all them all, the more zeal of teachers to emphasize mutual respect, a discussion with students about what the school violence is (how to protect myself and my classmate) and finally, the necessary meetings and communications with parents of pupils are ways to redefine the roles of all components of the educational process.
The existence of medicine experts at schools in many countries and thw thought of wathing a film, which can help the students to understand what bullying is, make the right decisions and adopt new life attitudes, was very effective and can be applided by any kind of school.

The continuous updating of information and knowledge by the educational experts on topics such as school violence, school behavior, adolescent psychology, etc. are main demand both for me personally and the educational system in my country (Greece), which begins to learn and manage incidents of school violence.

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