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Case Studies


Α racist controversy

  • Direct bullying
  • Ethnic-cultural differences

This incident of physical and verbal abuse took place in October 2010 at the junior highschool’s yard while the students were having their monthly excursion.Two first grade students were involved: Eleni, a girl of Albanian origin, born in Greece & Yiannis, a Greek boy.
According to the two students, Eleni who was cueing to buy some food from the school canteen was pushed & sweared at by Yiannis, who took her place at the cue. The two children,who had been often quarelling, came to blows. Finally they were stopped by other students who were present at the time of the incident.


The fighting was stopped by other students who were around.The incident was also noticed by the teacher who was responcible for keeping the order in the school yard that day.He took the two students to the principal’s office.
After a while Yiannis’ mother arrived at the school ,supposedly by chance, to ask the teachers about Yiannis’ progress at school. Later she herself called her husband, Yiannis’ father.
A teachers’ council was held in the presence of Yiannis’ parents.The principal was absent that day due to health problems but the vice-principal was there and adviced the two children to get along with each other and tried to smooth down the situation. No penalties were given to the two students involeved, neither were Eleni’s perents called or informed. They were informed by Eleni herself later on that day, when she returned home from school.The two children apologised to each other in front of their teachers & Yiannis’ parents and the incident came to an end.


This incident, as it was expected, caused inconvenience to the students of the first grade. For a long time there was intensity between the two students and their school performance changed.
Yiannis (the victimizer), in his effort to show that he had regretted for what he had done, got a little better at school, but not in a permanent basis. While he was putting too much effort, there were moments when he was completely indifferent for the school subjects or his participation in any activity whatsoever.
Eleni fell behind at school as she seemed concerned about the incident & not being in the mood of participating during lesson time.
The two children’s relationship during classes was “frigid” for some time. This influenced the rest of their classmates and they were biased. The fewer of them defended Eleni and the rest of them Yiannis. So when there was need for group work, there was perplexity and refusal from some of the children to work with each other.
After a while, & with the perseverance and patience of their teachers, their relationship got better, although it never really got back to normal again. It should be noticed, that even today, more than a year after the incident Eleni’s & Yiannis’ relationship may not be tense but it is almost nonexistent. They still refuse to work as a team or to participate in common activities. They both prefer to cooperate with other students.
Eleni’s progress at school is generally low since, as she says, she doesn’t get any help from anyone. And which help she asks from no one! We, her teachers, are trying to help her as much as we can and to activate her but we don’t always manage to succeed since she seems to be full of defeatism and lack of confidence. Eleni still gets irritating comments from children of other grades, having to do with her nationality but also with a small deformity she has, since her one eye is smaller than the other. Yiannis doesn’t tease her any more but many others do. This has marginalized her to a point.
The teaching stuff of the school tries to make her part of the community and to activate her by appointing various group activities to her along with other students. She however doesn’t stand up for the things she would want to do or have. When for example, she wants to get involved in an activity designed for only one student, if there are others who want to do it as well she backs up believing that her teacher will not choose her. So it’s obvious that defeatism characterizes her, and generally she easily abandons any effort and this interferes with her progress.
Yiannis on the other hand, has a lot of confidence and his work at school is good, although not good enough. He believes he is quite clever and that’s why he doesn’t try hard, believing he is doing fine anyway. And although he hasn’t provoked Eleni since the incident he still isn’t a friend of hers. He seems not to mind about her and unfortunately ignores her.
In general, the certain school environment is suitable to allow healthy relationships to grow, democratic procedures to be used, and students to be active members of the school community in a safe environment. The headmaster & the teachers always act keeping in mind students’ safety and the fact that our students must feel that they belong to a social group that cares for them and takes good care of their progress but also of their physical & mental health. Whatever issues may occur are dealt, through democratic procedures, with discussion and we try to solve the problems as well as we can, many times in coordination with their parents.


Eleni was born in Patra by Albanian parents who were working there. She was going to school in Patra (a city with a population of 250.000 people) until the 4th grade of Primary School and didn’t have any problems with her classmates. But at the age of nine her parents got divorced and her mother got married to a Greek man and then moved, along with Eleni, her brother & of course their stepfather, to a little village. This was the beginning of Eleni’s problems. Her life at home was healthy but she was teased, as she says, by the other children at Primary School because of her Albanian origin. This continued to happen in Junior High School until it led to the incident with Yiannis.
According to Eleni, the reasons for Yiannis attack are clearly racist since neither they nor their parents had had any previous arguments. In fact the fathers of the two families are relatives. Yiannis pushed her with no reason and told her: “Move over, you old Albanian whore”! Then Eleni slapped him and they came to blows & she tore his T-shirt.
The fight was stopped by the surrounding students & was also noticed by the teacher who was responcible for keeping the order in the school yard that day & who informed the vice-principal.
Eleni didn’t call her parents. The school stuff didn’t call her parents either, trying to avoid any further climax of the insident. They were informed by Eleni herself later on that day, when she returned home from school.
Eleni believes that her reaction towards Yiannis was natural since she already had had to bear with all his teasing and espesially since she hadn’t had anyone to discuss her problem with or to get some advice from.


According to Yiannis, the reason for his usual teasing towards Eleni was the way she behaved and not her Albanian origin. Eleni, since he had first met her, was a lonely child but sometimes she was also irascible. She would react intensively and would become aggressive to the ordinary teasing among children. This is the reason why she was a target to Yiannis’ & other children’s teasing. And the “best” way to tease her was to mention on her origin.
On that day the Junior High School children had free time & played football in the school yard. So, when Yiannis went to the canteen to get some water & food, he pushed Eleni, to get her place in the queue telling her at the same time those indecent words, with no reason.
Immediately after their fight Yiannis felt also offended since Eleni slapped him hard and tore his T-shirt. That’s why he secretly called his mother, using his mobile phone, who arrived after a while supposedly by chance, to ask the teachers about Yiannis’ progress at school. Yiannis seemed to regret his action and that’s why he apologized to Eleni.


Some of their classmates were present at the time of their fight. At first they “froze” due to both their behaviors and didn’t react. But then a friend of the boy interfered and tried to stop them. For a while there was a fuss since others took the part of Yiannis and others that of Eleni’s. Most of the children agree that Yiannis shouldn’t act in this way but also believe that Eleni overreacted. For a time, this argument was transferred in the classroom, since the two children avoided each other and this caused problems.
Although today Yiannis doesn’t tease Eleni anymore, there are quite a few children who do it! According to them, the reason is her eristic behavior. As children say “she bites the bate” and this is a good reason for them to tease her. “She is an easy target” they say, due to her behavior and not due to her origin or the small deformity of her eyes, as she believes. They don’t perceive the impact that their behavior can have to her mental status.


Some of the teachers were informed by the vice-principal and others heard all the fuss and rushed to the point. But no one else was present at the time of the incident except the teacher in charge of the yard’s order. They were all surprised by the climax of the fight. They knew that Eleni was bearing remarks by her classmates due to her origin but they didn’t except that an ordinary argument could end in beating. They neither believed that Yiannis, who had never before had caused trouble would have used such foul language!
Immediately after the incident they called both children to the stuff’s room and asked for some explanations for their inappropriate behavior. At first the two children were very angry with each other and kept being aggressive. The teachers tried to calm them down and reason them.
Meanwhile Yiannis’ mother arrived at school, got informed about the incident and understanding how serious the situation was, she called her husband who also came to school. They told off their son for his indecent behavior but also Eleni for hitting him.
Parents & teachers advised the children to respect each other and to always keep in mind that with their actions they may hurt others’ feelings. After apologizing, the children returned to the school yard.
When the teachers were left alone, they discussed whether the two children should be punished or not. They decided that the incident itself offended and shamed both students enough so as to get their lesson hence an extra punishment would be unnecessary.


The vice-principal took personally the duty to talk to them and convince them that they should all be friendly to each other and that when there is an argument they should try to solve it by discussion and not violence.
Since then he was observing the behavior of the two children and was trying, through team work, to remedy their relationship. At first this was difficult but soon the incident was over with and their class regained calmness.
The principal of the school was absent that day due to health reasons. When she returned, she was informed by the vice-principal about the incident. Judging that her colleagues dealt with it properly, she didn’t emphasize on the event. She urged the teachers though, to try and develop the antiracism feelings of the students through subjects like social studies, Greek language & New Greek Literature that they are taught in all three grades of Junior High and to talk to them about respect to all nationalities & cultures but also about the terrible consequences of violence.


The boy’s parents didn’t know that their son had been harassing Eleni with his racist remarks. They say that they themselves had never said anything bad about Eleni or her family. And they had never had any problems with them. They do accept though, that sometimes they have spoken disparagingly about Albanians in general. This, obviously, had created a wrong impression to Yiannis about our neighboring people. This incident took Yiannis’ parents by surprise and made them understand that should discuss more with their son since he was the one crossing the difficult period of adolescence.
On the other hand, Eleni’s mother and her stepfather had already known that she had problems with some of her classmates and this made them very sorry but they hadn’t done anything more than that! Eleni on her part had avoided talking to them about the teasing she was bearing with, although she was really offended because she didn’t want them to be sad. So, most of the times, she didn’t share with anyone the bad events that happened at school. When she once talked to her older brother about some of her classmates that bothered her, he wanted to find them & scare them away. This option scared her ever more and she prevented her brother from getting involved. She was scared that the rest of the children would accuse her of not being able to deal with them on her own and that she was “hiding” behind her brother. Since then, she wasn’t talking about her problems even to her brother.
But if, Eleni’s parents had come to school to talk to the teachers about the problems their daughter was facing, those could have been reduced.


Unfortunately the school stuff didn’t ask a school counselor’s help obviously considering it, not necessary.
But discussion with quite a lot of the students and especially with Eleni
results to the conclusion that they would like to have a child psychologist permanently at school to advice and guide them. They believe that in this way they could solve many of their problems.

The intervention of a specialist (psychologist or social worker) is needed to manage such incidents in the school. Adolescence as a stage of development and of the person's identity is characterized by reactions such as hostility towards others, lack of confidence or feeling of omnipotence. Basic Care Advisor - Psychologist is to provide emotional support to students in their effort to meet the educational process and the awareness of teachers and parents in the peculiarities of children, to tackle collectively the problems.

The family is a key factor shaping the mature child's personality and learning socially acceptable behaviors and norms. Therefore, the teacher handled the incident had to ask the parents of the victim to attend the school the same day as the attack happened and talk simultaneously in two families, which have the same share of responsibility for the behavior of their children. It is obvious that Helen is afraid to talk to the family on that experience in school, they feel insecure, not waiting for a response to needs and that the family of John does not know that their child has developed cognitive representations of aggressive behaviors as effective and socially acceptable means of dealing with his peers.
The active involvement of parents in schools Parents coordinated by psychologists in schools is essential to train them to improve their communication with their children. Parents should discuss with their children about violence they observe through the television, in video games, probably in the neighborhood and its implications. Equally important is the teaching methods of conflict resolution, demonstration of correct responses when intense feelings of anger in children.
Parents and teachers need to help all children understand the value of empathy, acceptance of children who have a 'exploitable weakness' and are different. Foreign students often appear as victims, but also often accused as perpetrators of violent incidents. The premium of some Greek students


The problem that arose in the specific school derives from the racist feelings that linger among students. Certainly it is an issue which was handled with discretion by the teachers, taking into account the absence of the School Director. Perhaps the School Director should have arranged a meeting with the girl’s parents, since, considering her background history, she seems to have serious problems adjusting to her family environment, besides school. Of course, on the other hand, it should be emphasized that the student’s racial behavior largely derives from the family environment which encourages such stereotypes.
For this reason it is imperative that the school should provide an education policy which would aim to reduce racism and create a climate of cooperation by encouraging a positive attitude towards any social and cultural differences among students. In addition, it is necessary for the School Counselor to have individual discussions both with the student-abuser and the student-victim. If necessary, the latter, would be advised to see a school psychologist.
Because of its regional character, the agency provides schools the personnel who are ready to deal with crisis situations in school environments, provided that they are previously informed. Moreover, the agency arranges a variety of events every year, such as informative workshops for parents and pupils, as well as training sessions for teachers, in order to raise public awareness and achieve their sensitization on multicultural issues.


Today things at school are a little better.But not good. Eleni still bears bad comments by her classmates, in spite of the teaching community efforts.
Obviously racism is deeply rooted in both our conscious and subconscious & it is very difficult for it to be eliminated. Eleni’s classmates do not admit that they harbour racist sentiments and they defend themselves believing that her eristic behavior is to blame. They may be partly right. But why do they harass her with racist comments and not in another way?
Eleni on her part, having lost her sense of humor, gets angry very easily and takes everything too seriously. She is personally offended even by racist jokes. Maybe she’s not wrong! Even the existence of these jokes clearly demonstrates how racists we are! But does she also become a racist through her behavior? She believes, from the outset, that all Greeks have bad intentions and want to insult her. She isn’t easily convinced about the good intentions of someone.
The phenomenon of racism has unfortunately intensified during the last years, and no matter how hard we try through education to free our students from racist behaviors it is not enough. The state needs to take some more steps and help society as a whole to get rid of its’ racist perceptions.


Расистко противоречие.pdf

Comments about this Case Study

Date: 23.04.2012

Type of school: School mediation service - Liège
Country: Belgium

Analysis :

The facts related show a marginalization of a young girl, Eleni, apparently because of a slight physical defect and its Albanian origins. The incident highlighted is a stampede in a queue at the canteen caused by Yannis, racist slurs in respect of Eleni and a violent reaction of the latter.
What is noteworthy in this situation is that the first intervener to calm things down is a student.
When you read the entire case study, especially other facts earlier, it is clear that this is bullying.

It seems that the adults who supervise transitional times (no courses) are few. Only one person to "keep order".
The adults at school try to make students understand that their behaviour is not normal and try to open them to a certain empathy.
Vice-principal and director wish to go further by asking teachers to educate through courses in the phenomenon of racism and violence.

On the other hand, there is a certain imbalance in the work with parents: Yannis' mother comes into the school asked by her son, she is involved in the situation and further the school does not report incidences of violence to Eleni's parents. Considering that family is a key factor in helping young people to get out of the spiral of violence, to accept difference and to develop empathy, it is essential that the school ensures to put all actors around the table.
Overall, the direction seems to be a good support in this situation.
In Belgium, such a situation is often handled by educators who are charged to be ever vigilant regarding violence, especially during break times. In many schools, they are specialized educators and therefore trained.

Recommendations :

In situations such as that of Yannis and Eléni seems to me that they need to develop greater vigilance and respond more quickly when there is a behaviour that does not respect the person or put her/him into insecurity. It is at this time to open dialogue, to start a mediation process, to recall the context and values.
If there is punishment, it is important that it is educational and makes sense.
Also, it is important that the pupil could find places to speak, trusted people to whom he/she could head if he/she finds a difficulty, particularly in cases of bullying.
In this situation, I retain that in Belgium we had better educate as many actors as possible when such events occur, somewhat like what the management staff of the school of Yannis and Eléni has tried to do.

Relevance :
Here in Belgium, teachers’ training does not prepare sufficiently to deal with bullying situations. Training is still too focused on contents and not enough on the relational aspects. It would be helpful for teachers to be sensitized to intercultural issues, nonviolent communication, techniques of active listening and to the mediation process. Hence the idea to extend the training to five years.

Date: 16.03.2012

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

In Bulgaria racist controversies are not so common. There are other bullying motives, which dominate. So not many common elements can be observed in this regard. However the reaction of lack of tolerance is quite common for many bullying situations regardless of their geographic area of appearance. In this particular case I have the feeling that the resolution is artificial and inefficient. Most probably, the problem will come out again at some time in the future. Probably in such cases it would be quite proper and efficient if sanctions are imposed by the school management. The attempt for resolution via mediation deserves an approval. However, the most proper approach could have probably involved thorough consultations with both of the children and their families which has not been organized.

Date: 14.03.2012

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

Unfortunately, in Romanian schools we also encounter racism and discrimination, especially among students of Rroma descent. It is worrying though, that in the presented case, you can see this attitude manifest itself quite powerfully in very young students. As a point of difference, in Romanian schools, cases of extreme discrimination have yet to be reported.
You can’t actually talk about a conflict with dire consequences, but in this case, more people should have gotten involved because of the young age of the implicated students. The parents of both students should have been trained to deal with racism. It is therefore very good that different people got involved in this case. There should be a sanction according to the school rules in order to stop such violence from spreading and also to make it known that the student has been punished.
Still, the parents and the teachers must participate in trainings centered on this issue, because between aggressive behavior and conflict there is a mutual relationship. Aggressive behavior can either be the cause or the result of the conflict. These anti violence programs must entail : training of management abilities in situations of conflict, psycho pedagogic strategies, strategies that involve the family.
Regardless of the theme of such programs, they will bring good results if they follow certain guidelines:
- Adapted to the problems and resources specific to the community
- Is followed by an evaluation of the knowledge and abilities to cope ( adaptation, tailoring the behavior according to the circumstances)
- Include a training of the management abilities in situations of conflict, which will help students to learn nonviolent methods of solving a conflict, establishing nonviolent solutions as the social norm and recognize signs which point to an escalating conflict.
- Include programs lead by youths, in which they acknowledge the awful consequences of violent behavior
- Include a “how to” for relationships based on trust with key adults, like parents and trainers that are involved with the program
- Include psycho pedagogic recourse such as : mentoring, cohesion in the family and counseling
As there are a lot of types of violence, environments in which violence manifests itself and many types of aggressors, no training program and no intervention is universally applicable.

Date: 14.03.2012

Type of school: psychologist, teacher primary school
Country: ROMANIA

Foreign students often appear as victims, but also often accused as perpetrators of violent incidents... I think that, as counselor, I need to encourage-dynamize team work: the tutor, the teaching staff, the school management, the families.. to try to achieve coherence in actions, approaches, process and in the search for solutions. The key words to solve this problem are: empathy, respect, peace, harmony. In my experience i had to face this kind problem.... In my class i try to avoid it through rules: we are all friends, we share everything, we help each other. There is no victim or an assaulter in a conflict and that is why i believe that communication is the key to solve a problem.
I believe that in Romania foreign students settle into school very well, but a rroma student has many problems.... The intervention of a specialist is needed to manage such incidents in the school.
When I dealt with a similar problem i knew that i must work with the parents too. I played some games first with my class and then with parents... My conflict games are very funny for every age and i progress with my objective. A small change for a person is a great change for the group. It is also very important to find out from where anger comes and what we can do to control it but this can be made only in therapy.
I have a degree in conflict psychology and five in psychotherapy and i think that every teacher should take part to a training at least half yearly.

Date: 13.03.2012

Posted by: THERESE LUCAS - coordinator of SMSW
Type of school: SMSW - School mediation service in Wallonia
Country: Belgium

Elements in common :
All the « elements » favorable to the development of a bullying phenomenon are presents : protagonists-pupils’ profile, adults’ intervention with good intentions but not really « organized ». The family involved has on its own initiative, the other family has not come and has not been summoned by the school. The mode of management of the event reinforces the power balance between the victim and his « tormentor ».

Elements not in common :
There has been no reminder of the law : the adults attribute the event to racist feelings, the children explain it in terms of « character ». They are not on the same wavelength. There is no real communication. Contrariwise, the children could express their experience.

The main support and/or difficulties to deal with this bullying scenario :
Regarding events that are infractions of the law, it is useful to refer to a rule. Everybody is equal in front of the law or in front of the school rules.

What can you learn from this case study?
The adults’ subjectivity strengthen the pupils’ problems. The lack of sanction lets the pupils think that « nothing was wrong in what they have done ».

Recommendations :
What would you recommend to deal with (ie stop and prevent) bullying/cyberbullying events like this in your school?
The adults have not mentioned the law at any time : insults are forbidden by the law as well as strokes. An infringement implicates a sanction. In these situations, the mediators use intervention tools such as the one called « shared preoccupations ».

Relevance of teachers' training to cope with bullying/cyberbullying events :
The teachers wish the help of specialized psychologists… however education and citizenship concern everyone and should be part and parcel of the learning. Rather than joining an expert to the educative team, it would be more judicious to make the teachers aware of the bullying phenomena and to give them points of reference in the way to implement the rules to live together at school.

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