DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS STORY
Main actors involved
The headmistress, the social assistant, the student, his mother.
When, where and how the story took place
General, technical and vocational school of the Namur area. School year 2009-2010.
The experience takes place in a third vocational (3P) class, hairdressing section.
Overnight, a boy comes to school dressed like a girl and wearing make-up. The feminine features of his outfit are overemphasised (hot pink outfit, high heels …) hinting at a strong wish of identification.
This student has shown behaviour problems since he started secondary school: violence, bad company, cocaine use, several psychiatric hospitalisations.
At home, he has anger outbursts when he is frustrated (such as when he needs money) and he hits his parents (especially his mother, who he lives with). His outbreaks of violence and other problems (petty prostitution …) have led him to an IPPJ (centre for young delinquents). He has also met a much older man (40 years old) who lives with him at his mother’s house.
Since he left the IPPJ, he is followed by the SPJ – legal protection service (organisation selected by the judge to carry out the follow-up of the boy), but without success.
When he arrives at school dressed like a girl, he first receive comments, then gets pushed, is rejected by some girls … He himself becomes violent and drops out more and more.
Contagion spreads to teachers who no longer want to see him at school. It all starts when he shoulders a teacher who rejected him. Teachers fear an outbreak of violence. Under pressure, the headmistress has to launch an expulsion procedure.
However, the headmistress decides to adjourn the procedure (at that moment, around 3 months of course remain), in order to let the boy finish the year and take the exams. This student has good abilities and the headmistress wishes to give him a chance.
A remedial process is established with the help of the social assistant and the reference educator:
• Putting lessons in order
• Homeschooling supervised by the social assistant who goes once a week to the boy’s house
• “Availability of a “head” (support with a wig) on which the student can prepare his practical exams
• Theoretical exams in the social assistant’s office
• Practical exams with other students. The teacher eventually accepted the presence of the student on Wednesday afternoon (dedicated to remedial). He has been convinced by the social assistant who will be there during the exam and who has assured him the student would be “clean”. The educator will also be there to make sure everything goes well.
The student will succeed the 3P but will be definitively expelled. He had the marks and skills, but he had been too little at school and the teachers refused to keep him. They considered the social assistant had helped him too much compared to other students with learning difficulties. In their opinion, this student received a preferential treatment he did not deserve.
Reasons why the story can be considered successful.
• The boy managed to hold on at a crucial moment of his schooling
• He could integrate a project and carry it out
• He succeeded the year = his abilities are recognised
• He found a hairdressing salon in which he worked for some time.
Unfortunately, success was short. The school learnt from his mother that the boys had woken up old demons (drug, prostitution, violence …). At seventeen, he spent some time in an IPPJ. His future seems to head towards prostitution and drugs.
The headmistress is convinced that if the school had kept the student two or three more years, it could probably have prevented his subsequent descent into hell.
Starting point of the student
This boy has a complex personality: violence, drug, petty prostitution, bad company … which resulted in a stay in IPPJ.
At fourteen, he has already been hospitalised several times for prostitution. He expresses a wish to change sex, but is too young to start a treatment.
At school, he is dropping out but he is a good student and can succeed.
Social and economic background of the family involved
Well off background, the parents work, they have adopted two children, but are separated. The father did not dedicate himself to the problem.
Possible explanation of the success
• The headmistress adjourned the procedure of expulsion. She was shocked by the teachers’ reaction. She felt the student’s expulsion like a slap in the face and a rejection of difference.
• The headmistress decided to offer this student specific support. A specific program of lessons and exams was established.
• The social assistant and the reference educator spared no effort to keep the boy at school.
• The boy has good school abilities, he is able to pass the year.
• The mother collaborated perfectly with the school as well as the older boyfriend, structuring person who gives points of reference.
Interaction between the different actors involved
This situation involved all the school actors (educational team, boy, parents, external organisations). The school spared no effort, interactions were numerous:
• Headmistress / teachers (rejection of the student, tensions within the educational team, expulsion procedure, adjournment of the expulsion)
• Social assistant – reference educator / teachers (ironing out problems during the year, convincing the professional practice teacher to give the exams, participate in the exams …)
• Social assistant – reference educator / student (discussions, help, putting lessons in order ...)
• Social assistant / family (permanent contacts, visits at home)
• Social assistant / external organisations (frequent contacts SPJ …)
Transferability potential of the experience
This experience is based on the acceptation of difference, the will to believe in the student’s reschooling, in his abilities to make a project and succeed.
The support is organised through a specific process of learning and certification.
For the school that makes this choice, it means an important commitment in terms of time and staff, but “it is so important to make young people experience successes!”