DESCRIPTION OF THE EXPERIENCE
Period and place in which the experience took place
A primary school near Liège. 5th year classroom (10-11 year-old). School year 2009-2010. Probably a few weeks long (duration is difficult to determine).
Main actors involved (special focus on the profile of the student)
• The victims: several pupils of the class (no specific information on the subject)
• The harassers: three boys of the class. Their motives seem varied: play, imitation of things seen on the Internet, superiority. Picking the “weakest” ones.
• The followers: other pupils helped the three harassers, under threat.
Description of the factual events
During a school trip, three pupils inflicted sexual abuses to classmates and forced other pupils to do the same, lest they suffer it to. The facts took place without the adults knowing.
It went on in school locations such as the toilets.
A parent raised the alarm after noticing bruises on their child’s body. Until then, no child had raised the subject.
Actions carried out to identify the causes of the students difficulties
The family planning went to the class and conducted information and prevention activities on emotional, relational and sexual life (puberty, child conception, love relationships, the dangers of the Internet, relations with parents …).
Actions carried out to solve the situation and the problems encountered
• The three harassers were expelled from the school.
• Psychological support was provided to the victims by professionals of child maltreatment at school.
• After the crisis period, the school administration asked the family planning to come to the classroom and carry out activities on emotional, relational and sexual life.
• The management also organised meetings with avec professionals of child maltreatment, the administrative body, the police…
• The management asked the teachers to participate in the meetings.
No information on the subject. The family planning received little information on the harassment acts and on the victims, probably due to professional confidentiality.
Support received by fellow students, colleagues, school management and parents
• The parents pressed charge at the police and attended the various meetings with the teachers and management.
• The teachers were not aware of the situation. They were informed after the parents’ complaint. They were asked by the administrative body and management to participate in meetings with the police and with the parents and management.
• The management, in collaboration with the administrative body, acted at once to deal with the problem.
Strengths and weaknesses of the experience
The school effectively managed the crisis and the follow-up of the victims.
• The family planning intervention was one-off and aimed to support the work previously done.
According to the family planning: “Our work could be more relevant if it were more regular and long-lasting. Yet, this was not a school wish. In our opinion the crisis situation was correctly managed, but we consider that this kind of harassment, as traumatic as it can be, needs to be continuously monitored on a long period”
• The school chose to punish the harassers, through expulsion. This does not guarantee a follow-up of the children.
It would have been opportune that the harassers, who are very young, be monitored. It is crucial that they realise the seriousness of their acts, that they can understand how their behaviour was inappropriate. They need help to find alternatives to their needs of self-assertion as “the strongest”.
Punishment is indispensable, but it gives no clue on how to behave appropriately; they thus run the risk of doing it again elsewhere, especially if they have not realised the seriousness of their acts.
• The Internet and some geographical elements (such as the toilets) contributed to the proceedings. This highlights the necessity to work thoroughly on the danger of Internet.
• Another necessity made visible by this experience: creating every day trust links between the educators (in the broad sense) and the pupils, and building systems so that reference adults can listen to pupils, be available and trustworthy (pupils know they will act). This involves an increased awareness of the educational team.