DESCRIPTION OF THE EXPERIENCE
The story took place three years ago (school year 2010-2011) at Escola Secundária Nuno Álvares, Castelo Branco, Portugal.
The actors involved were:The bullied boy, from class A, a colleague from class C, the teacher of English of both students, the Diretoras de Turma of classes A and C (literally, class directors, the teachers who are the mediators between the school and the family of a specific class); the mother of the bullied boy.
I taught English to year 7 students, average age: 12. Every week, I had one extra hour for tutoring students with learning problems. One day, at the end of one of those lessons, two students asked if they could talk to me. One of these boys (from class A) had been threatened by a boy from class C. Since they knew I was the Diretora de Turma (hence forward, DT) of class C, they wanted my help. The way the bullied boy described the events, included a reference to a threat made with a sharp object, which he was not able to identify.
Actions carried out to solve the situation: 1. Since I was the DT of the alleged bully, I spoke to the DT of the bullied boy and we both decided to talk to the Director of the school and together we decided to ask the mother of the bullied boy to come to school and to explain what was going on.
2. During the meeting with the mother we understood that the family had already noticed some strange behaviours at home, had already tried to talk to him, without any results, and had decided to take the boy to a well-known neurologist (due to take place the day after the meeting with both DTs at school).
3. The parents took the boy to the neurologist and he felt encouraged to speak. This way, it finally became clear that he had been threatened with a pen knife with a broken blade and he had to give the bully all his money. And this had been going on for a long time.
4. The parents phoned the school and asked to be received by both DTs once again, in order to inform them of the outcomes of the boy’s talk with the neurologist.
5. The DT called the mother of the bully and explained what was going on and, since the boy had already been signalled as a child at risk by the Comissão de Proteção de Crianças e Jovens, the agent responsible for the boy was also informed about the situation.
6. The parents of the bullied boy asked the school to get in touch with the agents of Escola Segura (a kind of School Police Force), but the school had already done so.
7. The agents of Escola Segura came to school to speak with all the people involved (students, parents and DTs).
9. The case was taken to court and the bullied boy had to testify against the bully, which he did.
Problems encountered – 1. Since the school had no specialist to deal with this issue, the parents had to take their son to a neurologist in the nearest town;
2. The pressure felt by the teachers in order to help to solve the problem as soon as possible (and this included phone calls, emails, reports and interviews).
Support received by fellow students, colleagues, school management and parents – 1. Fellow students: the bullied boy told one of his friends what was going on and this friend of his encouraged him to talk to a teacher – apparently it was the first time the boy opened up with an adult about this story;
2. The teacher: who heard the boy for the first time;
3. The family of the boy: different members of the family had noticed changes in his behaviour and the parents soon looked for medical help;
4. The neurologist: who was able to diagnose the boy’s change of attitudes.
Results achieved – The bullied boy was able to overcome the situation and with time he was able to feel that he was not afraid of the bully anymore. He became stronger emotionally.
Strengths and weaknesses of the experience – In terms of weaknesses of the experience it could be said that, although the family had already identified changes in the boy’s behaviour, there had been no contact with the school in order to know whether there were any problems which might justify his aggressive behaviour.
But it was due to one of his peers, that the boy opened up with one of his teachers and the parents were informed about what was going on before taking their son to the neurologist, who ended up clarifying the whole situation.