School bullying: how to get out of it?

On the occasion of “No to harassment” day, November 10, the editorial staff ofOkapi collected the testimony of a teenager and a teenager who were bullied in college. They talk about their experience and what solutions helped them regain the upper hand.

We put the article taken from the magazine Okapi from November 15 and the podcast episode “my teenage life”: “Bullying: How I got away with it” available below.

You can also read the magazine article Okapi “Bullying: How I got away with it” (#1166) below.

“Repeated insults, every day…”

Theo (first name has been changed to preserve anonymity): “I want to tell my story, but I warn you: I don’t remember everything. It was last year, and I tried to move on. To forget, what! I just remember that I was afraid to come to college because, every day, a girl insulted me. She was in 6th grade, like me. She did not live at home, but in a hostel. The worst part is that at the beginning, we were friends! But it’s true that she always bothered someone. There had already been problems with my cousin, and with another friend. He had even changed college because of her… And then, I didn’t understand anything, but it fell on me: she started insulting me. I don’t want to remember exactly what she said to me, it’s too violent. I don’t remember when it started either. In fact, at the beginning, I didn’t really realize it, because it settles gradually. But these were repeated insults, every day. Harassment, in fact! I had nightmares. I was alone. I didn’t talk about it. To no one. I don’t know why, but I was too afraid of her. It lasted for months, until one day, it degenerated. She followed me down the street. I ran, I was in tears. Luckily, I ran into a 5th grade boy I had known since CM1. He didn’t understand what was happening, but he saw that I was sick, he took me by the shoulder and accompanied me to elementary school, where I was going to look for my little sister. Then I found my mother. She saw that there was a problem, that it was wrong. I told him everything.”

In addition to Theo’s testimony…

No to harassment
Harassment is repeated violence that can be verbal, physical and/or psychological. One or more person(s) go after a designated victim who cannot defend themselves. This situation often happens at school. UNICEF believes that 700,000 students are victims each year in France. We speak of cyberbullying when the violence continues on social networks.

Friends and allies
In situations of harassment, the victim is often isolated, weaker physically and/or morally, unable to defend themselves. However, knowing that one can count on friends or neutral people reassures the victim, and makes it possible to avoid feeding the aggressor in his posture. Everyone has a role to play against bullying!

The bad role of the scapegoat
A scapegoat is a whipping boy who serves as the victim of a person or a group. Sometimes this victim breaks down and becomes violent. The notion of victim is relative : you can be a victim of violence in your family or neighborhood, and become an aggressor in college.

“I felt listened to”

School bullying: “I felt listened to” - Extract from Okapi magazine n°1166

Theo : “The next morning, my mother accompanied me to college and asked to see the principal. Mr. L. offered to organize a catering committee so that I could speak, say what I felt. It also helps my abuser to hear what I say and for her to be able to explain herself. Normally, the commissions take place quite quickly, but in my case, it took longer because the student had already had sanctions. I think management hesitated to put her on a disciplinary board. Getting his family together took time too, I think. In short, a few weeks later, we therefore found ourselves in a catering commission with this girl, her mother, an educator from the home where she lives, my mother, the principal, her assistant, Madame B., and the principal from another college which was being formed in restorative justice. I had accepted because I was afraid of my attacker. But I also knew that with the Deputy Principal by my side, I would be protected. We all sat in a circle, on chairs. During the commission, I felt safe. We talked a lot. I explained the insults, the nightmares, my fear. She also spoke, perhaps tried to explain herself, but I don’t remember too much, and the rule is that it remains confidential anyway. The main thing is that I felt listened to. I was able to ask in front of witnesses that she stop. And she promised not to do it again.”

“Today I’m fine…”

School bullying:

Theo : “At the end of the commission, we left for class. The girl never did it again. Maybe she keeps insulting me behind my back, I don’t know, but at least I don’t hear her anymore! I don’t care, I’m with my friends. And even if I’m still a little scared of her, at least I’m not scared to come to college anymore. I feel good now, less alone. Unfortunately, I am still in his class this year (for your information, his college may change this situation). But I really believe that this commission is a good thing. There are our parents, everyone, we feel safe and we can talk to solve the problem. The principle is that there is no sanction, it is something that must be accepted in advance. Looking back, I think maybe she could have written an apology, but I didn’t think to ask for it as a remedy. Maybe she didn’t have the maturity for that… For my part, I understood that talking can help solve problems.”

Trust in restorative justice

He is a Nantes college principal, Max Tchung-Ming, who came up with the idea, drawing inspiration from the “truth and reconciliation commissions” invented by former South African President Nelson Mandela to put an end to the decades of racist policy against black populations in his country . “The idea is to resolve a conflict by taking into account the needs of the victim and by encouraging the perpetrator to show empathy and take responsibility. But responsible does not mean guilty, he recalls. These commissions do not prevent conflicts, but they reassure: if there is a conflict, it can be resolved.”

How’s it going ?
• The principal interviews the victim and the aggressor “on the spot”, separately. What happened ? What did you feel?
• Everyone thinks “coldly”, at home, with the help of documents that explain how the commission will unfold. “This allows everyone to know the framework and to be secure, explains Max Tchung-Ming. Everyone imagines a reparation that he would consider just.”
• The “restorative circle” is organized with an idea: to understand each other (more than to punish). “Anyone can ask for explanations, in order to understand the motivations of the aggressor”, specifies Max Tchung-Ming. The author can better understand what drives him to act. He can then develop a feeling of empathy.

The actors present
• The perpetrator and the victim, as well as their supporters (parents, friends, etc.)
• The principal and his/her assistant or another representative of the college: one will represent the law and lead the debates, the other will ensure that everyone can express their feelings, their feelings and be well understood.
• Anyone willing, and who accepts these 5 rules for it to work:

  1. We listen to each other.
  2. We don’t judge each other.
  3. We respect each other.
  4. We are voluntary and free to answer, or not, the questions.
  5. What is said will remain confidential.

The power of words
The commission must place itself under the sign of benevolence. The aggressor has the floor, just like everyone else. “It allows you to put yourself in the shoes of the person who is suffering: it’s the only solution to change things,” says Max Tchung-Ming.

Avoid punishing
Restorative justice is not a court. Victim and aggressor reflect together on a solution that allows the victim to be recognized and “repaired”, and the aggressor to get out of his role. If both refuse the commission, a disciplinary council is then often organized.

3 other solutions to get out of harassment

Sentinels and referents
A group of student volunteers, the sentinels, is set up in conjunction with responsible adults at the college, the referents. The sentries learn to spot, to intervene (with the victims and witnesses, not the attackers) and to alert the referents, who manage the follow-up.

Trained by professionals, student mediators detect situations of harassment and propose a dialogue between victims, potential witnesses and aggressors. They are monitored throughout the year by social mediators.

The Phare program
Since the start of the 2021 school year, all colleges must appoint “No to harassment” ambassadors. The goal: to measure the school climate and form a protective community of professionals and staff around the students. This program notably provides a digital platform dedicated to resources.

How to react in case of harassment?

If you are a witness
Don’t leave the victim alone: ​​it is often this isolation that makes the harassment last. Don’t laugh, don’t encourage bullies. If you know them, try to make them aware of the harm they can create, sometimes without being aware of it. Report the aggression to a delegate, a mediator or an adult in the college.

If you are a victim
A golden rule: talk! Dare to confide in someone close to you (parents, friends, college adults, etc.) or 3020. You can lodge a complaint, if possible accompanied by your parents – but you can also go alone.
The 3020 is a free phone listening platform to tell “no to bullying”. At the other end of the line, professionals will be able to advise you. Open (except public holidays) Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
In case of cyberbullying, you can call 3018.

Podcast my teenage life : “Harassment: How I got away with it”

Okapi Podcast "my teenage life"

Zoé also testifies to her experience and tells how she got out of it in the podcast
“My teenage life”.

“My teenage life” are testimonials from teenagers from all over France. Suggested by the magazine Okapi, this podcast is aimed at teenagers, but not only. These slices of life surprise and move adults. If they tell who today’s teenagers are, they also remind adults who they were. “Ma Vie d’ado” is intimate, it’s joyful, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s calm or hectic… It’s overwhelming like a teenager’s life!

More than 100 episodes, to listen on all platformsare currently available.

“Bullying: ‘How did I get out of it'”article taken from the magazine Okapi n°1166, November 15, 2022. Text: Lucie Tanneau. Illustrations: Fachri Maulana.
Thanks to Theo for having had the courage to tell his story. Thanks also to Max Tchung-Ming and Théo’s college.
Cover of Okapi magazine n°1166.

School bullying: how to get out of it? – Bayard Youth