What can be done about the extent of bullying in schools and online?

Adriana Lima
By Adriana Lima 6 Min Read
origin 1The mother and stepfather of Lindsay, the 13-year-old who committed suicide on May 12, 2023 after several months of harassment at school and online. ©DENIS CHARLET/AFP

Last week, all secondary school pupils in France received an hour-long lesson on cyberbullying. The idea was to highlight the dangers of social networks and how they can destroy someone’s life. And even worse.

On May 12 last year, Lindsay Gervois took her own life. She was 13 years old.

At her secondary school in Vendin-Le-Vieil, she had been bullied for eight months. Suicide among young people is often linked to bullying in school. Suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts are higher among bullying victims (12% and 36%, respectively) than among the general population (9% and 27%).

In response to the protests, the French government has announced that tackling bullying will be the “top priority” for the start of the 2023 academic year.

Nora Tirane-Fraisse has been fighting against bullying at school for 10 years. Her daughter Marion hanged herself at the age of 13 on February 13, 2013. Nora is the founder and general delegate of the association Marion La Main Tendue (Marion the Outstretched Hand). She works tirelessly in schools and has created two “Maisons de Marion” (Marion Houses) in the Paris region.

In 2022, it received more than 8,300 requests. Throughout France, you have made nearly 230 visits to schools and met 15,000 children and adolescents.

According to Nora, Marion’s ordeal began at a very young age and she says that’s when children need to be educated.

“For Marion, it was when she was 13,” she says. “But like I said, it’s all the little teasing and teasing and exclusion that the child belittles and we adults belittle. But I saw that she wasn’t invited, that she was excluded.”

“Things really went downhill when the school’s lead adult was gone,” Nora continues. “Although I intervened as a parent’s representative reassuring her, at a certain point the child decides: ‘I’ll stop, I won’t play anymore. It’s not funny. I won’t go to school anymore, they don’t report things and they don’t take them into consideration”. And that’s what happened between February 12 and 13″.

For Jean-Pierre Bellon, philosopher and director of RETURNS Centerwho has been training professionals for about twenty years, we have to listen to the victim but also work with the harassers.

“Students need to feel empowered, we need to pull them out of the herd mentality and try to involve them in solving the problem, and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t punish in some cases,” she explains.

“Let’s role-play: “I’m worried about your friend, he’s not well. Who can tell me what we could do?”

In 2022, French law made bullying in schools a crime. Harassment at school can be punished with up to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of €150,000 if the acts lead the victim to commit suicide or attempt suicide.

Spain, a hard hit country

To combat cyberbullying, the European Commission has launched the Better internet for kids program in 2008, which is now being implemented in 31 countries.

In Spain, the AEPAE association fights against bullying at school. Spain is one of the European countries most affected by this phenomenon, with more than 11,000 serious cases detected between January 2021 and February 2022 and many suicides. Enrique Perez-Carrillo, president of AEPAE, regrets that this topic is often underestimated in schools.

“Last year we introduced the figure of the coordinator, who is a teacher in the school itself,” he says. “We at AEPAE say that this intervention must be external because the school is not impartial. The school, by default, does not take the side of the victim, but rather downplays the problem to make it invisible so that it does not affect the school’s reputation.”

Bullying at school is a global scourge: nearly 130 million pupils aged between 13 and 15 worldwide (that is, just over one in three) are victims of bullying at school, according to the Atlasocio website.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article

In France, child victims of cyberbullying can call
*3018.**Seven days a week, from 9:00 to 23:00, a dedicated team of psychologists, jurists and digital tools specialists is at their disposal to advise them and intervene, especially with social networks, to remove content within a few hours .*

Worldwide helplines can be found here.

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