“School bullying affects more and more young people in France, and the current measures are insufficient”

Le new suicide of a teenager, Tuesday September 5 – he had reported, at the end of 2022, “repeated bullying and insults from several students”, according to the Minister of National Education – obliges us today to look reality in the face: bullying at school affects more and more young people in France, and the current measures are insufficient. Recent data show that 46% of students said they had been victims of at least one form of violence repeatedly during the school year and thatone in five middle school students said they had been the victim of at least one cyberviolence on a repeated basis.

As a psychiatrist, I see firsthand the devastating impact this issue has on the mental health of children and adolescents, and I have also been personally affected as the parent of a 9-year-old bullied child. The measures announced by the government, such as the banning of cyberbullies from social networks and thee change of establishment of the perpetrators of harment are not up to the challenge and, in fact, France is lagging considerably behind, compared to other countries, particularly those of Northern Europe.

The shortcomings of the current systems are obvious and numerous: under-declaration and limited awareness of school bullying, the lack of precise scientific data, the culture of silence, the lack of training for school staff, the lack of psychological support for victims, insufficient intervention by school authorities, institutional difficulties, lack of coordination between institutions, etc.

A national priority

In the current context of the return to school and university, we must act with an ambitious and coordinated approach. In practice, eight essential measures can be put in place now:

  1. The provision of a national online platform allowing students, teachers and parents to anonymously report cases of school bullying and violence in academic settings would significantly improve the reporting of cases. Strengthening the mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating reported cases and the rapid and effective implementation of dissuasive sanctions would optimize the chances of achieving the objective of zero tolerance.
  2. The creation of an observatory of school bullying and discrimination would make it possible to allocate resources to research on school bullying in France, in order to better understand the trends, the underlying causes and the long-term effects. Its role would also be to independently ess the effectiveness of public policies, to bring together international experts (the Finnish program KiVa, to name but one, is extremely effective), but also teachers, elected officials and actors in the field in the education and ociation sectors. Data analysis would be the subject of an annual barometer accompanied by official recommendations.
  3. The creation of ambitious national awareness campaigns in schools, built with young people, widely disseminated in the media and on online platforms would better inform students and the general public about the different forms of school bullying, their effects and ways to prevent them.
  4. Offer better quality training to teachers and educational staff on the prevention and intervention in the event of school bullying, but also addiction, violence and all forms of discrimination within public schools. This training should address warning signs, prevention methods, intervention techniques and how to support victims.
  5. Schools should implement programs to promote emotional well-being from kindergarten, including awareness sessions on managing emotions, empathy and life skills. These programs reduce the risk of bullying behavior but also contribute to fostering children’s learning abilities and their self-esteem.
  6. Promoting inclusion and diversity in schools is key to creating an environment where every student feels accepted and respected. This involves actively combating discrimination, implementing policies for the inclusion of students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students, students from ethnic minorities, combating and gender-based violence and promoting intercultural dialogue. .
  7. Schools should offer a psychological support program to victims of bullying and their families. Crisis cells made up of mental health professionals should be set up on the model of medico-psychological emergency cells to help children, parents and teachers to overcome traumatic situations.
  8. The fight against school bullying requires the mobilization of the whole of society and a profound change of mentality. Schools could forge strong partnerships with ociations, mental health professionals, educational services, law enforcement and other civil society actors to implement prevention and intervention initiatives more efficient.

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