Society 12/06/2021

"It's not an isolated case": more testimonies question Manyanet school for having silenced bullying cases

A spokesman for the center claims to have no record of any previous incident in the case of the 15-year-old student who committed suicide

4 min
Manyanet School

"You have to explain that this is not an isolated case", implores a mother on the other end of the phone, E.P., who took her daughter to Manyanet Sant Andreu school until three years ago. "I took her out of there because she was being bullied. During primary school I asked the school for explanations several times, and I even asked to change her class, but the headmaster never received me. They always left the main teachers alone", she told ARA. She changed her daughter's school when she felt strong enough, when she saw that she was "ready" and when the Consorci d'Educació found her a place in another school in the neighbourhood. "They only helped me when they saw that I was willing to go all the way", she says. The girl had already finished 1st ESO and had even suffered physical aggression from a group of students. Now she is in the 4th year of ESO and is "happy" to go to another school.

Shocked by the suicide of the 3rd year ESO student, which the Mossos d'Esquadra are now investigating whether it was due to the bullying she allegedly suffered at the school , this mother has contacted the ARA to explain that the Manyanet school "has systematically covered up" the cases of bullying that have occurred. "The school only wants to maintain its image", says E.P., who attributes part of the rejection of her daughter to the fact that "she did not fit in with the canons of the traditional family that the school has", which is religious. "There are families that have an economic and social position that have more weight than the rest", she sums up. 

This mother says that there are more cases of students who have left the center in the absence of solutions and measures if they suffered bullying. An example are the children of David Vidal, the university professor who published on the networks the suicide of the Manyanet student. As he told the ARA, he changed his two children to another center alarmed by "incompatible protocols with the protection and rights of minors": "My son was bullied and when we went to explain it to the headmaster, the ESO coordinator laughed in front of the whole class", he says. If he didn't pull his children out of the school the first time it was because he always believed that "the following year everything would be better". "Sometimes you found a good teacher and a more receptive tutor, and we put up with it", he says. Even so, he assures that the school "normalises bullying".

Vidal says that "it's an open secret" in the neighbourhood because there are schools that receive "very emotionally affected" children from Manyanet. In fact, several people have contacted the ARA to explain similar stories and to denounce that the center has ignored for decades the serious conflicts between students. They describe a "culture of laissez faire" that has been in place for years at the school, which acted (or acts), they say, as if bullying was "childish", to the point that sometimes the aggressors had the complicity of some teachers, who not only "looked the other way", but legitimised the jokes or nicknames that some students received. "I refuse to believe that they didn't know anything", says Jordi Farreras, a pupil at the school between 1980 and 1994, who recalls episodes of "verbal and physical violence" between pupils and from teachers to pupils. They were other times, surely, and now there is more awareness, but he finds it hard to find good memories of his time at the school.

Another mother at the school, who prefers not to give her name, is surprised by all the hustle and bustle that is going on and does not understand why there is such harsh criticism from parents at the school: "If I thought children were suffering I would have taken them out", she says and adds that if there are some cases, "they are not the fault of the school or its indulgence". She herself had to meet with her son's tutor because there were some problems in class, but "they were solved without having to talk to anyone else". She defends, however, that if it had been necessary she would have taken the case to the school management and that she would not have stopped until it was solved. This mother, who defends that in a case like this "it is necessary to be prudent", considers that it would be necessary to know whether or not the school activated the bullying protocol and for what reasons. She fears that the girl's suicide, added to the case of the computer that found child pornography in the priest of the parish linked to the center, end up spoiling the image of a school "that has done a lot for Sant Andreu".

The protocols require that cases and suspicions of harassment must be put in writing

According to current protocols, when a case of bullying is detected or there is a suspicion, the center has to make a written assessment report and bring it to the attention of the management, who is responsible for talking to those affected, the aggressors, the "spectators" (the rest of the class) and families. If it is determined that there is a bullying situation, the Education Inspectorate is informed and an intervention phase begins in which teachers, counsellors and educational psychologists can act. If it is not a case of bullying, preventive measures must be applied.

This newspaper has not been able to obtain the school's version, although it has tried to contact its legal representatives on several occasions in the last few hours. The head of the regulatory compliance unit and spokesman for the center, Antonio Ruiz, has made statements to the Efe agency and has assured that "there is no record of any incident or any action via tutoring, nor is there any formal complaint from the family" of the girl who took her own life on May 19. "The news of the suicide has left us totally surprised", he said. According to the spokesman, the school principal has told him that the only known incident is a complaint that the girl's mother made to a teacher, of which there is no written record.

The newspaper El Periódico has advanced that the Mossos, in addition to investigating the case of the girl who took her life on May 19 in Sant Andreu, are also studying the suicide of a former student of Manyanet in les Corts in 2019, when the boy was 21 years old. The family of the young man also believes that the center did not act adequately to protect his son: he did not want to go to school and they never knew why. The concern of the family, explains this medium, reappeared when the arrest of a school's priest, who had pedophile material, came to light.