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New bullying case: "At the age of 11 my daughter was already saying every day that she wanted to kill herself"
The girl tried to commit suicide after being bullied for two years at Manyanet Sant Andreu School
BarcelonaA few days ago the girl, 14 years old, attempted suicide. The family had been attentive for some time, because they knew that this could happen at any time. "When she was 11 years old, she already verbalised every day that she wanted to kill herself, but she didn't know how to do it", explains Pilar, her mother, who found out during a visit to the psychiatrist at Sant Joan de Déu that the girl had been "thinking about how to do it" for a year and a half.
It all started when the daughter - we will call her Y to preserve her identity - was in fifth grade at the Manyanet Sant Andreu school in Barcelona. "The girl was afraid, she didn't want to go to school. She was physically and verbally assaulted", says the mother to describe the harassment which her daughter - who had been diagnosed with Asperger's in early 2018 - was a victim of during the last two years of primary school and that made her leave the centre in summer 2019.
When they were aware of the first signs, the parents reported it to Manyanet. During the first year there were situations spaced in time by mainly three students, although later it ended up becoming "a game" generalised within the class. "Some pushes while they humiliated her by calling her retarded or stupid, some kicks, humiliations, insults...", the parents summarised in a letter to the management to detail what had happened since April. During the following year, things got complicated and through some notes in the school diary the mother warned the teacher. It was October 2018. From this point on, the emails to try to solve the child's situation were constant. The girl was sleeping badly. When she was at home, she isolated herself in her room and made comments to her parents such as "nobody likes me" or "everyone laughs at me". The child was in therapy with a psychologist every week, but there was no improvement. She had periodic anxiety attacks and the situation at school got worse.
Catalan Ombudsman and Consortium
The parents asked the school for solutions in a meeting. First, with the tutor. Then, on 31 October, with the primary school principal, the psychopedagogue and a psychopedagogue from the neighbourhood educational service (EAP Sant Andreu), which is in charge of supporting the schools. At this meeting, the family provided a paediatric report and an account of the events that their daughter had suffered. However, the situation did not improve, on the contrary. The parents contacted the Education Consortium and transferred the case to the Síndic de Greuges (Catalan Ombudsman). Y continued to suffer. "In February, my mother died and the girl asked: "Why didn't I die and not grandma?" In April they met for the first time with the director of Manyanet.
"I sent an e-mail to the consortium with a copy to the management: they told me that the protocol had been applied since 5 April, two days after going to the Catalan Ombudsman, when Education had known about it since October", the mother regrets. The activation of the protocol did not occur until April, despite the fact that the head of EAP Sant Andreu had already requested it on 31 October.
A few days before the activation, on 27 March, the director of primary education at Manyanet asked for an assessment team - made up of people only from the centre, according to the family - to rule on the facts. They concluded that Y's case did not fit in with a bullying situation, but was "a behavior that threatens the coexistence of the centre", since a number of students "have had an inappropriate behavior towards their peers". They did not consider it to be specific harassment towards Y, who continued to manifest her suffering every week, but rather that a group of students were acting badly in general, towards the whole class.
The school and the family had different positions. "They even told us the girl was making things up", says Pilar, who regrets that her daughter ended up isolated because she was "marginalised" instead of acting on the aggressions' alleged perpetrators. Pilar doesn't blame the children, even though they were tempted to go and talk to the other parents. They didn't because it was up to the school to solve it: "I don't blame the children, for them it's a game". However, she feels cheated on because the school told them that they had spoken to the rest of the families, and this was not done - she assures them - until May. Nor do they understand how the EAP Sant Andreu psychopedagogue who intervened in the process was a mother of the school and regret that in many cases only the academic part was taken into account, ignoring the emotional side: "If you got good grades there couldn't be any problems".
Manyanet argued that, despite taking six months to open the protocol, they had previously carried out different actions to improve Y's situation: changes in students' groups in the physical education locker rooms - where the problems had started - and changes in students' tables to avoid conflicting couples and conversations with the minors involved, among other measures. In March 2019, they expanded prevention, trying to integrate the girl into another group of students to make her feel welcome, holding sessions on bullying with the student body or establishing a protection map to avoid incidents. The Catalan Ombudsman, however, has already warned the school that it intervened late, without the speed required in these situations, and that, furthermore, the family was not given the necessary information. The ARA has tried to contact the centre, but has not received any response.
The case of Kira
Two years later, and after the suicide attempt - a knife had already been found in the child's room - the family has decided to place Y in a day centre "for shock treatment", which will rub shoulders with the school where she is now studying and with which they are delighted. "This is for life. Now she doesn't want to stand out, she wants to go unnoticed, she is neglected, she doesn't take care of herself. They destroyed her", they say.
The mother is convinced that "if Education and the Consortium had controlled the school" when they reported Y's case, "Kira's suicide perhaps could have been avoided". On 19 May of this year, Kira, 15 years old, on the way to Manyanet, took her own life. The family of the minor assured that she was a victim of bullying and that the school knew about it and did nothing to stop it. The same thing that Pilar denounced two years earlier.