Peter was having trouble adapting to his new school. He felt ostracized and consistently complained that he was the target of his classmates who would systematically gang up to ostracize and tease him. Sometimes, an innocent joke would escalate to the point where lessons were disrupted because of unruly conduct. There were some instances the disruption came close to violence. Peter’s parents were affected as he was transferred to this school because of similar issues he faced in his previous school.
The school counsellor after several sessions with Peter decided to refer him to LCCS to facilitate a restorative circle. Restorative circle is a process where it brings everyone affected in a conflict for a conversation to help resolve the issues. This would include Peter, the group of classmates that consistently tease him, his other classmates, counsellor and form teachers who were frustrated because lessons were disrupted.
At the restorative circle, Peter and his classmates learned about how their actions were affecting each other. His classmates learned that their unrestrained teasing of Peter had affected him mentally and emotionally to the point that he was considering dropping out of school. Peter was surprised that his classmates were more than ready to apologize and to make things right with him. But a bigger surprise awaited him. Some close friends of Peter at the restorative circle meeting shared that they were frustrated about the lessons being disrupted. More importantly, they gave Peter a frank and honest feedback that Peter had to shoulder some responsibilities for being the target of their classmates’ teasing and taunting. The group shared that they felt that Peter was overreacting to jokes and took certain things too seriously. They mentioned that he needed to be less sensitive and more trusting and accepting of the classmates. The students proceeded to describe the kind of classroom environment that they wanted and discussed a purposeful action plan to ensure that the classroom would be conducive for teaching and learning.
It was heartening that after the circle, the students began to mingle together as an attempt to forge friendships. The counsellor reported several weeks later, that Peter had calmed down and the classroom environment has improved. Peter shared that he felt supported in the restorative circle process. With the help of his friends, he is learning to be more confident in interacting with other classmates and to be less sensitive in reacting to their jokes.
Peter’s experience of being bullied happens to many teenagers and causes mental anguish and depression for those targeted. Some developed fear and refusal to go to school. Besides counseling, they need to be further supported such that their anguished voice may be heard by the perpetrators and the perpetrators can hear of the harm that they have done to the victim. The restorative circle was found to have provided such as avenue. In Peter’s case, through the restorative circle, the perpetrators were made aware of the impact of their teasing and they came to the realization that their bullying was not helpful to the class.