Will anything change at the First High School of Vyronas in eastern Athens after a 17-year-old boy was viciously assaulted by six fellow students while defending his sister from bullies on the afternoon of February 10? The teenager ended up in hospital for taking a stand and demanding an explanation from the other boys as to why they were picking on his younger sister.
Sure, bullying in schools is by no means a new phenomenon, but this does not mean that it is not very serious or that educators, students and parents should simply have to learn how to live with it. Nor, however, does it mean that we should expect effective action from the Ministry of Education following a visit by the minister to the school where the incident in question took place and the comments she went on to make in front of television cameras.
The Ministry of Education will obviously “be ruthless toward such behavior.” No one doubts that its officials “stand beside the educational community, the students, the parents and the teachers,” nor that “immediate and long-term initiatives and actions” will be considered, along with a “raft of measures” for addressing this dangerous phenomenon.
The problem is that this “raft of measures” for a problem that is so well known and so obviously growing is still in the processing stage, when it should already have been implemented. Steps to tackle bullying should not be “under consideration” but already a part of everyday policy at the country’s schools. A PR response to an issue can only be effective and convincing if the officials who are doing the talking have also taken the necessary steps and are announcing actual measures instead of good intentions.
Otherwise, every day after every incident of bullying and other such delinquent behavior that puts any school in the spotlight will simply be worse than the last, and the educational community will grow even more terrified, desperate and angry.
When one in three children in Greece (and the European Union) have fallen victim to bullying at school, according to 2016 figures, this means that the phenomenon has spread to a degree that does not allow for public relations stunts or any hesitation from the state. The faster the social contract is allowed to slide into a state of madness and disorder, the more explosive the atmosphere at the country’s schools will become.
The 17-year-old boy who was beaten up by six other students is not the fuse that made the powder keg go off, but the consequence of the explosion.