GENEVA: Dr Eric Debarbieux, Professor Emeritus University of Paris-Est and a member of the International Observatory of Violence in Schools, has warned that some private schools are failing to protect their students from bullying and uphold values of tolerance and respect.
Dr Eric Debarbieux has discussed how some schools are failing to adequately train their staff, resulting in serious bullying incidences being missed or trivialised. Victims are not taken seriously or, even worse, are punished for speaking out: the so-called ‘double punishment’.
He has subsequently called upon schools to ensure that all employees understand their duty to protect and care for students, and should be trained in how to handle serious incidences of bullying.
He has stated this is ‘often’ the case in ‘the most prestigious institutions’, who are often primarily concerned with the school’s reputation, and therefore the ‘denial of harassment is strongest’.
In particular, Dr Debarbieux discusses one example of this at Institut Le Rosey – the world’s most expensive school.1 Due to an alleged failure of action by the school, Radhika and Pankaj Oswal, the parents of one student, were left with no choice but to take legal action in Switzerland against the school.
Following claims of serious bullying incidents against their child, the parents raised their concerns to teachers at the school and asked that action be taken to ensure their child’s safety.
However, apparently no action was taken and staff members sought to downplay the whole issue. Commenting on the case – and providing the facts happened as presented – Dr Debarbieux noted that staff at Le Rosey did not take this issue as seriously as it should have been, causing further problems in this case.
Le Rosey showed no willingness to acknowledge there was an issue, and instead cancelled the re-enrolment of the child, without proper justification.2 The school has refused to apologise, according to the family, very recently dismissing the bullying as a “banal short dispute between teenagers”.
The expert has explained how this is a clear case of ‘double punishment’, in which the victim is not only punished by their bullies, but also by the people who are supposed to protect them – in this case the school’s staff.
Dr Eric Debarbieux said: “Based on the facts presented to me, Le Rosey should have taken the matter more seriously, which could have avoided the continued harassment of the student. Any action taken in these cases should always seek to listen to and protect the victim. Unfortunately, instead victims can be punished by the school – allowing bullies to feel validated in their actions.”
The report calls for private schools to set up clear prevention policies, to ensure there is a safe process for victims to raise any concerns and ensure that they are listened to and taken seriously. It states that this should also include adequate training for staff on how to handle school harassment and cyberbullying.
The parents of the student involved, Radhika and Pankaj Oswal, said: “Dr Debarbieux has shown how schools such as Le Rosey are failing in their responsibility towards the welfare of a child. Schools such as Le Rosey should use their resources to lead the way in creating effective policies to protect students. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.
“We are pleased that he chose to look at our daughter’s case. Comments such as these should be used constructively to make such schools reflect on what a world-class education really looks like and take action to provide adequate training for staff, rather than serving as a playground for the super-rich.
“Our daughter is adamant that this unhappy period in her life should be turned into a force for good. We hope to use this moment to build a positive legacy that will ensure that this doesn’t happen to any more students in our daughter’s position.”