On Wednesday night, a ten-year-old boy took his own life in Sillamäe after allegedly being bullied by his peers. The police had gotten involved on two occasions but trusted the children’s parents and social workers with monitoring the situation.
The boy attended Sillamäe Old Town School. Several months have produced several incidents of bullying and serious arguments between students at the school.
“To be honest, I cannot see the school having a direct connection to this incident,” said Principal of the Sillamäe Old Town School Irina Liu. “The elementary school teacher who worked with him is very perceptive. They would never have ignored the signs had they noticed anything out of the ordinary; they have always gotten involved in cases like these.”
Help that didn’t help
The police have communicated that the boy’s death was not violent; a criminal investigation has been launched.
The boy’s older sister Anna wrote on member of the Sillamäe city council Oleg Kultajev’s social media page that her brother was bullied at school and in the apartment building’s yard. Anna wrote that the meanest of her brother’s tormentors was a boy from the adjoining stairway. Attempts to call him to order failed. Conversations the bully had with juvenile police were fruitless.
Anna wrote that their parents turned to the authorities on several occasions. Officers they spoke to allegedly said they cannot prosecute someone who is not yet 14. Anna accused staff at the school of inaction. She wrote that her parents also turned to psychologists, trying to find help for her brother.
The boy’s older brother Anton wrote that he had fallen out with many of his peers.
Spokesperson for the East Prefecture Kristina Kostina said the police were brought in to separate the two boys in fall.
“The reason were misunderstandings between the boy and his schoolmate. The local juvenile affairs officer talked to both sides and their parents and involved the school’s social worker from the first,” Kostina said.
The school said that police intervention was unnecessary. The social worker agreed to keep the juvenile police up to speed on developments. “More so, as the officer visits this particular school at least once a week,” she added.
Kostina’s information suggests the two boys fell out again in January – the argument did not take a violent turn this time.
“The two students talked to the social worker, psychologist and the juvenile officer. No further information of a lasting conflict has reached the police since that conversation,” she explained.
Principal Irina Liu said that even if she had the right to talk to a reporter about what happened, she could not, because the children had been on summer break for a month and a half before the unthinkable happened. The school’s specialist tasked with monitoring such situations is also on leave.
“It is only natural that the school’s social worker is on vacation during summer break, but it is always possible to contact the police,” Kristina Kostina said.
The press has written about four cases of bullying or serious conflicts at the Sillamäe Old Town School in recent months. The city has three basic schools and one high school.
A man entered the school and threatened students with an object resembling a weapon in May. He said he wanted to scare kids who had been bullying a girl and went to the school.
Local Russian paper Infopress wrote about two cases of bullying at the Sillamäe Old Town School in June.
One case started with online bullying and culminated in two 15-year-old girls fighting in the park. The father of one of the girls was injured when a young man joined the fight the father was attempting to break up.
The other concerned an athletic student’s habit of occasionally beating on four of his classmates over a two-year period. The school’s staff was unable to do anything about the situation.
Principal out of the loop
Head of the school Irina Liu said she cannot comment on the incidents as she does not have enough information.
As concerns the man who threatened children with an object resembling a weapon, Liu said there was no proof he was trying to protect a victim of bullying.
“The investigation found no signs of bullying. People are different, we react differently,” Liu said. As concerns bullying at her school, the principal found we should choose our words more carefully.
“Bullying at school is systematic activity organized by a group of people. Something like that cannot go unnoticed in school. Someone will notice as it is impossible for children to keep it a secret. That is bullying,” the principal explained. “But a quarrel between children – it is a big school, and everyone is different – cannot be labeled bullying, it is a conflict. By referring to it as bullying we are throwing accusations at a lot of people.”