School bullying in Klass (2007)

How far can school violence lead?

Author: Sylvia Borissova

Translator: Donika Boneva

The Estonian film Klass, 2007, directed by Ilmar Raag, manages to convey to the smallest detail the harsh reality of school bullying and its consequences. Moreover – entirely in the language of teenagers, without a whit of moralistic and edifying deviations.

The film painfully reveals the consequences of teachers’ indifference and gaps in parenting, constantly revolving around the silent message that teenagers left to fend for themselves learn to live in the name of survival: learn to be yourself by behaving like everyone else. It is difficult to grow and develop in such a vicious circle, in which you have to find out what is important and valuable in life almost blindly, the behavior and mistakes of people around you.

In this sense, Bulgarian schools are no different from Estonian ones – the community of children and young people in a country always reflects the peculiarities and difficulties of the adult society. The main character in the film is Joosep – a boy from a high school like any other, who is harassed by his entire class in various horrible or offensive ways. His classmate Kaspar tries to protect him, which causes him to be bullied by the rest of the class. When the school board and Joseph’s parents start looking for the perpetrators of the violence, the class accuses Kaspar…

The two boys decide to take revenge. Joosep steals his father’s weapons and ammunition and they both go armed to school. Where can the instinct for self-preservation of teenagers lead and what the consequences of following the will to survive could be? Certainly, many students will rethink their behavior if they watch the film – either out of sympathy or a sense of self-preservation. The film will also be thought-provoking for parents and teachers whose children and students have in some way encountered school violence, whether as victims or tormentors.

Preventing bullying at school is neither just a task for bullied children and their parents, nor just for school and the education system. Political and media messages, social attitudes, models and stereotypes – for which we are all responsible – are also hidden in harassment. However, school is the environment in which bullying most often comes to light. And it is from school age that we must begin to build a system for counteracting bullying.

As children, we begin to make our own choices that build our personality. That is why our choices are at the same time our responsibility before ourselves – to choose with dignity and consciously what is good for us, but would not hurt the people around us. Because “society is a network, the links of which we are ourselves and which we are constantly weaving” (Peter Burger). It is always better, wiser and more preserving for others, and for ourselves, to make choices according to the predicted consequences we want and can bear.

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