Death of bullied teacher puts spotlight on poor training

Secondary technical school in Malešice, photo: Pavla Lioliasová

School inspectors are investigating a shocking case of students bullying a teacher in a secondary school in Prague. The woman died at the beginning of February after collapsing in the classroom. Although the school denies any link between her death and the incident, experts say her physical and mental suffering could have taken a toll. The case also raises questions as to whether Czech teachers are sufficiently prepared to deal with such incidents.

Secondary technical school in Malešice,  photo: Pavla Lioliasová
The bullying of a teacher at the secondary technical school in Prague’s Malešice allegedly went on unnoticed for several months. The school authorities started to deal with the case at the end of January after it was reported by one of the students. The perpetrators were threatened with expulsion, but just a few weeks later the teacher collapsed during a lesson and died in a hospital within days.

The case made national headlines after a video of the bullied teacher was leaked on the internet. The footage shows two students shouting in her face, pretending to punch her and preventing her from leaving the classroom, while the rest of the class stand watching.

Psychologist Michal Kolář from the Association Against Bullying says such behaviour is a worldwide problem and Czech schools are no exception. In his experience, at least 40 percent of Czech kids encounter bullying in some form or another during their studies.

“Teacher bullying is even a bigger taboo, and it is even more difficult to detect. According to the Czech School Inspection, at least one third of secondary teachers have encountered some form of aggression from the students. It is natural that the victim, has not reported the case, because she probably felt she would lose the last remains of her self-esteem. The school should have started to investigate the matter as soon as they had a signal that something was wrong.”

Michal Kolář,  photo: Matěj Baťha,  CC BY-SA 3.0
Michal Kolář says the school authority in this case clearly underestimated the gravity of the matter. He says the main problem is that many teachers have simply not been trained to deal with bullying.

“I would say that at least 60 percent of teachers have not had any training on bullying. We have put together a very effective methodology for schools on how to uncover and tackle bullying, but the problem is that there is no compulsory teacher training. So it is necessary that it becomes a fixed part of education.”

While inspectors have already started to investigate the case and the perpetrators have been conditionally expelled, Michal Kolář says the case has affected all of the students, even those who just witnessed the incident.

He says the school must establish what exactly happened to mitigate the consequences and prevent a similar incident from taking place in the future.