24 November 2023

The Secretary of State for Children, Charlotte Caubel, the Minister of National Education, Pap Ndiaye, and Brigitte Macron, during a trip dedicated to the fight against bullying at school, at the Louis- Braille, in Esbly (Seine-et-Marne), November 7, 2022.

At the beginning of January, the suicide of Lucas, 13, a schoolboy in Golbey (Vosges), victim of homophobic harassment according to his relatives, shed harsh light on the difficult fight against harassment in the school environment. In the book In the school of bad reputations (PUF, 286 pages, 23 euros), published in February, Margot Déage shows that there is a continuum of violence online and at school to which all young people can be exposed. The sociologist conducted her investigation in several colleges in Paris and in the suburbs and pleads for “better listening”.

The Minister of National Education and Youth, Pap Ndiaye, said that the fight against bullying was a priority. What is your observation?

The State has taken this problem into account, but it is different to recognize that there is a problem and to act on it. Very often, as happens in college, we think that it is up to the school to solve the problem. But the school institution cannot do everything, teachers can accompany but are not judges, especially since the resources allocated are not sufficient and the education staff is overworked.

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And then, as it happens between very young people, we think that it’s only “child’s play”, that it doesn’t matter, which often leads to few answers. Besides that, the legal constraints not to harass are relatively weak. It is also on this that we must act.

What does reputation in college mean and how is it built?

In college, having a reputation is already a bad reputation! Adolescents have no criteria of distinction: no professional status or marital status. What matters is what everyone does and says. Reputation becomes social information: if it turns out to be bad, you become infrequent.

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For the girls, it appears when the students believe that one of their classmates does not respect the rules of “virtue”. Among boys, the phenomenon is the opposite, college students who have a bad reputation are those who transgress adult expectations, but they find themselves admired. The students who suffer from their reputation are those who behave well and are called “intellectuals” or “snitches”.

Why do reputations matter so much in college?

College is a pivotal moment, it’s the place where you detach yourself from the adult world. When you come back in 6e, you are still a pre-teen, and when you come out of it you are a teenager, reputation among peers is very important. Disappointed in friendship or in love, some students decide to take revenge and “make a reputation” for someone by taking out “files”.

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