Aleksa Jankovic committed a suicide on May 10th last year after his seven peers bullied him for more than eight months. He had repeated concussions, one leg in plaster and a diagnosis of "post-traumatic syndrome."
Last week, the judge of Misdemeanor Court in Nis Tanja Savic Bejatovic fined primary school "Sreten Mladenovic Mika" and its former principal Suzana Popovic Ickovski with 500,000 and 50,000 RSD in the "case of a student Aleksa Jankovic." According to the Court, they violated the Act on basic education systems and the Law on misdemeanors. The school and its director are found guilty because, in the period between November 20th 2010. and May 10th 2011, they did not take either any measures prescribed in the Regulation of the action protocol in case of violence, abuse and neglect.
FIRST THE BEATING, THEN THE FALSE ARREST: This fourteen-year-old boy was an excellent student until just before his death, when he "gave in". He planned to enroll in military school, looking up to his father, a pilot.
He loved football, music, computers and nice clothes. He was interested in girls and they fancied him. It was recorded in the schoolbook that he would sometimes "make cheating notes", "disrupt the class", "refuse to sit still”, "say bad words" or "draw during the class”. He was hyperactive, but he never physically hurt anyone. However, he found himself in a way of group of peers who were "more dangerous" than him. Among other things, they "sent a message" how dangerous they are by posting photographs on their Facebook pages holding (plastic) rifles and guns or posing the Nazi salute.
These bullies had beaten Aleksa eight times. In addition, he was constantly threatened, insulted and chased. He sought help from parents and his school. Dragana and Bojan Jankovic repeatedly informed everyone in charge about the abuse of his son - the school principal, the school psychologist Sladjana Golubovic, the class teacher Zorica Mikesic, several other teachers, the school police officer Ivica Grujic, the local police station, the Red Cross.
They also appealed to the school board in Nis, the educational inspectorate, the Ministry of Education, the group for the prevention of juvenile delinquency in Nis...
The school once notified the police, provided an intern who was paid by the parents to” protect" the boy at school and started disciplinary proceedings against a student who was identified as the leader of the bullies, but also against Aleksa. The increased educational supervision of the bullies’ "leader" was ended on March 28th as "successful," although only two days earlier he had brutally beaten Aleksa.
"The leader" finished the school year as a student with exemplary behavior and before he died Aleksa was reprimanded because "as a disruptive student".
He began to lose his appetite, developed insomnia and twitches. Because of the threats he was receiving, he feared for his mother, sister and father. He would go down in front of the building to see if any of those who threatened him really “set fire” to the family car. The parents say that despite all that, he was trying "not to worry them". Shortly before his death, he used his pocket money to pay an older boy from the neighborhood to protect him, because he "could no longer worry his father, who already had enough problems because of him."
Parents found out about that only after their son's death, when the protector rang the door to return the money. The findings of psychologist and psychiatrist, which Novi magazin had access to, state that because of such bullying Aleksa developed "distress", "anxiety" and "sub-depressive mood." He was prescribed therapy and the family "decided" to move him to another school immediately after the school year ends. And then he jumped from the third floor of the building where he lived.
When the police car came to school for this reason, some of his bullies took pictures in front of the car with their hands, "imitating" the arrest.
EVERYONE AFRAID OF CLASSMATES: Although particularly dramatic, Aleksa’s case is just one example of serious bullying in Serbia. Earlier this year, in just one month the media reported on several brutal cases. In late January, a student of the seventh grade of primary school "Kralj Aleksandar Prvi" in Pozarevac raped his classmate during a break. He was punished with a lower mark in his record and was moved to a different class.
At the same time, a student of the seventh grade in primary school "Jozef Atila" in Novi Sad held a friend from his grade for her feet and left her hanging over the railing of the first floor. The incident was reported by her father and the boy claimed "it was all a joke."
In late January and early February in one school in Prokuplje a student broke the jaw to another student in the middle of the classroom, while in the other room a group of bullies stripped one boy naked, rub feces on him and locked him in the toilet.
In February this year, the mother of a ten year old student in an elementary school "Milica Pavlovic" in Cacak announced she would sue the school because their peers “had seriously injured the spine of her son, who had been suffering violence for four years, and no one prevented it."
Last December, 14-year-old A. T. from Novi Pazar stabbed his peer near the elementary school they both attended. A month earlier, only by sheer luck no one was hurt when a high school student from Paracin fired a shot in the classroom. In late 2010, a sixth grade student in Valjevo wanted to "prove himself" to his peers in the same way. Some time later it turned out that this 12-year-old already had a criminal record.
Two years ago, a student of primary school in Novi Pazar died from wounds inflicted by his peer with a knife.
The chief of the State educational inspection Velimir Tmusic says that "the state must seriously address violence in schools," which is "on the rise”. He says that "not a day passes" without several reports being filed to this inspection, but that "many cases" do not even reach them, but are resolved at school or local inspection level. Most violence happens among the higher grades of primary schools, although it is also present in high schools and even in kindergartens. Conflicts usually happen between the peers from the same class, but there are also fights between schools and supporters groups.
According to UNICEF, two-thirds of children in Serbia have suffered some form of school violence. The most vulnerable are children from poor families and the ones with disabilities, as well as Roma and refugee children. The targets are also exceptionally gifted students. Every fourth student says there are peers in his school he is afraid of because they could bully him. All surveys show that only six percent of primary school students and 23 percent of those from secondary school in Serbia have never experienced violence.
THE RESPONSIBLE GOT PROMOTED: Aleksa had more than well experienced violence. The High Court in Nis recently completed criminal proceedings against the three minors who had physically and verbally abused him, launched on the charges of the Group for the prevention of juvenile delinquency in Nis. "The leader" of the bullies got increased correctional supervision, six months to two years, and the two boys got the court reprimand. These are the maximum penalties for their age.
The police also stated that the internal control “had identified failures in the work and taken appropriate measures" against the school police officer Grujic and police officers in the Red Cross, "but did not specify what those "measures" are. The principal Popovic Ickovski resigned last November, despite her previous claims that the school had done everything it could, that Aleksa was also "problematic" and that "he not only suffered violence but participated in fights as well".
Before that, in late June, the educational inspectors in Nis district have conducted surveillance and observed that neither the school nor the director had not taken timely and appropriate measures to prevent violence.
"Although it seems that after Aleksa’s death the authorities (at least) decided to respond properly, that is not the case. All those who are somehow responsible for the tragedy actually got promoted. The president of the school board who, after the negative findings of educational inspector, concluded that “there is no basis for dismissal of the director” teacher Jasmina Stankovic is now the acting school principal, and will become the new director in September. Former principal Ickovski Popovic moved to another school but, according to reliable information, should be back to teach in school “Sreten Mladenovic Mika” in September," says Bojan Jankovic for Novi magazin.
Neither did the school psychologist Sladjana Golubovic suffer any "penalties” despite the inadequate "treatment" of Aleksa and some bullies.
"At the court she said that the video surveillance showed one of the thugs beating Aleksa, while at a formal meeting in Nis administrative district she claimed that “the school administration had no evidence of violence against Aleksa” and that “security cameras recorded no violence against the boy”. All of them still believe that our son was “the problem” and not the victim, just as they used to say while he was alive," said Jankovic.
The lawyer of YUCOM Kristina Todorovic believes that "preventing" the responsible at the school to continue to perform their functions and duties would be the best proof of the actual responsibility for omissions or errors in the case of peer violence against Aleksa.
"Family Jankovic can initiate the offense and the criminal process, and we will support that. We thought about the possibility to sue those responsible for the crimes of “negligent operation of the services” or “failure to provide assistance”. "Also, they may demand a substantial financial compensation in a civil process," says Kristina Todorovic for our magazine.
Family Jankovic says that there is no compensation for their loss, but that they are thinking to initiate criminal and civil proceedings. They also announced that all the money they get would be given to charity. For now, they are putting great "efforts" on the Internet in trying to draw attention to other children and parents to all the dangers of bullying.