Un petit article en anglais (pour une fois). La version longue (en français) se trouve ici.
I’m sorry if I’m making spelling or grammar mistakes: English is not my mother language.
The story of Noélanie Sené is a very sad one. Little Noélanie has become a symbol of the fight against bullying and school violence in France. However, little is known about her abroad. Here’s her story, adapted from her mom’s website.
Everything begins in January 2000, when Pascal and Christine Sené adopt a little 13-month-old Polynesian girl, Noélanie. They raise her, along with their other children, in Cabestany, a town in the south of France. Noélanie is described by her mom as “a wonderful, generous child who couldn’t stand misery or injustice, was highly intelligent and used to dream of making the world a better place”.
The problems begin in 2006, when Noélanie complains of being bullied in primary school. A very trustworthy child psychiatrist is called, says Noélanie is perfectly sane and has excellent relationships with her parents, and calls the court justice and the inspector of schools to denunciate the school director’s passiveness. Nothing much is done and the little girl has to attend another school.
Noélanie gets bullied again by five cruel kids in that school. One of them, S., is considered particularly vicious and dangerous by practically everyone (except the adults in charge). The mother of another kid denunciates but the director refuses to do much and even punishes Noélanie for having remained silent. The poor child is so shocked that she won’t speak up again.
The bashing carries on. Noélanie actually writes to her teacher to complain, and the teacher doesn’t react. She is also accused of being crazy by adults, just because she sees a child psychiatrist.
Her parents try to help her as much as they can. They contact associations. Unfortunately, school bullying is still quite an unknown concept in France, pays des droits de l’homme (this is irony), and nobody knows much about it. Noélanie also has to go to kung fu lessons.
In October 2007, Noélanie actually writes to the police and gives a copy of the letter to the employee who watches the playground during the breaks. Here’s a translation of the letter:
‘I trust you to keep this very important secret.
There has been a serious problem at school about S. strangled me several times in the rank of the second playground. I know that if I don’t stand up for myself I’ll die in the end forever. I hope this is not for now. S. already strangled me several times and once in front of A. and I can’t find a solution to help myself and to stop suffering. Anyway it doesn’t change as he’s going to kill me. I make even more than a big lot of nightmares and I manage to fall asleep when I just close my eyes but I don’t sleep because of all of these (because he strangled me and I fainted) and he kicked me to wake me up and this is for real. Also I can’t eat in the school restaurant. I’m afraid of him. Could you protect me in the playground? YES or NO. Do you have a solution? YES or NO. Circle the answer. He also told me that if I left my home he would kill me and if this carries on, he may come to my home, he knows where I live. I wanted to tell the teacher, she really doesn’t care, she says “go and play, we’ll see later.” When is later? It's never. He also tells me “filthy black girl and fxxx you” (etc…)
I hope it will get better. I hope you’re going to protect me. Don’t tell anybody otherwise it’s not a secret anymore and it will be worse for me.
(drawing of a crying heart) please’
The school doesn’t react and neither does the police.
The letters are only heard of on the 7th of November. The parents sue the director as he failed to render assistance to a person in danger, all the more so since they have medical proof that their child has been attacked as well as a written confession from S.. However, the police are reluctant to act as they think Noélanie must be mentally disturbed.
On the 16th of November, Noélanie slowly comes back from school with a painful head and neck. The headaches get worse and worse. Her parents are worried and the day after, she gets an epilepsy attack. Pascal and Christine call the emergency medical service immediately. Unfortunately, it gets worse and worse and the little girl dies from a cerebral oedema in the hospital shortly afterwards. She was only eight.
I’m not related to Noélanie myself and I’ve never met her. But do you think it’s normal when a child kills another child and walks away unharmed? Where’s the justice when bullies are protected while their targets aren’t? In what kind of world are we living?
At least Noélanie will never be forgotten. After her death, her parents found little notes in her bedroom saying how much she loved them and how grateful she was to them having adopted her. On her grave in Cabestany, you can read this quote by Berthold Brecht: “the one who doesn’t know is ignorant, but the one who knows and doesn’t do anything is criminal.” I wish such tragedies would never happen again.