Video of bullied teacher highlights crisis of discipline in Italian schools

ROME – A video of a teacher being bullied and humiliated by a 15-year-old pupil in front of his class has highlighted a crisis of authority in Italian schools.
 Police opened an investigation into the conduct of six students from the Carrara Technical Institute in Lucca after at least two videos of threatening behaviour were shared on social media. The offences under consideration include insults and "private violence".
 One video shows a student attempting to snatch the class’ electronic register before ordering the teacher, a 64-year-old man who teaches Italian and history, to up his mark to 6 — the minimum grade above failure.
 “You haven’t understood a thing. Who’s in charge here? Kneel down!” the boy is heard shouting, while stabbing a finger aggressively towards the teacher. Other pupils are heard laughing and shouting encouragement on the video, recorded on a mobile phone and subsequently shared on WhatsApp and Facebook.
 A second video publicised by Italian media shows another pupil approaching the same teacher while wearing a motorcycle helmet. The boy uses it to butt the teacher in the chest, before letting out an intimidating roar in his face.
 The head of the school said he was preparing severe sanctions against the pupils involved and at least one was likely to be suspended until the end of the academic year.
 Head teacher Cesare Lazzari blamed social media for distorting young people’s perception of reality and for inspiring pupils to emulate the worst behaviour of their peers.
 “People are saying that the kids, rather than wanting to insult the teacher, were gratified by the sensation that they were actors in a kind of TV film,” Mr Lazzari said. “Social media have altered the perception of reality for digital natives. Suffering is eliminated. Whoever falls gets up again. While reality is made of tears and blood.”
 In March a video was posted of a disabled female teacher being ridiculed and taunted in a classroom in the northwestern town of Alessandria. And another video has also emerged in which a pupil in a technical school in Velletri threatens a female teacher, telling her he will dissolve her in acid.
 Repeated incidents of physical attacks on teachers by pupils and parents recently led 60,000 teachers to sign an appeal to President Sergio Mattarella calling for them to be given greater disciplinary powers.
 Mr Lazzari said his school had a good reputation for study and discipline but the problem class contained a number of pupils with no interest in education.
 “They don’t recognise the institution. They don’t want to go to school, to read books or newspapers. They want to be somewhere else,” he said.
 The headteacher said an unbalanced relationship between problem pupils and the school was simply a mirror image of the unsatisfactory relationship between rebel youngsters and authority in society at large.
 “We don’t need excessively severe punishments, but there are too many bureaucratic obstacles that slow down the sanctioning of bad behaviour. If a parent complains, the reaction is immediate,” Mr Lazzari said.
 In a comment on the episode, which appears to be part of a growing social media genre, La Repubblica said Italian schools resembled a war zone, “where teachers are increasingly undermined and deprived of all authority”.