As Italy marked a national day for the rights of children last week, it was gripped by panic over a string of bullying cases highlighting an apparent rise in violence among Italian youth. Recently, the public has learned of several shocking cases of violence among children and teenagers in schools throughout Italy. Over the past few weeks, a gang of girls organised attacks on peers at a fairground in Perugia, a boy suffering from Down’s syndrome was cruelly victimised at a school in Turin, and four boys have been arrested in Reggio Calabria for sexually abusing a 12-year-old.
Two surveys published last Monday show that about half of Italian teenagers say they have either been bullied or are often afraid of it happening. Family Minister Rosy Bindi has called for an action plan to be drawn up by the government with the help of research centres and volunteer groups that work with children and their families. ‘It is no good thinking you can resolve all this in courts of law or by blaming the parents,’ Bindi said. ‘The responsibility for education belongs to everyone: families, schools media, culture, lay and relig-ious institutions.’
Others, however, were quick to put the blame on parents, allegedly inadequate when it came to educating their offspring about proper behaviour. ‘The problem is not so much to do with the children as with the families. It stems from there,’ said Antonio Sclavi, head of UNICEF’s Italian division.
There was widespread ap--plause last week when a civil court judge ruled that parents of bullies can be held legally responsible for their offspring and made to pay. The case in question involved five Milanese males, aged 15 and 16, who are being tried for raping a girl of 11. The judge decided that homes belonging to parents of the accused youths could be seized as compensation. The civil case is still pro-ceeding.