School Violence and Violence in School: A proposal for a Teacher Train Essay

School Violence and Violence in School: A proposal for a Teacher Train

School Violence and Violence in School: A proposal for a Teacher Training Curriculum

School Violence and Violence in School: A proposal for a

Teacher Training Curriculum

Ana Pedro

Departamento de Educaзгo, Universidade de Aveiro, Aveiro, 3810-193, Portugal

Abstract In the first part of this study we examine the school violence question, be it
the violence that happens at school,

consequence of external pressures (cultural, social, familiar) or the violence that
happens from the organizational structures

of that same school (institutional violence), and is then reflected in all those that are

involved in the school. Nevertheless,

since the frequency of school violence does not tend to disappear in our future, it is
imperative that teachers-in-training are

prepared in advance to deal with various levels of violence; in order to achieve this
goal, a specific subject was created –

Violence in school: educating to intervene, intervening so as to prevent for
teachers-in-training of Infant and Primary School.

This article describes in its second part the creation of a curriculum for preventing school violence developed by some

teachers of the University of Aveiro’s Educational Department (Portugal) in the European Project NOVAS RES ambit. We

believe that this curriculum can also inspire some other institutions to provide
teachers-in-training with the necessary tools to

deal with violence in their professional future.

Keywords Violence,School, Intervention/Prevention School Violence, Curriculum, Student Teachers

1. Introduction

As happens in all society, violence, in all its manifesta-
tions[1], is also present in school. Teachers suffer aggres-
sions from their pupils; these in turn suffer aggressions from

their schoolmates, and not often from teachers as well[2].

School members are exposed both to aggressions, although

in different forms, and to coercions from the school institu-
tion. It’s not easy to become a teacher these days[3],[4],[5].

Recently, significant research has been focused on iden-
tifying emerging challenges, recent policy innovation, prac-

tices, and areas for action with an emphasis on the various

forms of violence that children experience in schools such as

bullying, cyberbullying[6], aggression and indiscip-
line[20],[35] in the educational system related with age[7],

gender[8],[9],[53], culture, ethnicity and social class. On the

other hand, a review of literature on this subject point out as

important areas to carry out further research on international

and cross-country comparative research as a way to facilitate

policy creation surrounding school violence in specific

countries, as in Israel[1]. This kind of research, can also give

a substantial contribute to theories of school violence[10]; to

change the scopus from individual characteristics of victims

and bullies to an understanding of how contexts, both within

and outside school, impact on school violence

* Corresponding author: (Ana Pedro)

Published online at

Copyright © 2012 Scientific & Academic Publishing. All Rights Reserved

[10],[11],[12],[13]; to develop a deeper theoretical under-
standing of factors such as minority status, ethnic and cul-
tural affiliation which are correlated within a given society

with poverty, education, deprivation and oppression.

On the other hand, the foundation of the International

Observatory on Violence in Schools enables to share out-

comes of relevant research, to benefit from international

scientific comparison on violence in schools[14].

The prevention and intervention actions for this kind of

violent behaviour required initiatives to reduce violence in

schools[15] which aimed at improving preventative factors

such as promoting a good school climate (e.g. Iceland; the

Netherlands and Norway); security approaches (e.g. Safe

Schools Programme in Portugal); encouraging a sense of

student responsibility (e.g. Austria and the Netherlands);

organising specific teacher training to deal with violence (e.g.

Ireland and Spain).

Alongside these activities, schools worldwide felt the urge

to develop specific anti-violent programmes (e.g. RESOLVE

Project Alberta; Capturing Kids’ Hearts & Teen Leadership;

School Violence Prevention Demonstrating Program; Ef-
fectiveness of Programs to Prevent School Bullying (Swe-
den); as well as guides (UNESCO), manuals (Doorways III:

Teacher Training Manual, On School-Related Gender-Based

Violence) and specific handbooks for teachers (Council of

Europe, Violence Reduction in Schools –how to make a

difference, A Handbook).

Commonly, the focus on this subject is concentrated on

the students’ level as well as teachers’, but it hardly refers to

the type of violence that is produced in that same


Ana Pedro: School Violence and Violence in School: A proposal for a Teacher Training Curriculum 74

However, the violence that the school and the teachers can

exert on students can produce in these same students

mechanisms of resistance[17],[18]. This way, violence

works like a spiral with repercussions not only at the be-
haviours, but also at the learning level since violence can

also be learned.

Therefore it is vital that the symptoms, the victims, the

aggressors and the spectators, as well as the places in which

it happens more frequently, are known[19],[33]. It is also

important to analyse and understand its functioning mecha-
nisms and underlying logic and to develop a group of

strategies that may enable to intervene positively in violent


Besides the relevancy of the international context re-
search about school violence demonstrated so far, a group a

teachers from the University of Aveiro (Portugal) felt the

urge to answer to the needs, interests and motivations that

teachers-in-training manifested concerning school violence.

Since violence will not disappear from schools, although it

may decrease, they feel that there is always something

schools can effectively do.

It becomes, therefore, necessary to go ahead with the de-
construction of some prejudices in which our action is rooted,

specially the belief that violence is a problem that comes

from society alone. Adding to this, the fact that our behav-
iour is conducted by (stereotyped) assumptions, led the

teachers to believe that a greater conscience about this

question was needed as a guiding system towards the action

of the group of teachers-in-training, through the implemen-
tation of a set of alternative strategies so it can effectively

contribute to reduce the problem as it rises today in our


Considering the above mentioned, it appears to be im-
perative, then, the necessity to develop a curriculum for

teachers-in-training as a way of instructing them how to deal

with school violence.

2. The Concept of Violence: From

Uncertainty to an Attempted


Violence is a term we often use with many different

meanings and in different contexts (economic, political,

social and individual) with different amplitudes, intensities

or subjectivities. For instance, what is for me a motive of

violence may not be so to someone else; and, as such, how do

we draw the line between what we can or not consider vio-
lence? And when does a certain type of strength turn into

violence? How to measure the excess or the abuse of


Therefore, the polysemic, subjective, complex and am-
biguous nature of the concept of violence should be taken

into account each time violence is referred to since not every

definition of the concept that is known to us will include the

same degree of complexity.

On the other hand, violence is also characterised by an

inherent intricacy once it can be explained by individual,

pathological, and behavioural factors, besides familiar and

social ones, and also by the interaction of each of these fac-

Usually, this concept is associated to strength (Latin: vis);

but we need to know to what type of force[21] or strength we

are referring to. Conversely, this kind of violence does not

include verbal aggression such as rumour spreading or social

and ethnic exclusion. The World Health Organisation de-
fines “violence” as “the intentional use of physical and

psychological force or power, threatened or actual, against

oneself, another person, or against a group or community,

that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in

injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development, or

deprivation” ([22]: 4).

For the time being, we shall adopt one definition in par-
ticular, which will be used throughout our study; this defi-
nition was created by the NOVA RES Project in which we

were partners: “violence is aggressive behaviour,that may be

physically, sexually or emotionally abusive. The aggressive

behaviour is conducted by an individual or group against

another, or others. Physically abusive is when a child, ado-
lescent or group directly or indirectly ill treats, injures or

kills another or others. The aggressive behaviour can in-
volve pushing, shoving, shaking, punching, kicking,

squeezing, burning or any other form of physical assault on a

person or on a property. Emotionally abusive behaviour is

where there are verbal attacks, threats, taunts, yelling, ex-
clusion and malicious rumours. Sexually abusive behaviour

is where there is sexual assault or rape” ([18]: 9).

3. Violence at school – Bullying

The first studies about bullying were carried out by

Olweus[23],[24] and were concentrated on the theoretical

reasons of the phenomenon, both in the description of the

school reality and its necessary intervention.

According to more recent studies[25],[26],[27],[28], we

can define bullying as an intentional action which is un-
chained by an individual, or a group of individuals that de-

cided to attack unjustly the other, for prolonged spaces in

time, and in so doing, exerting a psychological intimidation

on them, with a regular and frequent character. Examples of

bullying are pushing, blackmailing, insulting, telling scary

stories, violent freshmen receptions and excluding or re-
jecting addressing them with threats, and resorting to the use

of corporal aggression[29], but also verbal threats in order to,

for example, extort money.

The social isolation of the victims is something that is

looked for, because it is also a way of making sure that no-
body will interfere in this process, and in so doing the phe-
nomenon leaves the victim an unsurpassable fear of even

mentioning the fact to someone else.

This action usually falls on children which have a greater

difficulty in defending themselves while alone, and which

75 Education 2012, 2(4): 73-83

turns something like going to school into a real drama that

can affect their school outcomes.

These are children who usually lack social cooperation

skills or social and relational abilities; they have difficulties

in concentrating in schoolwork; they feel sick and unwilling

after having being violently attacked; they are anxious and

insecure and they have difficulty in falling asleep as a result

of suffering bullying from peers[25],[26],[63].

The aggressors, on the other hand, present exactly the

opposite characteristics of their victims: they are confident

and certain of themselves, they are not afraid[30] they are

usually popular among the others peers, but they are prone to

an aggressive stance which is usually a result of family hos-
tility and permissiveness[58] where aggression is something

accepted and reinforced, and therefore they will hardly regret

their behaviour.

Since this type of behaviour frequently happens during

school breaks in the playground[29] or out of school and

very often occurs on the way home to school, this makes it

difficult for the child to tell the teacher exactly what hap-
pened. Moreover, quite often teachers tend to undervalue or

depreciate the issue since they tend to believe that the chil-
dren’s complaints on school violence do not result from

actual violent behaviours, but rather from the children’s


3.1. (In)Discipline1

Taking into account that neither bullying nor indiscipline

is violence, they can however trigger violent actions.

Nonetheless, many situations of indiscipline that occur

more frequently in the classroom may be misinterpreted with

bullying; aggression between equals and those incidents of

“disruptive” nature whose “disturbance” affects the “good

classroom functioning”[35],[36] and it is these situations that

teachers most worry about, and end up suffering of stress and

also feel dissatisfaction for their students[4],[55],[56].

It should also be mentioned that aggressiveness is but a

dimension of indiscipline and the respect for the single per-
son that is the student should be taken into account when it

comes to making decisions and negotiating about school

rules and functioning modes, in order to make it easier for the

student to obey and accept rules. Creating a school cli-
mate[37],[38],[39],[40] that provides its students with an

experience of real democratic values will in turn allow them

to develop a set of social and relational competences of

pacific sociability and of resolution and negotiation of con-
flicts when faced, for example, with other’s opinions, how-
ever divergent they may be from their own[41],[42].

This is what Apple and Beane[43] talk about in Democ-
ratic Schools of deweyan inspiration according to which the

democratic way of life is learned through the learning by

“Disruptive school behaviour” was the term recently adopted to designate

undisciplined individuals who negatively separate themselves while facing

“school rules, damaging the learning environment, the learning conditions or the

empathy of the people in the schools”. The multidimensional structure of the

school disruption also includes, “aggression, lack of attention and the violation

of rules” ([34]: 21).

in the Classroom

doing and where we can find described various experiences

of four American schools that implemented successfully

democratic educational practices.

These are, however, not role model schools, but each one

has as basic assumptions the following: they feel tied to

anti-racist and anti-sexist principles, the educational prac-
tices result from a negotiated curriculum and an involvement

which is extended to both students and community, as well

as flexible forms of evaluation.

In spite of all the difficulties and obstacles that they had to

face and overcome the implementation of these democratic

schools, they are fundamentally characterised by “encour-
aging young people to critically analyse happenings and

problems and making it possible to question that which is

considered as dominant interpretations (teachings)” ([43]:


Therefore, studying spaces, and critical readings of social

problems, cooperative learning as a fundamental way of

democratic life, the involvement of young people in the

planning of their curriculum as well as a thorough effort to

deal with the cultural diversity and lessen the different con-

ditions related to the different cultures, are all privileged.

Yet we are well aware of the difficulties that all this brings

about, because like Perrenoud & Thurler ([44]: 53), we also

believe that “organizing a school like a democratic city is not

a magical trick, but demands sociologic imagination and

social, pedagogical and didactic engineering in order for its

formulation to be possible, and so that its daily experience be

both favourable to citizen learning compatible with the other

school tasks”.

3.2. Aggressiveness in the Playground and in the


As was referred to earlier on, aggressiveness is not a

synonym of violence. In effect, a degree of aggressiveness is

needed in the life of any human being, both in relation to

his/her development as a person, and in relation to his/her

capacity of responding when facing the challenges of the

surrounding environment (basic survival).

Nevertheless, if aggressiveness is natural to man, this does

not mean that violence is too. In fact, according to Sanmartin

([45]: 19), “the aggressive one is born, and the violent one

makes himself up”. In other words; although biology makes

us aggressive, it is culture that turns us into pacific or violent

beings. Culture has, then, a fundamental role in the con-
figuration of the human being for the better or for the worse.

Thus, when aggressiveness assumes an intentional inju-
rious behaviour for the other, and becomes violence, such is

also the result of a cultural evolution.

By recognising that there are some dimensions of our

culture that render favourable such violent behaviour[65] we

have to change those aspects of our culture that, in interac-
tion with our biology, induce such actions.

It is precisely in this context that we find that our school

can intervene, by changing the course of each one’s history

by proposing an alternative culture of non-violence.

In Bandura’s[47] understanding, aggressiveness is related

Ana Pedro: School Violence and Violence in School: A proposal for a Teacher Training Curriculum 76

to the social learning model. According to this theory,

aggressive behaviour is socially learned, and a number of

factors contribute to it such as family, school and television,

whose models are reproduced by those who were exposed

for a longer period to them as we shall refer to later on.

In a study about violence2

municipality of Aveiro conducted by us as researchers of the

University of Aveiro, and whose main objective consisted in

gathering statements of children’s voices about the mani-
festations of school violence in the different school spaces

(classrooms, corridors and playgrounds), it was stated that,

given the transitory character that the corridor assumes in

relation to the classroom and the playground, many situa-
tions of violence happened immediately outside the class-
room: “they start hitting us in the corridors” (8 years old);

“the boys are rough and don’t leave us alone…and no they

are not playing because I know when they play and when

they really hit us…” (8 years old).

It was also verified that “hitting” (67.5%), “the act of

tripping” (67%) and “insulting” (60%) were kept as the

maximum values of violence that happened in the corridors,

while “speaking badly” (62.5%) and “insulting” (57.5%)

represented higher rates of violence in the playground in all

of the schools, followed by physical aggression.

Authors came to the conclusion that most of these children

like to play in the playground because it was when that they

had an opportunity to do things that they could not do within

the classroom. Also, the playground represents the period of

the day when children can speak and make confidences to

their peers. However, some children are confronted with the

fact of being victims of aggressors that belonged “to our

classroom, but it is also the older boys who hit us” (8 years


The reasons linked to violent behaviour perpetrated by the

older boys when questioned, revealed the influence of a

cultural image that had been transmitted to them by the pa-
triarchal society: “it’s good to hit like in the Digimon and

Pokemon movies” (8 years old), where strength is associated

to the masculine image.

Through this study, it was possible to see that the experience of

violence in the school context became significant both when they

assumed the role of aggressor and also that of the victim: the exis-

About 120 children aged between 7 and 10 and belonging to classes considered

as problematic and in which acts of violence were registered (such as bodily

offences in and out of the classroom, insults and small acts of stealing) were

questioned. With the help of this study, we tried to get to know and understand

how the violence was not only defined, but also lived by these children, but also

to investigate the nature of the explicative reasons that they attributed to the

phenomenon. In order for this to happen, the following methodology was used:

semi-structured interviews (students and teachers) and questionnaire (teach-
ers-in-training), and the following variables were considered: sex, age, social

background, school spaces (classroom, corridors, playgrounds, and gymnasiums).

The places of study chosen by us were the classroom and the gymnasium because

it was in these that a greater number of violent actions took place. Besides this,

the choice of schools was based on the following criteria: 1) belonging both to the

urban and rural zone, in order to estimate the importance of each one of these

vectors on a behavioural level; 2) the existence of a significant number of chil-
dren that registered some school experience and that could reflect a greater

adequacy as to the comprehension of the reality in which they were inserted.

in three primary schools in the

tence of an atmosphere of insecurity (mainly for the girls) did not

allow them to resolve the problem directly, and this only increased

the “conscience of strength” of the aggressor.

Yet they knew what to do in each case; for example, “thinking

about not doing that anymore (hitting…); apologising; hugging

each other; calling the teacher; separate the boys and make up

(become friends again); only watching movies that are not violent;

there should be more respect in the corridors”.

The aggressors (mostly boys) shared a number of positive con-
victions about violence, something passed on to them by the violent

culture of today’s society; parents and teachers have then an

important responsibility to carry out.

4. Some Important Causes of the School


There are a number of individual factors that play an im-
portant role in the aggressive behaviour of some children and

which need to be known and understood in order to be dealt


Indeed there are certain pathologies related to aggres-

siveness, for example, children with an attention disorder

(attention deficit) and hyperactive children, or those that

show a weak tolerance when faced with frustration, low self

esteem, or a clinical report of depression and stress.

Sometimes it can simply be a difficult child. Other times,

we are faced with children that are badly taken care of at

home, with lack of affection and care, and these do no more

than represent the familiar models of aggressive behaviour.

We are talking about dysfunctional families (drug addiction,

alcohol, drinking problems, poverty, delinquency),[48]

where aggressive behaviours can break out.

In these cases it was noticed that these children identify

themselves with the masculine model, because children learn

that culturally the father carries the social expectation to

solve all sort of problems.

When this happens, the family – which should be a source

of security, stability and affection very much needed for the

development of a normal child – also transforms itself in

violence, when its functioning role models of solving prob-
lems characterise themselves by being more punishing than

having dialogue or negotiation. The family, then, para-
doxically appears to be “the most violent institution of our

society” in which the woman is often badly treated as a result

of a patriarchal3 culture.

According to this study, it was possible to establish a very

important factor related to gender, which showed the exal-
tation of the patriarchal culture and the aggressive models in

the culture of our society, reported by the boys when ques-


About this Sanmartin [45] expresses a series of myths about the family, which

are prone to change in our days, as a result of more information about violence

and also because of the female emancipation, not only economical, financial, but

also cultural, being more and more able to accuse or denounce violence cases.

The myths are: 1) a domestic violence is relatively diminutive; 2) a domestic

violence is a result of psychiatric problems; 3) only in less fortunate classes is

there violence.

77 Education 2012, 2(4): 73-83

tioned about the reasons for their behaviour. As matter of

fact, the boys identified strength with reason, as a result of

the television[49],[50],[54], cinema and video game su-
premacy,[46],[51],[52], which, in turn, certainly influenced

these same boys, especially when they find themselves in

front of others alone, exposed and unprotected4 children.

In contrast, the girls practised violence in a subtle and in-
direct way[53] turning to exclusion, marginalization or si-

Given the huge amount of violent images that children see

every day, it is easy to understand that they consider normal

to kill and shoot as a means to solving their conflicts and

problems, and that those that have the strength are those who

are right. According to this logic, children are developing a

certain insensitiveness to the others’ pain and putting them-
selves into another level of reality which is far from the

affections, and where “everything can be done” because all

this is virtual.

In fact, just like K. Popper states, “children while using

from the diversion that television is, have a great difficulty in

distinguishing reality from fiction mainly because their un-
derstanding of the world is very limited” ([54]: 37).

Further, we still see various images that show sexist atti-
tudes, and that in no way dignify the woman and therefore

contribute to a bigger crystallization of stereotypes and so-
cial prejudices[1]. In this sense it is possible to state that television also favours

the subliminal learning of violence that the child then

transposes into the school atmosphere and in which the “very

contents of each programme and publicity spot deeply in-
fluences the attitudes, beliefs and actions of the chil-
dren”([54]: 40).

It is then urgent that parents and teachers together know

how to critically reflect and discuss with their children tele-
vision programmes and what values they want to transmit,

and not dismiss themselves from their fundamental role as


The results from what we have explained are that the ex-
planation for violent behaviour does not depend alone from

one variable but from a group of variables that in intersection

justify some of its complexity, facts that the school should be

aware of if it wants to intervene with quality in the life and

education of this society’s citizens.

Another side of the discussion about violence is that which tries to determine

the degree of influence of the media in the induction of violent behaviour for

those who are on the outer side watching. Even though we share the idea that the

media are not the only responsible ones for the growth of child and youth vio-
lence, we do however attribute on them some responsibility above all when”

living in a home in which you can see or suffer mistreats, in which there is

alcohol or drugs, when there are bad relations between parents or between

parents and children, in a home in which the economic, psychological and social

factors are not equal to those of a normal family, when you live in excessively

small homes, or homes with no conditions at all and have no family support or

support from any friends, these are circumstances in which television can in-
crease or develop beliefs, attitudes and violent behaviours that are already

existing” ([54]: 108). Another interesting analysis about this question of vio-
lence is its relation with democracy, enunciated by Popper [54] in Television: a

danger for democracy for whom the refusal of television makes up the essence of


5. The Violence of School

From what was analysed until now, we can state that the

school is like a stage of violent manifestations of a distinct,

but somewhat complex nature (violence, bullying, indiscip-
line, aggressiveness). This happens due to many explicative

factors (from individual to family to social ones); it happens

in specific different places (classroom, corridors, play-
grounds, stairs); it involves different agents (victims, ag-
gressors, observers), and it is exerted on various levels

(among peers, from children to teachers, and to the system).

But if this form of school violence that we were referring

to till now has been object of some more intense debate and

research, the same cannot relatively be said about what

concerns the violence of the school[14].

When it comes to the teachers, the level of stress and

dissatisfaction felt[55],[56] because of the educational in-
novations that they are always subject to, (school violence,

multiculturalism, citizenship, indiscipline…), but for which

they are not prepared, ends up in attitudes of resistance to

change. Further, the bureaucratic weight of the school as

institution and the lack of communication, or the difficulty in

communicating with the student’s parents represent a strong

level of stress that teachers have to deal with. It was noticed

very often that the school can become violent in its action

when it forbids students of doing activities they enjoy or,

even worst, school can become violent when, without no-
ticing it, school teaches violence ([57]: 152) by effectively

practising it through its functioning and organisation,

through its contents that seem that are aimed at producing

school failure. According to Perrenoud & Thurler[44], it is

the very school that manufactures intentionally the produc-
tion mechanisms of school failure. Indeed, the assessment is

an example of this, as a regulating practice of school or-
ganisation, and being this practice subject to various under-
lying criteria of institutional excellence that are arbitrarily

defined. These rules concern the decisions for the manage-
ment of the classroom, the selection and school improvement.

Therefore, when the school assesses through the standard-
ized tests, it fosters injustices since this kind of assessment is

based on rules that are arbitrarily created by the school in-
stitution itself and do not take into account the actual social,

cultural and linguistic asymmetries that characterize the

student population. Further, the paradox seems to increase

when, after all that has been said about evaluation through

standardized testing, the school intends to continue teaching

and does not seem to grasp why it is not able to do so with


5.1. “Symbolic Violence”

School is violent because it produces in part its own school

failure. Let us see: language and school culture are normally

very far from familiar language[58],[64] and culture, from

reading and interpretation codes of the world and from real-

Thus, there is a certain type of language, knowledge and

learning, that is excluded a priori and whose knowledge falls

Ana Pedro: School Violence and Violence in School: A proposal for a Teacher Training Curriculum 78

on excellence choices that are merely arbitrary. This way,

school excludes and marginalizes a future citizen, something

which is paradoxical, especially when it speaks of democ-
racy[44] in which the cognitive inconsistence between say-
ing and doing is accentuated. It is in this sense that Perrenoud

and others[59] consider that the curriculum constitutes a

source of violence for the students when it accentuates its

selective effects. Very often we see that the school also ex-
erts other forms of violence when it puts together children of

the same age in the same class, and by doing so assumes

beforehand that all the children are in the same conditions as

to their acquired academic knowledge, and transforming the

cultural inheritance in inequality of school success, or even

when it puts together children according to their parents

academic level.

It so happens, as we very well know, that not all of these

children had the same opportunities of learning which means

that some may have a more difficult school course, and will

have a greater number of obstacles to outperform.

On the other hand, traces of violence were registered in the

teacher that shields himself/herself in the list of verbs to copy,

in the long copies (transcripts), in the games that encourage

an excessive competition, and leading to discrimination, and

mockery between equals, to ridiculing and even insults, or

even more, when they dismiss themselves from the alleged

interest that they should manifest for their students when

these become difficult problems, nearly insoluble, and

therefore dooming them to disdain and abandon.

Violence manifests itself in the classroom when the class
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