Violence in schools

The Association has been busy with submissions this year. This is what we had to say about violence in schools.

Violence in schools

AWE strongly supports the inquiry into violence in schools and urges the committee of inquiry to ensure that the issues of gender and violence are not ignored. Association members are willing to discuss issues in this submission with the committee.

Changes in the nature of violence in schools

  • Although there is no specific data available to substantiate claims of increasing violence in schools, women and girls in schools across Queensland have been expressing their concern about the prevalence of sexual harassment, particularly verbal.
  • Racist harassment as well as sexual harassment is a constant barrier to the achievements of many students. In the Listening to Girls report, sexual harassment is referred to by girls as the most systematic and constant form of abuse towards girls at all levels of schooling.

Types of violence in schools

  • The types of violence occurring in schools include:
    • verbal abuse; and
    • harassment based on gender, culture, socio-economic differences, disability, and other differences, such as giftedness.
  • Students are also subjected to all forms of physical violence, including rape.
  • Female teachers are often confronted or threatened by physically intimidating boys.
  • Some students are intimidated by the louder, larger students, and therefore remain silent and repressed in their behaviour.
  • Some teachers have been threatened by parents of students, verbally and physically.
  • Young female teachers have been subjected to intimidation by students.
  • Most violent behaviour is perpetrated by males towards females (teachers and students).
  • The condoned macho, competitive image of males is often threatening to female students and teachers. This behaviour is often displayed during competitive sport sessions.
  • Violence, be it verbal, physical or both, is still used as the only form of managing student behaviour. Many schools still use corporal punishment as a form of student discipline.

Factors influencing violence in schools

  • The role models of parents and teachers often reinforce the idea that aggressive behaviour is the only way of resolving conflict.
  • Role models via the curriculum tend to reinforce aggressive, stereotypical male behaviour as the norm.
  • Competitive sport reinforces aggression, particularly in male students, and does little to foster co-operation, negotiation and valuing difference.
  • Film, television and some literature are a powerful influence on maintaining violent behaviour towards females. Rewards for aggression are often inherent in these media.
  • The administrative and leadership structures of many schools only reinforce the position of male power over females, and do little to encourage collaboration and teamwork.
  • Toys, playground equipment, leisure activities, computer games, etc. often encourage and perpetuate violent behaviour and aggression.

The impact of violence on schools

  • One of the effects of harassment and violence towards girls in school is that they are pressured into under-achieving and keeping quiet about their successes, and they are intimidated into not contributing to class discussion.
  • If students have violent and aggressive behaviour condoned or affirmed, they are only learning one form of behaviour and are not able to explore alternative methods of resolving conflict or dealing with difference.

Addressing violence
There are a number of policies within the Queensland Department of Education which specifically address the issues of violence and harassment in schools. The Association of Women Educators supports the maintenance and further strengthening of the following:

  • sexual harassment policy and grievance procedures;
  • anti-racism policy;
  • supportive school environment policy;
  • inclusive curriculum policy;
  • social justice policy;
  • gender equity policy;
  • the Queensland Government's policy statement, Stop violence against women;
  • The National Action Plan for the Education of Girls 1993-1997.