The problem of school violence is of widespread concern in Canadian communities. Unfortunately, much of the literature to date has focused on perceptions and statistics as drawn from the media, teachers, politicians and law enforcement agencies, not students themselves.
Notwithstanding the need for collaboration among students, teachers, administrators, parents, police, the courts, and government to reduce youth crime and violence, there is a strong belief that society’s best investment lies in the education system. In order for schools to improve continually and develop new strategies for dealing with violent behavior, they must first understand the nature and extent of the problem.
Ascertaining students’ perceptions of school violence, as well as better understanding how and why students, as victims and/or perpetrators, experience and respond to violent behavior would be beneficial in this regard. There are several key questions to consider in educational research such as how accurately do perceptions portray reality? And are perceptions shaped by identifiable and commonly occurring factors?” Reviewing conclusions researchers have drawn on the topic of school violence should therefore take into account the role perception had in determining those views. For example, not everyone is in agreement with expanding definitions of school violence. Such broad definitions of violence serve to distort and unduly escalate the “moral panic” associated with school violence discussions.
Much of the hysteria has come from grouping behavioral or discipline problems together with crime and violence. Furthermore, he challenged the assumption that violence is a critical deterrant to effective learning in school. The statistics indicate increases in school violence, even in the broader context, are not indicative of what is truly occurring in Alberta schools, which are largely safer than the media and public believe. Recent headlines (e.g., “Fear in the Halls”, Calgary Herald) in Canadian newspapers seem to support those who suggest school violence is largely a product of media hype serving to inflame perceptions of a problem that has remained stable for years.
Regardless of whether there has been an increase in violence, staff and students must work diligently towards maintaining a peaceful school. Nonaction was not an option and would be viewed as signaling a message to students that violent actions were condoned or the largest impediment to effectively dealing with school violence is not non-action,, it is denial; “that code of silence that permeates the student and staff population and minimizes the true number of incidents that are taking place every day”. This silence can lead to as much as 50% under-reporting of school- based violence.