Medium 9781855756137

School Violence

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Experiences of violence in schools are encountered much more frequently than they used to be. The shocking repercussions of these acts are felt nation-wide and particularly impact school populations, families and communities. This book undertakes to illuminate factors pertaining to the phenomenon of school violence. It is intended for professionals such as school principals, teachers, social workers, psychologists, school administrators, school counselors and all who work directly with youth in various contexts. It is also intended for parents, family and community members, youth advisors and mentors, youth group leaders, religious advisors, counsellors, and others interested in the wellbeing of children and adolescents.

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CHAPTER ONE: Setting the stage

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During 1996–97 approximately 4,000 incidents of rape or other types of sexual battery were reported in United States public schools. Weapons were used in about 11,000 incidents of physical attacks or fights and 7,000 robberies occurred in schools that year. Approximately 190,000 fights or physical attacks not involving weapons also occurred at schools in 1996–97, along with about 115,000 thefts and 98,000 incidents of vandalism (National Center for Education Statistics, 1997). In a survey conducted by the National Council for Education Statistics (NCES) in 2000 the following information was noted (National Center for Education Statistics, 2000). According to school principals, 71% of public elementary and secondary schools experienced at least one violent incident during the 1999–2000 school year (including rape, sexual battery other than rape, physical attacks or fights with and without a weapon, threats of physical attack with and without a weapon, and robbery with and without a weapon). In all, approximately 1,466,000 such incidents were reported in public schools in 1999–2000. One or more serious violent incidents (including rape, sexual battery other than rape, physical attacks orfights with a weapon, threats of physical attack with a weapon, and robbery with and without a weapon) occurred in 20 percent of public schools.

 

CHAPTER TWO: Depth psychology and school violence

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The material offered in this chapter will begin the journey into the underlying depths hidden beneath the overt behaviours described as school aggression and violence. In this section we will be looking at the connections between experiences of violence and expressions of psyche. Individual and cultural contexts will be explored. Although depth psychological concepts are introduced here, I want to reassure the reader that this book is not about depth psychology. It is about the underlying dynamics of school violence. I have found the best tools for exploring these dynamics in aspects offered by various depth psychological approaches. This chapter is an introduction to some of these methods, and in particular those that can assist us in delving more deeply into the more unknown aspects of school violence and related experiences. An understanding of the concepts and tools mentioned in this chapter will enable the reader to better follow the case studies and analysis that are presented later.

 

CHAPTER THREE: New ideas on school alienation and violence

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In this chapter I will be using composite case material taken from personal interactions with adolescent groups and individual clients to illustrate psychological factors existing on individual and collective levels. Theoretical views will be introduced from a Jung-ian perspective and linked to behavioural dynamics and interventions made. Concepts and experiential factors explored here bring increased understanding of the role of the school avenger, and what transpires to constellate that role in the school field. Material that is usually held secret is revealed from the perspective of the adolescent, and interventions mentioned are those that help to contain the disavowed experiences, creating a place where they can be shared and processed.

I have been working with groups of adolescents at a local high school facilitating dialogue, processing dreams, and using exercises to support the growth of self-awareness and individuation. Whereasvery reticent at first, group members have begun to speak a little more openly about their home lives, their relationships with their parents, siblings, and each other, their school situation, their views on life, and very hesitantly about their inner experiences. The group is slowly becoming a temenos; a “sacred precinct”; a sacrosanct place impenetrable to threat to those within its boundaries (Jung, 1911). As group members begin to feel safer and more contained, they are less reluctant to share their thoughts and feelings. Here is a description of one of our meetings.

 

CHAPTER FOUR: Interventive methods

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In this chapter the worlds of alienation and violence will be populated with the figures, spirits, and archetypes that exist in realms that may not usually be held in human awareness. The parallel worlds or other dimensions in which these figures live out their myths and engage in their interactions, battles, loves, and deaths are usually mostly unconscious, but present themselves through dreams, myths, fairy tales, fables, synchronicities, disturbances, and symptomatic behaviours. The tools offered by process-oriented dreambody work, techniques of personification, active imagination, dream-telling and analysis, and the use of myth and fairy tales are extremely effective in penetrating the often-found barriers and resistances erected by most youth. In particular, the child or adolescent who is angry and isolated will be strongly defensive when approached through attempts at relationship. I have found the use of imaginal methods, which will be further described, to be helpful in cultivating connection and drawing the individual out from behind the mask he or she presents to the world. These techniques are also useful in group work.

 

CHAPTER FIVE: Preventive measures

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Another way of exploring alienation and violence in schools is through an approach that views symptomatic behaviour in light of the unconscious conflicts, deficits, and distortions of intrapsychic structures and internal object relations. The individual’s internal world is given paramount importance and is explored through dreams, associations, impulses, wishes, self-images, perceptions of, and psychological reactions to others, and projections heaped upon them.

Exploring psychodynamic phenomena in the arena of alienation and violence among youth can lead to a better understanding of what may be occurring within psychological structures of the potential school offender, allowing us to make better contact with her through empathic understanding. In recognizing these intrapsy-chic dynamics, early recognition can occur of children with tendencies for violent expression, facilitating remedial action at an early stage. A deeper understanding of what occurs on psychological levels within a child perpetrator of acts of violence can facilitate interaction with him by providing a means to access the authentic split-offparts of the child. In delving into particular patterns observed in experiences associated with anger, aggression, withdrawal, suicid-ality, self-destructiveness, and violent impulses toward others, not only can we be of help to the disturbed child, but recognizing these patterns can also help us to identify other children who have a tendency toward the same behaviour. In understanding the deeper layers of psychodynamic functioning within the individual, we become more able to understand and acknowledge associated experiences, thus becoming more able to be of help to the child in his loss, pain, or inner conflict.

 

CHAPTER SIX: Group dialogue and the quantum field

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One of the most potent ways of defusing challenging and disturbing situations is through group dialogue. The opportunity to talk about difficult issues and problems is invaluable as both a preventive and interventive measure in times of potential or escalating violence. Children, who are having problems in the school setting, benefit enormously from being able to find support and understanding for their experiences. This of course can occur on a one-to-one level, but it is in the group situation that the individual child or adolescent can find her own experience mirrored in the sharing of others, thus breaking through often-experienced self-judgment, alienation, and isolation. Hearing group members talk of similar inner experiences to oneself, relieves the individual of the burden of carrying something deemed monstrous that appears to belong only to oneself. The group dialogue format also provides a milieu in which all levels of a system can interact creating a bridge between the various populations contained within the larger structure that usually have no contact with each other. This is valuable in expanding the identity of the system and in cultivating an attitude that includes and acknowledges the views of all its members.Any enduring society must be grounded upon recognition of the motivating desires of the individual and of the group (Follett, 1965). A democratic way of life involves working towards an honest integration of all points of view. Social phenomena are a continuous process, which are always changing, and every human activity and decision is “not a thing in itself, but merely a moment in a process” (p. 15). Parker Follett equates conflict with continued, unintegrated difference and sees conflict as constructive and neither good nor bad. She uses the term “integration” to describe her method of exploring and resolving difference as compared to compromise. “Compromise does not create, it deals with what already exists; integration creates something new which can be applied to the disturbance to make it constructive. Integration is a method of bringing differences out into the open” (p. 35). In order to be a democrat we need to learn how to live with other humans. Progress itself depends on the group, and the group is the basis of a progressive and workable social psychology. Problems can be solved by the subtle process of the intermingling of all the different ideas of the group. What evolves from the group process is a composite idea, rather than my idea or your idea, and “I” then represents the whole, rather than one part of it. Something new is created. The essence of the group process is an acting and reacting; a process which brings out differences and integrates them into a unity. The complex reciprocal action, the interweaving of the members of the group, is the social process. The core of the social process is the harmonizing of difference through interpenetration.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: Conclusion and final reflections

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The Pink Floyd song “Another Brick in the Wall”, (Pink Floyd, 1979) reflects the victimization that students may feel at the hands of teachers. It also expresses the sense of abandonment felt when adults who are looked to for guidance and support, either attempt to control and dominate the kids, or leave them bereft of emotional support or understanding. The sense by those in control that the “evil” nature of kids will take over, is suffered by the students, who may begin to feel more and more isolated and misunderstood. From a socio-political perspective, a society that primarily identifies with valuing and loving children, tends to deny the resentment and dislike it may feel toward its children and adolescents. Violent feelings towards youth, while being consciously denied, are made obvious in the alarming numbers of young people who are incarcerated at the hands of a legal system mostly hostile to youth, and in the statistics showing the many incidents of child abuse.

Within the school system children can be seen as burdensome nuisances who are non-compliant, defying what is expected of them. An unconscious attitude permeating relationships betweenmany teachers and students puts the child or adolescent in the role of the rebel who is expected to consciously go against the structure, rules, and regulations governing the system. Cultural and historical views of children, which are generally mistrustful of children’s motivation finding children onerous, influence these relationships and result in the student feeling alienated as he or she is met with an attitude mostly devoid of love and appreciation. In addition, the system does not include each individual child in choices made to create the structure in which the student finds herself immersed on a daily basis. This exacerbates an already established pattern of marginalization of children that exists in the culture as a whole. The result is that students, not finding a place in the school system where they can be celebrated for their individuality, become resentful and angry, attempting to draw attention to themselves by acting out or creating disturbance. The emphasis on high achievement and rewards for those who excel over their peers, creates a climate of failure and competitiveness, which further adds to the alienation and lack of appreciation felt by many. In the background of students’ interactions with administrators, teachers, and other students exists a range of emotions, including unconscious longing, hostility, and vengefulness. The school system projects onto individual school children, especially those who are outside of expected standards of behaviour, the qualities that have been unconsciously marginalized by the system itself. These children are then seen as disturbing, representing the aggressive, potentially violent tendencies that have been repressed within the system and the culture. As there is no acknowledgement that there is no place for denied aspects of human nature on individual and systemic levels, exploring the shadow on a collective level is avoided through scapegoating of the individual student, who is then punished or cast out of the collective fold.

 

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