School violence is a major concern for all. The incidences of violence in schools have been on the increase over the past one decade, sending shockwaves among stakeholders not only in the education sector but across other sectors too. From statistics collected in different parts of the world, the scope of violence is quite wide ranging from bullying, homicides, threats, theft and suicide. Raising awareness on this issue seems important at every level. It is also important that people get all the facts in order to understand the problem in a more informed way. News in the media may portray a completely different picture. By receiving the news constantly one may get the notion that schools are simply unsafe while this may not be the case. This paper will compare how media portrays school violence and compare it with the actual facts as demonstrated by professional scholars.
News Articles Presentation of School Violence
Scholarly Articles on School Violence
Violence in Schools
School violence may be categorized as a branch of youth violence. It involves the use of power or force resulting in physical harm to the targeted individual or group of persons. The victims of violence also suffer psychologically. In many schools, cases of violent behaviors are reported on frequently. The most common forms of violence are bullying, sexual violence, gang violence, threats, fighting, vandalism as well as use of weapons (Epstein, Elwood, Hey, and Maw 1998). According to statistics by the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence, cases of bullying in schools increased from 5% to 8% in the year, 2001. School violence has negative impacts, some of which are long term. The violence interferes with the normal learning in schools. According to studies, most criminals in the society have a connection with bullying incidences in school. Most bullies in school are also believed to be exposed to abuse while at the outside school environment (Scott 2000).
News Articles Presentation of School Violence
Incidences of violence in school are very common. The media has been at the fore front in highlighting these cases. Some stake holders have questioned the way the media portrays this violence accusing it of being insensitive to the victims and the perpetrators as well as the general society. A familiar news article that elicited debate in many parts of the world took place in Toronto, Canada. A sexual assault incidence was reported in 2006 by students of C.W. Jeffery’s that involved a young girl who is said to come from a minority race. A group of concerned students felt that the girls from that isolated race would become a constant target by the boys. This victimization incidence was reported to the school administration which unfortunately did not report to the police. The parents of the girl were also not informed. It is claimed that the girl would have been abused further by the parents if they became aware of the incident owing to the religious and ethnic doctrines of her background. It is reported that the girl faced further harassment from other students who made her a subject of ridicule. The girl became overly isolated, succumbing to depression until she was transferred from the school (Lewis 1992).
The school administration remained mute on the incidence without taking any disciplinary action on the perpetrators of the assault until a district education panel learnt of the incidence and immediately interdicted the principal and his two deputies. The media brought the incidence to the world attention after the incidence was reported to the police. Upon revelation of a confidential report by the Toronto star on June 30, 2007, the Toronto District Schools Board (TDSB) released the report on July 6, 2007 with the media and the community demanding further details on measures the committee had put in place to ensure the safety of female students from minority racial groups. The perpetrators were arrested on September 19, 2007 following police investigations. The boys claimed upon interrogation that they preferred their school to only have students from their race with whom they could interact freely. It was found out that the students had been brought up with reservations and ill attitude towards the race from which the girl came from. The incidence at C.W. Jeffery’s brings out a real picture of inequality and marginalization that leads to perpetration of violence in many schools based on even other factors such as social class, gender and age differences (Lewis, 1992).
In such a case, the media played a role in resolving a case touching on violation of basic human rights. This however; may not always be the case. A case study on an incidence that occurred in South Africa in 2011 portrays the reverse side of the media. According to statistics from South African Human Rights Groups, more than 27,000, women are raped annually. The reporting of an incidence in which a young girl was gang raped by school mates inside the school compound and the incident allegedly filmed on phone caused concern particularly in the way it was reported by the media. The media treated this incidence casually to an extent of invading the privacy and dignity of the victim. While some media outlets observed professionalism in reporting by avoiding to name the school where the rape incidence took place, one went ahead even to interview the girl (Banjac and Fletcher 2010). The Star Newspaper wrote “My school rape horror” in which the girl narrated the ordeal. It’s argued by psychiatrists that the decision to ask a child to recount such a traumatic episode only leads to further deterioration of their state of mind and may result in secondary trauma. The reporting further expounded on the vulnerability of the girl who stated that the incidence made her scared of boys and that she contemplated suicide. Media broadcast on such sentiments by a child infiltrates into her privacy and dignity (Banjac and Fletcher 2010).
The United Nations Convention on Child Rights states clearly that any matters touching on a child’s welfare, the interest of the child must take precedence. The way in which the media exposed this child’s vulnerability contradicts on that provision and is unconstitutional too. Only counselors or police may demand such an explanation so as to recommend the necessary action forward and not news casters whose interest is only to “sell a story”. The manner which the media portrays information on violence by interviewing victims could compromise on any criminal proceedings in the future (Banjac and Fletcher 2010).
In many matters involving violence, the media ought to treat it as thus without looking for justification on why an incident occurred. The media on many occasions has failed to put emphasis on the fact no matter the circumstances, any form of violence, or discrimination based on gender, race age color or creed can at no time be excused. Many media outlets cover news on such incidences in a manner that points to or could be interpreted as a justification for the crime or putting blame on the victim, for example stating that a victim was raped or physically abused because he or she was drunk is attributing the blame on the victim and could jeopardize their healing process (Banjac and Fletcher 2010).
School violence has been portrayed by the media as a very common incidence; however this may not be the case. Nerve wrecking incidences such as shooting sprees in schools make it look like an entirely unsafe place. Studies show that several communities in the world over have a misplaced perception about schools. Many think the education system is chaotic and supportive of violence. This feeling has been linked to the way the media presents school violence incidents (Scott 2000).
The presentation of these statistics by the media and the frequency with which they are reported creates an image of school children that are practically out of order. This may not necessarily be the case since to a large extent the school environment has always been perceived as the safest place for all children. Social experts argue that media coverage of the school violence cases only acts to exacerbate the problem. It would therefore, be more sensible if the media highlighted more on the underlying causes of violence as opposed to the mere reporting of the incidences. This would greatly benefit the entire society since some are completely ignorant on such matters (Estrada 2001).
Scholarly Articles on School Violence
International conferences and scholarly articles have placed focus on violence in schools in Europe, America and other developing states. These articles strongly present societal issues that may affect children in school environments. These include social inequality, racism and ethnicity. These factors have a connection to violence witnessed in schools. From studies carried out in Canada schools in previous century, rampant cases of discrimination on the basis of race or social back ground have been reported. Violence particularly against females is a widespread problem with statistics indicating that up to fifty percent of girls below sixteen years of age have been exposed to one or more forms of violence. The most affected are the refugees, the disabled, lesbians and trans-gendered girls. Researchers indicate that stigmatization, poverty and stereotyping increase the vulnerability of victims to violence in schools. It is of paramount importance to report incidences of any form of abuse to relevant authorities. Incidences of bodily harm, hate speech on the basis of race, gender or social inequity, threats and any other form of criminal harassment is an offence and should be reported. Schools in which children from poor families learn face many challenges such as allocation of less resource and therefore have no access to quality education (Angela 2002). Such children may feel neglected and bitter with the society to an extent of becoming violent. Education should serve as an equalizing platform for all children; however this is not the case in most parts. Studies in the United States have concluded that social background greatly influences children’s school life. Racial discrimination which was rampant in the United States in early 21st century was responsible for the distinctive performance differences in school children of the time (Borum, et.al 2000).
The socioeconomic status has a connection with the level of cognitive skills in children as demonstrated by many studies carried out in the United States. Bullies always target those who do not conform to some behavioral patterns which form school cultures. Racist violence is believed to occur more in schools than the outside society in Britain. Students who come from different and particularly minor ethnic backgrounds or marginalized groups are more targeted by those from larger ethnic groups for bullying. Other forms of inequality analyzed by Dei touch on sexism and gender based violence. Cases of female students being molested by their male counterparts in schools are common. Male students have also been harassed by female students although this is usually rare. Dei expounds on the issue of gender based violence, its causes and remedy. In his article he states that children need to be brought up receiving information from adults on the need to respect others irrespective of race, color, class or gender. By comparing the media reports with the scholarly articles, including Dei’s description, the factors responsible for violence in school have been clearly outlined (Dei 2006).
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