2 - Schools being tested by violence
by Verhoeven Marie, GIRSEF, Catholic University of Louvain
Serhadlioglu Eliz, GIRSEF, Catholic University of Louvain

Theme : International Journal on Violence and School, n°10, December 2009

This contribution analyses the manner in which the scientific field and the political debate take shape in the field of "violence" and "deviance » in schools in the French-speaking Community of Belgium. After having catalogued the sparse quantitative data available, the article reviews the main research conducted within three disciplines (social psychology, sociology, criminology). Four models of intelligibility of violence in schools have emerged, referring back to different social action and deviance concepts. The last part compares these models to proposals that provide the structure of public action in education (both in terms of the content of decrees and through the experiences recorded in the field).

Keywords : School violence, deviance, Belgium (French-speaking community), theoretical models of violence, social integration, symbolic violence, deviant career, public action in education..
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Belgium is a federalized country with a complex political structure . It is divided into three regions for territorial matters as economy, urbanization, employment policies for example (Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia) and three communities for matters relating to the people as culture, youth, education (Flemish Community, the French Community and the German Community). In Flanders, the competencies of the Flemish Region and the Flemish Community are merged in the Flemish government. In contrast with other federal states, regional governments in Belgium have full power concerning their competencies, meaning that these legislations exist at the same hierarchical level as federal laws. The competency over educational matters is a community-based competency . This has resulted in the development of three different educational systems. Despite a lot of similarities between these systems (parents’ “free choice” of school, coexistence of several “educational networks” …), they have been evolving towards bigger differentiation as a result of different policies. Equally, we can speak of different scientific cultures in both areas – Flanders being more influenced by Anglo-Saxon intellectual traditions whereas French-speaking Wallonia has been more influenced by the French debate and research perspectives.
These political and cultural differences affect the way problem behaviour and violence within the school environment is dealt with, resulting in different notions, priorities, and prevention and treatment programs developed within these systems.
In summary, because the name “Belgium” covers two co-existing but very different political, educational and scientific realities, we will present two distinct contributions, dealing respectively with Flanders and with the French Community.

A review of data and of the scientific literature in the French-speaking Community (CFB) leads us to emphasise, at the outset, to what extent the structuring of this field of research differs from that observed in Flanders. First of all, if we had to identify a discipline that predominates in this issue, it would undoubtedly be social psychology. Then, scientific cultures - on each side of the linguistic border differ: in CFB, the social sciences have always been open to thought trends that structure scientific debate in France, and less receptive to inputs based on Anglo-Saxon traditions (to which Flemish researchers are more sensitive). It is in this context that we can come to terms with the presence of sociological research in the field of violence and deviance in schools, marked by a «Durkheimian» tradition (concerns about social integration) or by a "critical" reading of the school institution (analysis of social reproduction processes). Finally, it should be noted that in CFB as elsewhere (Carra, Faggianelli, 2003), research in this field often has a " finalized” character since its aim consists in identifying explanatory factors or models likely to provide guidance for political action.
As regards the notions applied in this field of research, we will see that they are many and that they vary fairly significantly according to the approaches. In this article, we will endeavour to pay attention to methods used to establish how the limits of the concept of "violence" are identified. These limits vary from one discipline to the next and focus on different reality perception levels. Four points structure this contribution. After having quickly listed the sparse data on the issue in the CFB (I), we shall undertake a review of the main research carried out in this field, organized from three major disciplinary perspectives (II). In a third phase, we will try to identify four “type” analysis models which structure this field of research (III). The last part of the article briefly addresses the links between the scientific field and public action (IV).

The scarcity and inaccessibility of data relating to education in the French-speaking Community of Belgium is striking . The «education indicators» published by the Education Department do not contain any figures for absenteeism or for dropping out, and even fewer on facts that can be qualified as violence or delinquency. Some data on the reasons for permanent student exclusion only exist on the official network of the French-speaking Community. Thus, in 2007, of 1,200 exclusion files forwarded to the administration, approximately one third concerned serious disciplinary issues (serious disruption in class, ineffectual sanctions etc.) and violence (carrying a knife, physical aggression etc.). We have been unable to obtain more details. We also know that the department providing psychological assistance to teachers who are victims of violence receives about 20 requests per year as a result of violence perpetrated by students against these teachers.
The main reference presenting sound methodological guarantees is provided by the "surveys on victimization in secondary education" commissioned by the French-speaking Community in 2000 and 2003, and implemented by an inter-university team . The aim consisted in producing, from a representative questionnaire survey targeting teachers and students, an extensive database on "violent » behaviour whose actors claim to have been victims. This is "self-reported" data that is assumed to be more reliable than the data collected by the judicial institutions or by the police. The objectives consisted in quantifying victimization types in (and outside) the school environment, in quantifying and comparing “objective” facts of violence with the "sense of insecurity", of quantifying their changes and impact in terms of "psychosocial well-being," of comparing the point of view of the education team with that of pupils and, finally, identifying explanatory factors with a view to suggesting lines of action and prevention.
A list of 11 acts of victimization has been produced and grouped into four categories: rumours, racist insults, mockery, verbal intimidation, grouped under the category of "verbal harassment»; theft, deliberate damage to equipment, grouped under the "damage to property" category; racketeering, threats delivered with objects or weapons, blows, unsolicited touching or sexual acts, grouped together under the "physical harassment" category; peddling drugs, considered as a specific category. These studies have produced a few important results. Thus, concerning the frequency of victimization types, the respondent was asked if he/she had been a victim at least once in school of one of abovementioned categories over the previous 5 months.

Some findings emerge from these data. First of all, pupils are the first victims of school violence and in all categories of actions. They are also the main body reported as being responsible for victimization in schools, even if adults are also responsible for victimization in numbers that cannot be ignored. Then, the most frequent forms of victimization are verbal attacks followed by attacks on property and physical injury. The most serious deeds from a criminal point of view are rather rare. Thirdly, victimization is more common outside than inside school with regard to drug peddling and to threats with weapons and violence. Racketeering occurs more frequently outside school and on the way to school. Verbal and property attacks against students take place more frequently in school.
Concerning the perception of violence and the feeling of insecurity, investigations reveal that these are not particularly significant in schools. However, pupils generally state more frequently than members of teaching staff that they feel insecure and depressed, and they have a relatively low level of trust in adults. In other words, the problems reported by the students have more to do with the feeling of well-being and integration into the school than with ««real» violence.
In terms of the variables that determine victimization, the survey highlights the following significant reports: attacks on property, verbal and physical attacks within the school decrease with age (whereas victimization remains stable outside school). Only the younger students face greater victimization in school compared to outside. The situation where they are offered drugs increases with age. Boys are slightly more exposed to physical attacks and to drug peddling than girls.
If this scant information enables us to glimpse the magnitude of the phenomenon and of the principal factors involved, it remains limited and leaves the question of interpretations applied in order to understand trends unresolved. In the next point, we broaden the outlook in order to review the research developed in all disciplines and the differentiated object construction modes that emerge.

Three main disciplines prevail in the field of research violence and deviance in the school environment: psychology, sociology and criminology. These fundamental disciplines are associated with particular object construction modes and with the various methodological approaches.
A significant part of the work recorded has been carried out by researchers into social psychology, into the psychology of social development, or, more specifically, by researchers specializing in the psychology of deviance and of «social maladjustment» . This disciplinary anchor goes hand in hand with an object construction in terms of psycho-social development of «asocial» or «deviant» behaviours. The aim consists in identifying the weight of different factors involved in the emergence of such activities. When they are carried out by researchers in education sciences, these studies will include an analysis of the specific role played by the educational context (establishment organization or teaching factors).
The researchers involved in this discipline have significantly contributed to the analysis of data derived from «surveys into victimization in secondary education» mentioned above, whether in terms of a general analysis (Galand, Philippot, Buidin, Lecocq, 2004), or through a number of targeted studies, focusing on the analysis of the impact made by such or such a context level. At this point, we can quote articles exploring the relations between the feeling of insecurity and the professional (dis)engagement of teachers (Galand, Philippot, Lecocq, 2007), those analysing the role played by of the establishment in the phenomena of victimization, or those reporting on the links between teaching practices and phenomena of violence (Galand, 2004a). Other authors explore classic sociological issues such as the effect of socio-cultural diversity on the perception of violence-related actions (Small, Born, Manço, 2002).
In addition to the articles applying victimization survey data directly, there are more targeted surveys conducted by the same teams of researchers. A study conducted with approximately 616 young inhabitants of Liege links the frequency of different forms of violence (within and outside of school) to the level of satisfaction reported by the school actors (Born, Gavray, Lembo, Galand, 2005). Another ad hoc study (Galand, Dupont, 2002) examines the adoption of beliefs that encourage the use of violence, in association with a number of sociological (socio-economic or ethnic in origin) and psycho-social (perceived individual and group discrimination, school integration) variables. These works partially support earlier conclusions submitted by other psycho-sociologists (Egido, Born, 1995) for whom maladjustment in school is correlated to attitudes conducive to violence. These authors identify the relational context as the cause of inappropriate or violent behaviour.
Other studies focus on specific phenomena such as the consumption of drugs or school dropout. In a case study, Galand, Macquet and Philipot (2000) show that the variables correlated to dropping out and to absenteeism relate to social and school integration (identifying with the school, relations with peers and teachers). Another work (Born, Lafontaine, 2006) connects dropping out to individual psycho-social (self-esteem, well-being, social skills), family (style of education) and teaching variables.
Finally some research work undertaken by psychologists in the field of public health, and based on epidemiological type data - such as some studies on the use of illicit drugs in schools (Jünger-Tas, 1972; Born, Shaber, 1987).
Beyond the differences between these disciplinary frame-lines, the purpose of the work carried out in social psychology shares a common point: understanding school violence from the viewpoint of individual asocial or deviant behaviour. These approaches establish a kind of continuum ranging from mundane discourtesy through school deviances such as absenteeism or dropping out to extreme violence on the criminal level. The explanatory factors mobilized are linked to the social psychology legacy: most of the authors refer to social and school integration, the development of social skills, the feeling of exclusion, the establishment (organizational factors) or even academic progression (Born, 2005; Galand, 2004b). "Deviant behaviour' is viewed in the relational, educational, teaching, organizational or even institutional context. Recent developments in research seem to attribute increasing importance to these contextual factors, including those relating to school context.
Sociology constitutes the second major discipline in the field of research into violence and deviance in schools. This work, often carried out as part of requests for assistance in the establishment, is based on quite different epistemological premises. The issue consists not so much in identifying «factors» that could explain the phenomena of deviance but rather in understanding the experience of the students in a non-egalitarian educational institution. In relation to the approach of psychologists, more firmly entrenched in the positivist paradigm, double displacement occurs. On the one hand, the «school violence» object is deconstructed and forms part of a more comprehensive approach to the educational system. On the other hand, if attention is paid to deviant behaviour, it is from the viewpoint of their social and cultural significance for students or even from that of resistance to «institutional violence». This view which is both understanding and critical goes hand in hand with the use of qualitative and ethnographic methodologies.
One of the pioneering works of this approach is that of Nizet and Hiernaux (1984), derived from a survey involving interviews with several tens of male students and teachers in a secondary establishment offering diploma routes. Questioned by the educational team about violent disobedience phenomena but also about student boredom, researchers offered an analysis of the socio-cultural divergence between the presuppositions of teaching practices and working class youth culture. With a similar outlook, the work by Quivy, Ruquoy and Van Campenhoudt (1989) presents an organizational analysis conducted at the request of a secondary school on the issues of «lack of discipline».
However, it is especially toward the end of the 1990s that there was a significant revival of research into «violence in schools», with the development of ethnographic approaches. In this respect, the work carried out by Vienna (2003, 2005 and 2008) is emblematic. Based on a long-term ethnographic survey conducted in two Brussels institutions where positive discrimination prevailed, the author develops a detailed analysis of school interactions - and in particular behaviour qualified as deviant by the educational institution-, based on concepts inherited from symbolic interactionism. This ethnographic viewpoint that pays careful attention to day-to-day social meanings is closely linked to a «critical» approach: school violence occurs alongside the institutional and cultural processes which create symbolic violence.
Some ethnographic type research has also been conducted recently on sociology and education and on sociolinguistics (Lannion, Hambye, 2008), focusing on the response to linguistic standards of young people who possess a « street culture» in school. Some works on school dropouts (Delcourt, 1990; Van Haecht, Baugard, 1989) also feature an analysis of individual «school careers» and how the structural and symbolic phenomena surrounding their deployment are taken into account.
The third discipline present (more discreetly) in this field is criminology. This research deals with school violence, its indicators and its causes, or even the risk /protection factors involved in «juvenile delinquency», in or outside school. The works of Ganty (1993, 1995) fall within this perspective. The author seeks to define school violence (fairly broadly, including institutional violence) and, to this end, is based on the works of other authors or on data, frequently quantitative, from major surveys available in the CFB. Work by other criminologists (Gavray, Born, 2006; Gavray, Vettenburg, 2007) also attempt to define violent behaviour indicators as well as to identify «risk» and «protection» factors associated with juvenile delinquency. In particular, criminologists use the international survey carried out by the International Study on self-Related Delinquency network with the participation of Wallonia and Flanders, or even surveys on victimization.

Beyond the survey mechanisms and the differentiated object construction modes, works identified refer the reader to contrasting types of interpretation. We intend grouping these analysis models into four major ideal-typical «families ».
A first model (which underlies most of the work carried out in social psychology but also in criminology) regards deviance in terms of socially inappropriate behaviour or of deviant behaviour and attempts to identify «trigger» or «protective» factors. More than individual characteristics (social, cultural etc. origin), the adoption of deviant behaviour is linked to certain contextual factors (educational relationship, composition or establishment effects, the impact of school relegation etc.). Some researchers (Junger-Tas, 1972; Born, Schaber, 1987) have thus demonstrated that the «individual inclinations to deviance » only emerge in connection with certain context characteristics (peer influence, level of information available in school etc.). Other works (Galand, Smith, 2002; small, Born, Manço, 2002) stress the role played by the establishment (in particular via the composition effect) in adopting beliefs favourable to violence. Social integration related variables (quality of teacher-pupil relations, a sense of belonging to the school etc.) or even the establishment’s organizational functioning are also significant in relation to the school dropping out and absenteeism (Galand, 2004b).
In short, the different types of victimization, the school violence or dropout related beliefs are considered within the relational and organizational contexts that generate these beliefs. More fundamentally, this model «explains» violence and deviance as the product of failing «social integration» dynamics (Dubet, 1997): the adoption by the young of deviant behaviour is linked to family integration or school problem processes.
A second interpretation model refers back to the institutional violence thesis. Violence in schools is not considered initially from the individual behaviour viewpoint but rather as the result of symbolic and structural violence mechanisms inherent in the educational system. There, violence there is less associated with the inadequacies of social integration than with the effects of domination and social inequalities (Dubet, 1997). Many versions of this model can be found in sociological literature. Already present in the 1960s, it specifically stresses the school’s inability to cope with the social and cultural diversity of its public or the gap between school culture and the (sub-)culture of students from working class backgrounds (Nizet, Hiernaux, 1984). The behaviour labelled as “deviant » is analysed as forms of responding and resisting to the violence inherent to the meeting of two symbolic universes - that of school and that of the street-, or even the institutional violence linked to the school relegation (Vienna, 2003, 2005, 2008).
A third intelligibility model put forward is based on the assumption of the school as an institution affected by societal violence. The tensions or violence observable on the school scene are approached from charts dealing with the new social question and new forms of poverty, on the forms of destabilization and deregulation within working class families, or even on the hard social relationships that typify juvenile sociability in urban working class environments. This model, fairly scantily represented in literature, is however detectable in certain studies carried out by socio-anthropologists who address the phenomena of juvenile sociability in urban multicultural working class environments, and social tensions (violence, wandering etc.) which permeate youth groups and which are apparent, among other areas, on the school scene (Jamoulle, 2002, 2005).
In this model, the school, in some way, suffers the ensuing societal violence and social exclusion and is obliged to protect itself.
A fourth model, taking its inspiration from interactionism, defines school violence as the result of a social construction and labelling process. Here, the focus is less on the nature of the behaviour or to their «deep» sociological roots, but rather on the process through which individuals are designated by the institutions as «problematic» or «violent» and gradually revert to a «deviant way of life» (Becker, 1985). This model crosses horizontally through several disciplines since it is found in some criminologists, in some social psychology studies and ethnographic works. What is highlighted is the «relational» and institutionally rooted character of the process which led to deviance (Traube, 1996; Gavray, Vettenburg, 2007). The tendency to increasingly serious deviances is analysed as a process causing weakened individuals to react to various forms of labelling applied by control institutions (schools, social services, legal institution etc.) (Born, Gavray, 1993; Egido, Born, 1995).

Do research endeavours that have been described above have a significant effect in the field of political action? Can we find any sign of this research in the decrees and measures adopted in CFB? If yes, which of the analysis models are adopted by the decision-makers? We can only touch on these issues here.
If, within legislative texts, no direct reference is made to the conclusions reached by research conducted in the French community, it can be argued that these measures relate implicitly to different concepts of violence in the school environment.
Among the general legislation texts first and foremost, the reference to the institutional violence and societal model is relatively explicit. Accordingly, the most significant decree – The « Missions » decree - Decree defining the priority missions in the field of secondary education and organising the structures designed to perform these (24.07.97) - insists on equal opportunities, teaching students to respect individuals and their beliefs. It states that establishments must outlaw both moral and physical violence and replace this violence with democratic responsible citizenship practices (art. 8, 9). The «Positive Discrimination » decree - Decree designed to ensure that all students are given equal social emancipation opportunities, notably through the implementation of positive discrimination (30.06.98) provides for granting additional resources to the most disadvantaged institutions. It also aims to prevent dropping out and absenteeism via school mediation and teacher training measures.
As these are better focused legal provisions, aimed directly at fighting against forms of violence fund in schools, different reference models are used. The Decree on various measures for combating school dropout rates, exclusion and violence (15.12.06, amendment of the decree of the 12.05.04) put in place six measures: school mediation services, mobile teams, the coordination of actions preventing academic dropout and violence, in-service training, school attendance services. The school mediation services, the mobile teams and the «school attendance services» concern the prevention of violence and school dropout by restoring climate of trust and communication in the relations between the pupils, parents and the educational team. Here, the measures (social and educational assistance for minors and their families) are first and foremost educational and socially oriented. In this case, we have an action that aims to strengthen communication with and social and academic integration of young people at a level that is more « micro ». Finally, some legislation texts refer to a «safer" view of prevention, emphasising the collaborations between school communities and the police concerning school absenteeism and offenses (drugs, crime, theft, the carrying of weapons) (circular of the 07.07.06). In these texts, violence is considered as resulting from a «failure of the Law» or Government which is obliged to reaffirm its presence and restrictive framework. In other words, the specific measures and mechanisms refer to a two views of violence and deviance in schools: am interpretation reading in terms of «failed socialization and integration» (social integration model) and another in terms of «a failure of law» and of «order», almost absent from the scope of scientific research.
In parallel with the analysis of the legislative texts, we have analyzed the outlook developed through pilot experiments or research-action developed by associations in the field (prevention in schools, support to dropout students etc.). A review of models of understanding detectable from these experiences echoes some of the models highlighted. Some pilot experiences mention «institutional» violence of which young «dropouts» are victims (Velz, 1998 1999). Other blame the «symbolic violence» which results when a «single culture» school has to face up to a diverse public, and provides support to teachers when these have to consider their cultural codes (Crutzen, 1998; Crutzen et alii, 2001). Many local initiatives focus their work on communication, on the «rehabilitation» and active integration of rules, or even the recognition of young people «as actors» in their integration. Behind these mechanisms and intervention tools, we perceive an interpretation in terms of desocialisation and a lack of integration. The achievements of social psychology research (especially the highlighting of a link between school integration, active participation and encouraging school attendance) are quite often capitalized, sometimes quite explicitly, in particular through actions designed to support the development of «social skills» in young people in the school context (Blomart, 2001; Blomart, Timmermans, Caffieaux, Petiau, 2001).
Finally, on the cusp between the worlds of research and of politics, the Mouvet, Munten, Jardon (2000) report submits a critical reference system of existing measures for preventing and fighting violence in schools. The work, which discusses 33 measures (listed or not by the law) and compares the research with the views of European experts, stresses a threefold message: (1) the actors in the world of education have a real power with regard to the prevention of violence; (2) «multilevel» action is recommended; (3) there is a need to strengthen the substantive measures designed to promote equal opportunities and to build projects for establishments, involving all actors.

With this contribution, we have endeavoured to analyse the way in which research is structured in the CFB in the field of violence and deviance in schools. Our attention is immediately drawn to several findings: on the one hand, the number of scientific work carried out on these issues is surprisingly low. Then, we are obliged to note the scarcity and dispersal of quantitative data available in the CFB. The fact that the present Minister for Education (C. Dupont) has just lodged a bill in Parliament on the «Observatory of school violence» responsible for documenting phenomena confirms the urgency with which focused observation tools need to be produced. On the university research side, the «victimisation surveys» constitute the most reliable database in the CFB. These investigations have led the researchers to put the extent of the violence and delinquency problems in schools in perspective: less present than elsewhere, the most serious incidents finally affect schools less than other social areas.
From a survey of main research works conducted in three major disciplines, we have built four intelligibility models applicable to these phenomena: the shortcomings of social integration, institutional violence, societal and exclusion violence, labelling and the deviant pathway. As for political action, we are obliged to report that it is only partially linked to research achievements. The models on which legislative texts are implicitly based seem to refer more widely to integration models and its «safer» version the «failings of the Law», than on systemic issues, probably more difficult to render operational. By contrast, the field of social action is proving to be dynamic and alternates with diversified analysis models, intent on respecting the complex nature of the issues.
In terms of future lines of research, several approaches would deserve to be developed. (i) the detailed analysis of the different effects of context (particularly in mobilizing of multi-level technique analysis) must be continued; (ii) it would be worthwhile developing qualitative works linking the analysis of youth sociability in and outside the school, which would allow us to address the realities of urban neighbourhoods typified by social relegation; (iii) Finally, the critical analysis of links between research and public action in this field remains open: how do the typologies put forward by researchers and questions put on political agendas affect each other? Beyond the «facts» or the indicators that claim to be objective, we must not forget that the analyses submitted by researchers correspond to interpretations of the social universe and motors driving the action, and simultaneously convey representations of relevant and legitimate levels of action.


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> Summary
> 1 - Problem behaviour and prevention
> 3 - Deviant behaviour and violence in Luxembourg schools
> 4 - School violence in Spain
> 5 - European trends in research into violence and deviance in schools
> 6 - Extra - Stakes of violence in education in Africa

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