2018 Vol. 1, Issue 1


Release date:2018-04-27
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José Vicente Tavares dos Santos1

ABSTRACT: The panorama in the 21st century is marked by world social issues, which express themselves in an articulated way but with certain specificities. The social conflict centred on work since the 19th century has turned into more complex and global issues, since several dimensions of social life have come to be collectively questioned, among them that of social relations in urban spaces. One of the new global social issues is the School Violence. The understanding of the relation between school and practices of violence against property entails the reconstruction of the complexity of social relationships present within the social space in school. In this article, we will discuss this social fact founded in some researches that have been done in Brazil, our most important field work, but also in French, the United States, Canada, South Africa, Mexico and Hong Kong. We will explain the school violence question in four parts: 1. Introduction: a new social issue; 2. The Explanation of School Violence; 3. The Brazilian Society and the School Violence; and 4. Social struggles and school violence: the possibilities of pacification. The conclusion points out a dialogical approach on school violence which explains violence as a problem to be worked in a pedagogical content. Therefore, in order to guarantee the discourse of dialogue, not only the strengthening of school institutions and the affirmation of a multicultural social space is necessary, but also the recognition of conflict as potentially generating social bonds. In this way, the fundamental condition is that mediation and negotiation are deployed as a strategy for conflict resolution in the school institution. 

KEYWORDS: School Violence; Brazil; Safe School; Youth; Recognition; Mediation

I.Introduction: A New Social Issue

The panorama in the 21st century is marked by world social issues, which express themselves in an articulated way but with certain specificities. The social conflict centred on work since the 19th century has turned into more complex and global issues, since several dimensions of social life have come to be collectively questioned, among them that of social relations in urban spaces. One of the new global social issues is the School Violence.

In this article, we will discuss this social fact founded in some researches that have been done in Brazil, our most important field work, but also in French, the United States, Canada, South Africa, Mexico and Hong Kong. We will explain the school violence question in four parts: 1. Introduction: a new social issue; 2. The Explanation of School Violence; 3. The Brazilian Society and the School Violence; and 4. Social struggles and school violence: the possibilities of pacification. The conclusion points out a dialogical approach on school violence.

A new age of social conflicts is taking shape in late modern societies. The social interaction is guided by violent mode of sociability, inverting the expectations of the civilising process and the hopes of a promising school. Social fragmentation processes increasingly threaten social integration, to an extreme degree that involves a narcissistic solitude. 

The relations of sociability have undergone a new mutation through simultaneous processes of community integration and social fragmentation and individualisation, social selection, and exclusion. In this pace, new dilemmas and social problems emerge in the planetary landscape, configuring the new global social issues (IANNI, 1992, 1996; HARVEY, 1993; CASTEL, 1998; JAMESON, 1996; SOUSA SANTOS, 1994).

As an effect of the social fragmentation and economic exclusion processes, violence practises emerge as a typical social norm for some groups; these practices are present in multiple dimensions of contemporary social and political violence. Social interaction is thus shaped by violent styles of sociability, inverting the expectations of the civilising process (ELIAS, 1990, 1993).

The characteristics of "late modernity" would be: structural reproduction of social exclusion, the spread of violence, the breakdown of social bonds and the "disaffiliation" of some social categories, such as youth, one of the great victims of civilisation. Pais, analysing Portugal, wrote: "In the immediate post-war decades, young people’s transitions resembled a train journey in which young people, depending on their social class, gender and academic qualifications, boarded different trains with predetermined destinations." But, nowadays, the social life became a road labyrinth: there are compulsory or forbidden senses, traffic alterations, and some paths that seem to have already been crossed. This labyrinth causes a sense of loss and confusion (PAIS, 2001, p. 10). The configuration of young people living in labyrinths is producing a retardation of adolescence and a precarious work, in an unstable informal sector. They live the dilemmas of a labyrinth life: young people live in complex trajectories, in social turbulence (PAIS, 2001).

 We are facing a crisis of late modernity, in which relative deprivation is combined with individualism, and the labour force is divided between those who are in the market and the excluded, conforming a great social vulnerability, and poverty. " In this context, there is a breakdown of traditional social controls (YOUNG, 1999, 46–48). So, we live in a risk society where the present time is immanent, adventurous, sometimes cyclical; even, social life assumes the time of a foreshadow death (ZALUAR, 2004).

II.The Explanation of School Violence 

The phenomenon of violence at school had been observed in at least 50 countries. To analyse the social process of violence among young people, there are three aspects: the first is the use of violence, that is, because the youth live in a "culture of violence"; the second, that there is a social code that reflects a violent society; third, these young people are basically individualistic (VISCARDI, 1999, p. 193). In other words, a culture of violence is always built on the basis of needs, desires, and passions, but also violence is acquired by education (HÉRITIER, 1996, p. 32).

UNESCO appoints that there are some particular victims: the boys suffer more corporal punishment; the girls are more likely to experience sexual violence; and the children who came from poor and ethnic minorities suffer more violence. The perpetrators could be from different origins: “School violence and bullying are perpetrated by other students, teachers and other school staff; violence that occurs on the way to and from school may also be perpetrated by members of the wider community” (UNESCO, 2017). And there is a main problem of invisibility: “Many victims of school violence and bullying do not tell anyone about their experience. Reasons include lack of trust in adults, including teachers, fear of repercussions or reprisals, feelings of guilt, shame or confusion, concerns that they will not be taken seriously or not knowing where to seek help.” So: “School violence and bullying is often invisible to or ignored by teachers and parents. In some contexts, adults view corporal punishment, fighting and bullying as a normal part of discipline or growing up and are not aware” (UNESCO, 2017). 

In groups of adolescents, the action is more present than the words. The constitution of the group is accomplished by a basic procedure of identity, recognising their bonds of love, hatred, knowledge and recognition. For the adolescent group, it seems that linkage by recognition becomes a crucial necessity (ZIMERMAN, 2000, chapter 12, p. 242-136). At the same time, society in general does not recognise the adolescent: a young person is in a process of transition to adulthood, a lifetime when his aggressiveness should be able to turn him more autonomous and to build a place in the social space. In many societies, young people have lacked this recognition by the socialising institutions.

It happens that a phantasmagoria covers the phenomena of violence in the media: for example, in the United States, the media has been talking about a lethal school violence since the Columbine massacre, in 1999. On the other hand, Debarbieux observes that in all known cases, from 1964 to 2005, in different countries, only 177 lethal victims have been identified (DEBARBIEUX, 2006). Such an exacerbation of the phenomenon produces an educational dynamic in which figurations of violence are expressed (MIGUEZ, 2008). In Brazil, the episode of Realengo, in the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro, was remarkable, but there were only few other cases of lethal school violence.

Among current social conflicts, the phenomena of diffuse violence in everyday life demonstrate an interrelation between malaise, symbolic violence and feeling of insecurity (BAUMAN, 1998). Indeed, we are living in a horizon of social representation of violence to which the mass media contribute a lot, producing the dramatisation of violence and spreading its very expressive aspect, as an effect of the journalistic field (TEIXEIRA, 2002).

Dramatising the phenomenon deforms its characteristics and its understanding is realised from a pathological approach. The symbolic violence is always present in the process: the violence behaviour is always preceded and justified by symbolic violence (BOURDIEU, 1998, p. 41).

There are four hypotheses to explain school violence. The first is the repressive hypothesis that gave up the pedagogical process and point out to recourse to criminal courts. This line of criminalisation typifies various attitudes as violent. In general, the media disseminate this criminalising vision of youth that lives in spaces of social vulnerability.

The second is the pathological hypothesis, which defines an aggressive behaviour by a clinical and pathological view. The student could be abruptly removed from the group, and then submitted to medical and / or psychological classification, usually with emphasis on the use of drugs.

The third hypothesis derives from the methodological individualism that when universalising a moment of the apprehension of the phenomenon. It generalises the bullying as the only form, individualising the fact and leading to a particularisation that forgets the general context.

The fourth hypothesis is the constructive dialogue, which explains violence as a problem to be worked in a pedagogical content. This explanation differentiates aggressiveness from aggression, and propose that the teacher needs to learn to decode properly the violence behaviour.

Youth and adolescence can be characterised as the process of transition into adulthood, in which aggression is needed to achieve independence and build a place in social space. Children and adolescents are living in a period of transformation of nature, between tradition and innovation (ZIMERMAN, 1999, p. 95). Perhaps a frequent feature of the young adolescent is the uncertainty of life, as well as the exercise of violence. So, there is a rupture of the social bonds, leading to the relation of otherness.

In Freud’s theory, psychic reality is motivated by conflicting demands, with an energetic load that aims to reduce tension in order to perform the mental development (ZIMERMAN, 2000). Aggression, therefore, would have two possibilities: on the one hand, it can be transformed into aggression and violence; on the other hand, aggression is a form for the conservation and affirmation of the self.

On the one hand, aggression is a struggle for self-preservation and affirmation of a constructive process necessary for the full development of the personality of young people. On the other, aggression may be a disordered plunge into the psyche without reference to authority. The first can be expressed by cultural, scientific or artistic creation, the second by self-destruction and by the other - aggression and violence. Violence, based on Freud’s theory, would be part of the death pulsion where aggression occurs due to ego failures (at various graduation levels), making it impossible to construct a feeling of genuine law. In this way, violence constitutes an act of coercion, in order to cause physical or symbolic damage (CHAUÍ, 1982).

The Freud’s text on culture (FREUD, 1913, 1930) speaks about "a malaise of civilisation", which reappears in contemporary society, an obsessive preoccupation with individualism and personal security (BAUMAN, 1998). Young people are particularly touched by the extreme individualism and narcissism of the "cult of individual freedom" with incentives for a culture of "winners" and "losers". The young man relates to violence in an ambivalent way, sometimes as a victim, sometimes as the aggressor: his life has been a struggle to live, or overcome, violence (DIAZ, 2000).

In late modernity, youth as a social category is a victim in many dimensions: there is insecurity in employment, a crisis of the socialisation institutions. It is the opposite of the previous generation life that had a certain predictability: they finish the school, they could have a regular job, and contract marriage and further have children.  They became included in the social world.

Since the greatest crisis of the 1980s, young people realise that they no longer have a road: they live now in crossroads, with different routes but no traffic signals. They are changing life: the uncertainty of living a life of mazes. The young live in a global risk society (BECK, 2017).

III.The Brazilian Society and the School Violence

The Brazilian society has accepted violence as a social practice. There are everyday examples of violence in the cities: drug and firearm trafficking, crimes by hired killers, extermination groups, police brutality, violence against women and children. And also, in the rural areas: land social conflicts, assassination of popular leaders, missionary and priests, or lawyers.  As a result, the violent act becomes a “normal” means for society to meet ends in an interpersonal dispute, to obtain some wished material good, or to impose command over one. 

To explain these practices of violence, we work with the sociological notion of "lacerated citizenship", because it evokes the laceration of the body and the increasing physical violence in society, which jeopardises the very possibilities of citizenship. This leads us to identify the great paradox of Brazilian society nowadays: despite the democratic political regime, authoritarianism is part of social life. Society seems to accept violence as a normal social practice (ZALUAR, 1994).

A review about twenty-four studies in Brazil that were carried out among basic education students in public schools in the South and Southeast regions of Brazil in the 2000s demonstrate that School violence was defined differently and different types studied in the articles examined. But psychological and physical violence were the most common forms addressed. And Bullying was commonly cited as a specific kind of school violence. In addition, to be a male student and having been subjected to abuse in the family was the factors most frequently associated with school violence (NESELLO, 2014).

In the case analysed here – violence within school space in the southern city of Porto Alegre, Brazil, in the last two decades - it is precisely the combinations between class relations and the relations among cultural groups that will allow an explanatory approach of the presence of violent practices in the school institution (OHSAKO, 1997; CHARLOT, Bernard & EMIN, Jean-Claude. 1997; TAVARES DOS SANTOS et al., 1999; TAVARES-DOS-SANTOS, 2009)

The understanding of the relation between school and practices of violence against property entails the reconstruction of the complexity of social relationships present within the social space in school. In the case of Porto Alegre, in the last two decades, the everyday form of violence has configured a feeling of fear on the part of the school institutions toward the social context to which they belong. The majority of the municipal elementary and high schools have requested to have their premises walled in - very often these walls had to be rebuilt or laid out differently.

The most frequent forms of violence against property are, first, the acts of damage to walls, windows, and classrooms, and the destruction of equipment, such as books, media equipment, or personal assets, especially teachers’ cars. Thefts are the second: some occurred in the school space ant there is a clear intention of taking hold of someone else’s belongings. The groups most often involved in the acts of violence against property are young and adolescents aged 14 to 18.

Such acts are ordinarily identified by the media as acts of criminality or "vandalism". It seems to us that the explanations must be somewhat more complex. Considering that some delict surely exists and have school property as their target, others may have a different signification (CARDIA, 1997, p. 56).

The category of vandalism has often been mentioned in the press, and also by some teachers, to identify acts of violence in school: it has been associated to school depredation, to trespassing, to violence by juvenile gangs, to thefts and robberies. But what is the meaning of the category "vandal"? Apparently, it is constituted of expressions of social resentment of young people and adolescents who have been or felt excluded from the school institution and want to be included in the school space by warped means, though.

There is a correspondence between social exclusion and school violence: violence is socially determined. The more the young public is economically and culturally impaired, the more it is confronted with the reality of unemployment, the more it experiences exclusion of not only economic opportunities, but also of social prestige, what ends up by shaping its self-esteem and hopes. The school is the spot where the economic, social, political, and cultural crisis bursts and where social resentment finds expression. However, it is necessary to try to understand the hidden messages underlying the acts of violence against school property. 

The most common acts of violence against individuals were: cases of bodily harm, robbery, theft, and drug traffic. There were also records of victims of domestic violence among students. However, the deployment of violence to obtain material of symbolic gain or to resolve conflicts in interpersonal argument have become more often in school space. 

Frequently, there is the invasion of the school space by other persons; so, it’s the arrival of juvenile gang’s. The presence of juvenile ‘gangs’ in schools has been associated with violence: gangs surrounding the school, gangs in the night shift, juvenile gang violence, the development of several gangs in school, gangs that assault the students at the school entrance, robberies in the school surroundings involving gangs. Drug traffic in the school space appeared in the registers significantly, what implies drug use by some students and the holding of firearms by others. Drug use often happens near the school, in some square nearby, but it also happens inside the school. Sometimes students leave the classroom during classes to buy drugs.

Perhaps the situation in Porto Alegre cannot be compared yet to that in Rio de Janeiro, where GUIMARÃES indicates the effect of the effects of the world of drug trafficking in the school context: the whole organisation of school life is altered, interfering in the "school culture" because the "rules of the street world interfere in school life directly" (GUIMARÃES, 1998, p. 223/224; CANDAU, et al., 1999, p. 90/91)

Thus, we have to understand violence as a relation of sociability existing in the school, brought to the school space through two different channels: either as an expression of pedagogical authoritarianism or as the transference of a social norm. The former affirms a repressive formula of teacher classroom behaviour; the latter, marked by violence ruling interpersonal relationships in specific social groups that are manifested as the normality of students and their families’ everyday life, and thus exerted within the school space.

We are facing a conflict of codes of conduct, or a conflict of civilities: in a case study carried out in high schools in Montevideo, Uruguay. VISCARDI concludes that “the majority is the case of incivilities. (...) a difficulty in socializing the young people within the boundaries of the values the school purports as its goal (...)” (VISCARDI, 1999)

However, in the case of Porto Alegre, the social space within which the school adolescents and young people are inserted is activated by an associative fabric densely composed of neighbors’ associations, samba schools, stand-shops market associations, charity associations, and delegates of the participatory budget. The requests that these associations impose on the school, besides the claim for formal education and schooling, include sports practice, leisure, toys and recreation, and the request for a resolution of acts of interpersonal violence.

The school system is in crisis, it has no answer capable of explaining life and teaching the young how to enjoy life in a condition of crisis of possibilities to earn a living, because it is a world of deficit, of the struggle to acquire the minimal collective devices in a landscape of social exclusion. As a result of such a process, there is an ambiguous relationship with the school institution, which is required as a means of professionalization and of transmission of knowledge and citizenship values, despite being traversed throughout by the structural violence of Brazilian society. 

Violence does not occur only in peripheral countries as shown in the usual international press reports of the events in the central countries of the capitalist system. A growing number of publications and panels to debate the topic of school violence attest this reality and make it visible. Some international experiments can teach us about violence in school, as well as bring suggestions to reduce these phenomena in school space. 

IV. The Worldwide Phenomenon of School Violence 

School Violence is a new global social issue configured by acts of violence against the individual, thefts, robberies, and depredation, or even murders, which are repeated in a significant number of societies in the last ten years. What is evident is that the school institution has been the site of explosion of social conflicts in at less 50 countries, in which the issue of violence within school space has been considered a society phenomenon (OHSAKO,1997; CHARLOT& EMIN, 1997).

In France, the phenomenon of Violence in School has been debated since as early as 1981 in the sphere of the Federation of National Education - the same entity that organised the Colloquium on "Violence and Educational Mission" in 1994. At that time Debarbieux stated: “Our foundational hypotheses is that the present growth of the feeling of insecurity within the school context is tied to a global mutation of the relation with the children and young people and to a crisis of the meaning of the educational work” (DEBARBIEUX, 1997). 

Debarbieux, after having directed a huge research about violence in the school context, identified three kinds of school violence: penal violence, of crimes and delicts; incivilities or conflicts of civilities; and the feeling of insecurity. He came to the conclusion that social exclusion and school violence were correlated, as violence is socially determined. He also evidenced an increase of violent acts against teachers and of violence perpetrated by groups of students (DEBARBIEUX, 1999).

Violence arises within a logic of exclusion, as it consists in a discourse of denial: “Violence is generated by the immured speech" (COLOMBIER, 1989, p. 68). As a consequence, establishing a school institution with rules, laws, and power spheres are fundamental, as stated by institutional pedagogy scholars (COLOMBIER, 1989, p. 101). In this proposition the objective is to strengthen institutions, creating freely agreed rules, and taking conflicts into account so that the means to their resolution is organised: against the immured speech, the legitimate authority of the teacher and the mediation through language must be restored, through a legitimate enunciation in which the pedagogy of desire and of life forces is recognised by the school institution, here understood as a network of relations.

Nonetheless, if we wish to build up citizenship in the school, Defrance wrote, we must also recognise and overcome institutional violence, which entails "regiments, organisational structures, institutionalised power relations”. These are several facets of a "symbolic violence", through which the authority of teachers’ power and wisdom is imposed to students (DEFRANCE, 1992, p. 45). 

We can gather procedures to overcome violence from the examination of the French experience: to develop the possibility to speak, and thus to retrieve the significance of language, so that speech takes the place of acts of violence. In this perspective, the school is supposed to uphold and expand the development of the knowledge of writing and of the conditions of publishing what is written. At the same time, this patient and pedagogical dialogue will recognise the social respect to the other, with actions and feelings of reciprocity that can help eliminate violence, constructing possibilities of encounter. This learning of lived freedom on an everyday basis, through actions of mutual school help, through relationships with local associative life and through the recognition of cultural pluralism within the school context, is the first lesson to act against violence in school.

In the case of Canada, whose big cities are presently marked by ethnic and cultural variety, we can identify that violence in school is socially determined, as violence among the young people is similar to the cultural models found in their social context: “In the same measure, social relations, which mean inequality and injustice to many students must not be overlooked” (HEBERT, 1991, p. 27/28). Some factors are pointed out by the author to explain the acts of violence in the school context: individual (such as those attending the young people’s self-esteem), family dimensions and school factors, such as the kind of rules of the game that is played there. He points on the system of production itself and on value (HEBERT, 1991, pp. 37–38). As far as violence prevention programmes are concerned, this author suggests an ecological model that aims to “analyse and act on the socio-environmental factors”, in order to “mobilise the social forces” capable of contributing to back down violence in school. Perhaps this is the lesson that the recent Canadian experience can convey to us. 

Violence in school has been the object of debates in the United States for three decades: The National Institute of Education stated, as early as in 1978, that violence in school was a national problem. Since then, a vast debate has engaged educators and sociologists in identifying the factors that have contributed to violence in school: changes in family patterns and in community life; lack of spaces to weave social bonds; lack of associations that configure a disperse multitude (HYMAN, Irwin et al., 1997; JOHNSON, DAVID W.; JOHNSON, ROGER T. 1995; KREINER, 1966; REMBOLDT, 1994). In the USA, the society has also redefined violence as normal and acceptable, especially in the media, what has been increased by the lenient access to firearms and drugs. As many authors state, we can understand that people feel licensed for violence and tolerated on these grounds, what could be confirmed by the fact that violence is exerted among people that are included in the school. 

The plains to prevent violence in the US are characterised, on one hand, by the increase of repressive measures (metal detectors, penalisation of young and adolescents), especially in big cities (LUCAS, 1997, pp. 70–95); on the other, they lie on the recognition of conflict in school as a positive conflict, and develop practices of conflict negotiation and resolution through, for example, the mediation by peers. 

Recognising conflictiveness as a dynamic element of school space entails a social action in the violence, which can be accomplished by the satisfaction of the children’s and the young people’s necessities, creating a cooperative and humanist atmosphere, leading to positive and long-lasting relationships. In such a framework, the scheduling of time off school - other than that taken in the ordinary school tasks - for activities of interaction with the community, and conflict mediation and negotiation practises seem to be the strategies of choice on the part of the American humanist educators.

In Hong Kong, a study examined the phenomenon of school bullying. The results show that “verbal bullying was the most frequently performed and experienced school bullying behaviour. Boys were significantly more involved than girls in direct physical bullying and as bullies, victims, and bully victims. Girl victims suffered more in mental ways” (NG and TSANG, 2008). Another research in Hong Kong is a study that surveyed primary and secondary school students. Among the factors, harmony in school, parenting styles, parent-child communication and relationship, and peer pressure tend to be relevant to the study of student’s bullying. The results highlighted the negative total effect of harmony in school on bullying. On the other hand, peer pressure and authoritarian parenting style displayed positive effects on bullying, whereas parent-child relationship and communication engendered negative effects on bullying (LEE and WONG, 2009). 

Also, in South Africa, a research in 34 schools in Gauteng Province shows an increased prevalence of school violence, as well as its occurrence in an increasing variety of forms. In many other regions, crime, abuse and violence against school children are grave problems. Some authors highlight aspects of hostile and violent behaviour in South Africa that contributes to the persistence of school violence. (PILLAY and RAGPOT, 2010; ROUX and MOKHELE, 2011).

Mexico is currently facing significant problems with regard to juvenile antisocial behaviour and crime.  Research results demonstrated significant differences across schools in the rates of student vandalism, most of which were associated with gang involvement, drug use, bullying, no attachment to school rules, and unequal treatment of students by teachers (VILALTA and FONDEVILA, 2017). In fact, the school may have a role in identifying forms of domestic violence, sexual abuse or maltreatment: child maltreatment, in the case of Mexico (FURLAN & REIS, in: UNESCO, 2003, p. 352); and in the case of Colombia (BERNAL, in UNESCO, 2003, p. 401).

The lessons from the Brazilian, México, French, Canadian, South Africa, Hong Kong and American societies indicate strategies of recognition of violence in the school context as a social phenomenon, in which violence arises as the affirmation of silence and of an imprisonment of gesture and speech. 

Therefore, in order to guarantee the discourse of dialogue, not only the strengthening of school institutions and the affirmation of a multicultural social space is necessary, but also the recognition of conflict as potentially generating social bonds. In this way, the fundamental condition is that mediation and negotiation are deployed as a strategy for conflict resolution in the school institution. 

IV.Social Struggles and School Violence: The Possibility of Pacification

The social mobilisations against violence have increased in Porto Alegre, through reflection groups, internal campaigns in classrooms, parades and marches in neighbourhoods, petitions to municipal and state authorities, press statements and attempts to construct social relation networks with the local community. These procedures are leading to a collective action against the destructive potential enunciated by violence, visible in the damage done to property and individuals in the school institution. The aim lies on the construction of networks of social relations, especially with the community in which the school is located.

What has been sought is the accomplishment of a social understanding of the messages that are implicit in the acts of violence, or their hidden obscured meaning. What is proposed by means of such actions is the diffusion of an ethic of solidarity, based on the respect of the other, exemplified by a new relation between the school and the social groups that take part in it, or that share the same social space.

UNESCO has a wide range of responses to school violence, from a “comprehensive approach and include interventions to both prevent and address school violence and bullying”. Such comprehensive responses encompass: “strong leadership; a safe and inclusive school environment; developing knowledge, attitudes and skills; effective partnerships; implementing mechanisms for reporting and providing appropriate support and services; and collecting and using evidence. More specifically, such responses include: enactment and enforcement of national laws and policies and of school policies and codes of conduct; commitment to creating safe, inclusive and supportive learning environments for all students; training and support for teachers and other school staff in positive forms of discipline and provision and delivery of relevant curricula and learning materials; collaboration with a range of stakeholders and active participation of children and adolescents; access to safe, confidential and child-friendly reporting mechanisms and support services; and research, monitoring and evaluation. Interventions that have focused on transforming the culture of schools, taking a strong stance against violence and supporting teachers to use alternative ways of disciplining children and managing the classroom has proven to be particularly effective” (UNESCO, 2017).

The existing plans against violence in the many countries have some points in common: the attempt to satisfy the young people’s needs; the development of a solidary, humanist and cooperative atmosphere; the intention to create positive and enduring relationships among students, teachers and workers; the concern with a time off school to be assumed by the school itself and to be programmed interactively with the community. 

At the same time, the goal is to incorporate conflict as a positive tension to the school, as something that may build up social cohesion, the school assuming conflict as a social generator. All this means that a practice of negotiation installed within the school context must be undertaken, especially within the student groups, through the mediation by peers, for example, so as to foster responsibilities among the school members.

In fact, the public schools, at least in Brazil, are located in a social space in the periphery of the cities. This space is composed by a young population as well as by a dense associative space made of social bonds: neighbourhoods associations, samba schools, stand-shops markets associations, charity societies, churches, and trade unions.

The request placed by these associations onto the school, other than the claim for formal education and for schooling, include sports and leisure facilities, toys and recreation. They came from a social exclusion scenery, in the attempt to acquire the minimal collective equipment in a. Consequently, the fragmentation it is expressed by the clusters of poor populations, to whom systematic violence can be part of their way to earn a living and of enjoying life socially. 

Thus, the relationship of the school with the cultural specificities of the groups that compose the social space within which it is located could be marked by the symbolic violence of school knowledge. The society is in crisis, with its forms of sociability, institutions, forms of social representation and communication. 

Overcoming the logic of violence would be to recognise the peer mediation as another way of achieving a negotiation for conflict resolution. A number of plans to address violence in key countries have elements in common: attempting to meet the needs of young people, developing a supportive, humanistic and cooperative environment, aims to build positive and lasting relationships between students, teachers and staff, extracurricular time in charge of the school, to be programmed to interact with the community. At the same time, there is a goal of joining conflict as a positive tension for the school, as something that can create social cohesion, school, having conflict as a creator of sociability. All this implies taking on a negotiating practice introducing within the school, especially in its own groups of students, though, for example, the idea of peer mediation, sometimes accompanied by a mediator, so as to establish the responsibilities among the members of the school (MARTINEZ DE MURGUIA, 1999; SUSANA DARINO & GOMEZ OLIVERA, 2000).

In the late modern society, following the civilising process, one must transform conflicts in a school environment, because the school is no longer perceived as the possible social mobility channel. Simply, school is the complementarity of the institutions involved in social welfare. Therefore, developing negotiation and conflict resolution practises leads to new insights. This implies an attitude of recognition of young people by adults, as opposed to a position of disqualification. We need to understand the messages, the hidden meanings of acts of violence, understanding the recognition of conflict as part of the school dynamics.

We then proceed to argue the dialogical hypothesis that confronts violence as a problem to be worked on in the pedagogical process. It is the construction of an approach on school violence in which aggressiveness is defined as different from aggression and violence.

This youthful life marked by "social conflict" puts society before the need to develop practices of negotiation and conflict resolution (GALTUNG, 1998). To undertake it, we must understand the meanings hidden in acts of violence. Among young people, it is important to realise that the constitution of social groups is a procedure for building bonds, including the bond of recognition. In groups of adolescents, the bond of recognition becomes relevant and necessary, not only as a fundamental process in the construction of the psychic apparatus, but as a search for recognition by the other, which reaffirms an inclusive otherness as a dynamic of social life.

In this picture, there is a social space marked by a mismatch between the school institution and the cultural singularities of the poor populations in big cities. This situation must be replaced by a dense relationship between the school and the local community in which it is located (GRACIANI, 1995, p. 145; ZALUAR, 1992; CARDIA, 1997, pp. 26–69; ASSIS, 1994, p. 22). 

School space stands as the point of condensation of economic, social, and political crisis. The understanding of the relations between school and practices of violence necessarily entails the reconstruction of the complexity of social relations that are present in the social space of school.  It is precisely the combinations between the class relations and the relations between the cultural groups that allow an explanatory approach to the practices of violence in school. 

One way to install a collective action against the destructive potential enunciated by violence lies on the diffusion of an ethic of solidarity based on the respect of the other, exemplified by a new relationship between the school and the social groups that take part in it or that share the same social space. We must to conceive the school as a space of citizenship that encompasses multiculturalism. 

So, it’s urgent to try to understand the messages, and the hidden meanings inside the acts of violence. In this spirit of recomposition of social dynamics, guided by social participation and by respect of the cultural rights of the several groups that are present in the social space of school, we may find the beginning of another social struggle for a new democratic school.


Assis Simone Gonçalves de. Crescer sem Violência – um desafio para os educadores. Rio de Janeiro, Fundação Osvaldo Cruz – CLAVES, 1994

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1 Director of the Latin American Institute for Advanced Studies - Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil (www.ufrgs.br/ILEA).  Professor of Sociology at Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (since 1978). Senior Research at CNPq - National Council of Scientific Development (since 1988). Bachelor in Social Sciences, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (1971), Master of Sociology, University of Sao Paulo (1977), Ph.D. (Docteur d’Etat), University of Paris X-Nanterre (1987), Post-doctoral period in University of Cambridge, U.K. (2008). ISA - International Sociological Association - President of Research Committee “Social Control and Deviance” (2014-2018); CLACSO – Latin American Council of Social Sciences, President of the RC Paradox of Citizenship Security (2014-2019), Former President of the Latin American Sociological Association and Former President of the Brazilian Society of Sociology. Regional Secretary of the SBPC – Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (2015-2019). Email: josevtavares@gmail.com