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Spare the rod and run for cover

When students hold the cards, school violence grows, especially among the girls


by CANDIS McLEAN
Alberta Report, March 1, 1999, page 42

Despite parents' continuing concerns, throughout the 1990s educators have insisted that school violence is decreasing.  Nevertheless, evidence is accumulating to show that violent crimes, as opposed to incidents of pushing and shoving, are on the increase.
    For instance, last month Brenda Sautner, provincial coordinator of Alberta Education's Safe and Caring Schools task force, told a teachers' convention in Edmonton that international trends show young females, particularly girls in Grades 8 to 10, are becoming more violent.  "We're not aware of very serious cases in [Alberta] schools,' she said.  "However, we are aware that it is an issue that we need
 to take steps to address.'
    Ms. Sautner downplayed the problem of female violence in Alberta.  But recent studies show that female troublemakers are becoming younger, more common, more vicious, and more often willing to utilize weapons.  The infamous girl-on-girl gang murder of Reena Virk in Victoria, B.C., last year is but the most recent example.  [My note: See also As youth murders multiply, Ottawa ponders.  The article contains a short description of the murder of Reena Virks. — WHS]
    To compound the problem, at the same time youth are being 'empowered' by society, principals, teachers and other authority figures are being progressively 'disempowered.'  When a strip search [of students] in an Ontario high school resulted in suspensions for a teacher and school administrator, for instance, it signalled to Canadian teachers and students that the power balance now unalterably favours students.  The result, some experts say, is a recipe for more mayhem.
    In fact, while the growth in juvenile female violence has outstripped the growth in male violence, both sexes are getting worse.  According to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, violent crimes among female youths in Canada increased an average of 202% between 1987 and 1996, while in the same period violent crimes among young males increased 100%.

bar-chart with indicators over time of violent crimes amng Canadian youth

    Some observers warn that without the proper context those figures may make the situation seem worse than it is, since violent crime among youth still amounts for 'only" 16% of all crime, and female youth crime is only one third that of male youth crime.  On the other hand, argues Fred Mathews, director of research at Central Toronto Youth Services [Author of a review of studies on violence against boys "The Invisible Boy: Revisioning The Victimization of Male Children & Teens" —WHS], while girls as a group are not out of control, some of the most common forms of female violence never make it into the official statistics or public discussions.
    Furthermore, as Mr. Mathews notes in the January 1999 issue of Orbit, the official journal of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, it appears that as students enter high school it is the girls who first flex their muscles.  An Ontario study showed that Grade 9 girls in one junior high school reported being more likely than their male peers to take another student's lunch money, beat someone up, threaten somebody with a weapon or steal something using threats of physical violencc while at school.
    In a second middle-level school, girls in Grades 6 through 8 were more likely than their male peers to threaten another student or hurt others while using a weapon.  Meanwhile, in a study of schoolyard bullying among children in Grades 1 to 6, no gender differences were observed concerning verbal and physical aggression.
    Finally, Mr. Mathews quotes a 1992 study, "Of Mice and Women: Aspects of Female Aggression, wmcn reveals that females behave as aggressively as males if they are not in danger of being recognized or placed in a position to experience retaliation.  "[The authors] conclude that females are as aggressive as males as far as the motivation to hurt is concerned and that males are not 'by nature' more aggressive than females," he writes.
    That conclusion does not surprise Regina travel agent Adelle Revet, who reports that on a mid-February afternoon in the Old City Hall Mall, two boys and a girl aged 15 to 18 approached a colleague's 14-year-old son and demanded, 'Get your jacket, watch and shoes off or we're gonna hurt you.  And give us your bus pass.
    "The girl laughed and giggled the whole time," Ms. Revet continues, "she got a big charge out of it."  Fortunately a passerby noticed the terror in the boy's eyes and scared the thieves away. [My note:  According to Webster's, thief: one that steals, esp. stealthily or secretly...  However there was no stealth or secretiveness involved in this case, therefore the description is one of attempted robbery.  According to Webster's, robbery: the act or practice of robbing: larceny from the person or presence of another by violence or threat.  It is extremely unlikely that Candis MacLean used the term thieves on purpose to downplay the severity of the incident. — WHS]
    But if young female violence and aggression is so common, many would ask, why has it remained invisible for so long?  Part of the reason, Mr. Mathews says in an interview, is that Canadians tend to see girls primarily as victims of violence, not perpetrators. "This perception is due, in no small part, to the worrisome number of girls and women who are harmed by violence each year," he says.  "It is also due to the history of who has been doing the advocacy concerning interpersonal violence and aggression—namely women.  Thus, in the public mind, victims have a female face, perpetrators have a male face."
    Despite popular notions about female passivity, anecdotal reports of distaff pugnacity continue to pile up, as illustrated by the Youth Violence Project, created in 1993 by the University of Victoria in response to a call for help from a local school district.  Of particular concern to the schools, noted Professor Sibylle Artz in the April 1998 issue of Child and Youth Care Forum, was "an alarming rise in the number of incidents involving females in all forms of aggression and violence."
    Prof. Artz spent hundreds of hours over a year-long period with each of six "key informants" aged 13 to 16 who had all been involved in a number of violent altercations.  The six lived in a largely white suburb where the average household income was $52,000 per year.  Five of the six girls' parents had been married an average of 20 years; the sixth had lived for seven

 

The truth hurts but it works

Edmonton's ToughLove is a non-profit self-help program for families torn apart by anarchic adolescent behaviour.  Most parents who turn to the organization have exhausted all normal avenues of support and have become desperate, with couples arguing, losing sleep and missing work because their teenager is on drugs, suicidal, or violent.
      Among ToughLove's 50 core members, at least 10 have been assaulted by their children, estimates Alberta representative Doyle Raglon.  "If a teenager assaults someone," he says, "the ToughLove stance is, "Don't hit back, but call the police and press charges just as if they were a stranger on the street."' Getting tough with their kids is difficult for the average parent, he admits. and police are often astounded.  "They keep saying, 'You sure you want to do that?' But we place responsibility for their actions clearly on the shoulders of the child.''
      ToughLove originated in the U.S. during the 1960s when the daughter of Phyllis and David York, both trained family therapists, developed a severe drug problem.  After counselling, rehabilitation programs and repeated trips to jail had only made the problem worse, the Yorks told her they would no longer clean up her messes and would speak to her only through friends until she "cleaned up her act."  She improved, the dissolution of the family was stopped and today their organization has chapters in several countries.

Alberta Report, March 1, 1999, p. 43

      The basic tenets of ToughLove's philosophy, according to Mr. Reglon:
  • ToughLove parents stop blaming others and take action.

  • The child does not have equal rights to parents Or teachers, but the law says he has far more rights.  Our culture undermines the power of parents, teachers and principals, leaving us with no tools for control.  But we can regain control by enforcing conseouences.  For instance, "You used the F-word tonight, so this week you don't go out with your friends." [Note]

  • Although they never admit it, good principals and teachers instill a healthy fear in students, Through body language and eye contact, they communicate, "Don't challenge me." Otherwise they get eaten alive by today's kids. 

  • Children are bombarded with too many choices because we treat them as adults.  They are not.  We should give them restricted choices and let them know that their choices have consequences.

  • Life can be painful for youth, but parents should not rush in with a smart lawyer and say, "rescue my baby." That communicates, "Whatever you've done is okay," and creates an irresponsible adult who has no empathy for his victims. 

    My note:  That is not very practical in Canada.  Social workers consider "grounding" a child to be child abuse.  It's "one of the symptoms of child abuse" that the teachers in the schools are bent on discovering from their students.  If it is reported by children to their teachers or to a social worker it can result in the apprehension and removal of the child from "the abusive influence of his parents." —WHS

years with her mother and stepfather.  Although all six had the trappings of a family, their common denominator was an experience of family that included strife, disruption, anger and abuse.
    In describing the father figures in their lives, the girls made statements such as "Me and my stepfather are constantly fighting like brother and sister … We yell at each other, like swearing and stuff, really loud, like sometimes the neighbours call the cops ... I do need him to act like a parent (instead of us] acting like a brother and sister case ... He acts like a kid." Four of the six girls had been sexually abused.
    "Together,' Prof.  Artz wrote, "[the girls] presented themselves as tough and streetwise, knowledgeable about and connected to most aspects of youth Violence in their community, and willing to take on those who dared to question their ability to defend their carefully crafted images of power.  They also shared a deeply felt anger which at times turned into rage, even hate, and they shared a painful sense of loneliness and abandonment."
    "Linda" described her anger this way: "And there's one person and it just kinda happened after she mouthed me off, I was just like totally freaked with her and now I just want to slam her head into something.  I wanna shoot her with a gun or something.  I wanna kill her…If I could get away with it I'd kill her.  I wouldn't necessarily kill her, but I'd get her good.  I just want to teach her a lesson.  I'd beat the crap out of her.  She's pissed me off so badly, I just want to give her two black eyes.  Then I'd be fine.  I'd have gotten the last word in."
    "Jenny" described what makes violence fun: "I like fighting.  It's exciting.  I like the power of being able to beat up people.  Like, if I fight them, and I'm winning, I feel good about myself, and I think of myself as tough…I'm not scared of anybody, so that feels good.  My friends are scared of a lot of people, and I go, 'Oh yeah, but I'm not scared of them.'  It makes me feel powerful."
    Some of the girls had romantic notions of gangs as safe havens.  "That type of peer group is a reversion to our animal beginnings, as in Lord of the Flies, declares Bruce Sawden, principal of Calgary's Wood's Christian Homes school, which works with youth that have had trouble being accepted in other schools.  Mr. Sawden reports that within his student population of 600, up to 70%   have experienced a high level of violence in a previous school.  "We have young people showing up for school after sleeping in dumpsters," Mr. Sawden states.  "They have no family, no home, no church, and they want to belong so badly that they attach wherever they can.
    "Such empty young people develop primitive rituals," Mr. Sawden says.  "But instead of dancing round a fire, they go to mosh pits and raves."  In such survival situations, he reports, violence comes easily because life seems cheap.  To counteract these trends, Wood's Homes School works primarily to develop a sense of belonging and teach them 'how' to be generous and give back."
    But according to Alberta Education's Sautner, most districts cannot afford a special programs like those at Wood's Homes.' The old technique of suspending violent students no longer works, she says, because too many students actively seek suspension, like the Grade 7 student who used his newfound free time to commit break-ins.
    Herself a teacher, Ms. Sautner was once a victim of student violence, losing

"I wanna shoot her with a gun or something—I wanna kill her…If I could get away with it I'd kill her." SUBURBAN TEENAGER "LINDA"


part of a finger when a student slammed her hand in a door.  "It makes me realize how important the issue of violence is," she says. "Too many people say, 'It's not in my back yard.' But we cannot afford to be innocent bystanders.  We have to state its inappropriateness and then go one step farther and give alternatives.  We have to tell students there are other ways than violence to gain respect."
    That is no solution, says a Calgary woman who at age six was beaten up by a girl twice her age and size.  When her mother found out what happened, she reports, the principal was notified and the offender immediately put on the carpet.  Once satisfied about the particulars, the principal told everyone but the offender to leave.  "I could hear the sounds of the strap right through the door," she says.  "And that rat never so much as glanced at me again."

Alberta Report     March 1, 1999


See also:

  • The "Fix" That's Destroying Education In America

Have no illusions that the problems with America's education system are national ones. Once you read Tom DeWeese's article and know who's behind "The Fix", you'll come to the conclusion that you know also why  "The Fix" is destroying education in all developed nations.  Furthermore, you will know why the current push for sex-education is such a large part of it.

___________
Updates:
2001 02 10 (format changes)
2001 02 20 (added reference to The "Fix" That's Destroying Education In America)
2006 03 04 (added link to Feminism for Male College Students)