Social Support And School Violence Education Essay


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This thesis the under-researched educational and school-based issues in relation to the phenomenon of children involved in school violence. This research will assess and determine the outcome of social support and its involvement with school violence, thus it inter-relates overlapping paradigms of children, school and domestic violence which, although currently are receiving more attention, have previously remained unidentified and unconnected (Mullender et al 1998).

The study is based on the hypothesis that schools can make a difference and have a unique part to play in safeguarding children, by recognizing and supporting children living with domestic violence and also by providing preventive education to all.

However schools do not operate in isolation and this study focuses on school as a central facet of a multi-disciplinary and 'joined up' strategy to both educate and safeguard children by studying social support and examining the relationship that social support has with other important factors in the lives of children and adolescents.

The fundamental aim is to determine if social support has an influence on violence in the school setting and explore how individuals in some schools are fulfilling their educational, pastoral, citizenship, moral and social responsibilities in relation to children involved in school violence and to their entitlement to a 'broad and balanced curriculum that prepares them for the opportunities and responsibilities of adult life (ERA 1988).

The central focus is school violence, which affects an unknown number of children (DoH 2001), of whom many remain societally 'invisible' or unrecognized. All children, irrespective of their home circumstances, are expected to attend school

and are entitled to receive an 'inclusive' and relevant education for approximately 12 years of their life, which not only provides qualifications, but also prepares them socially, morally and emotionally for adult life. Finally the linking paradigm of child protection connects theoretical and practice based interventions, currently conceptualized as 'safeguarding children', and some children's home based experiences of maltreatment and abuse, with an educational culture and organization that predominantly focuses on market driven outcomes of attainment and improvement.

Schools in context

Schools are complex organizations. Different areas of school life are not discrete entities but frequently overlap, or exist on a 'pastoral-academic' curriculum, either intentionally or unintentionally. The philosophical underpinning of every aspect of school life is frequently conceptualized s a 'whole school ethos' or para-curriculurn (Ryder and Campbell 1988) and is variously known as the hidden or informal curriculum. The 'whole school ethos' impacts on and is impacted by the concept of social justice, with many teachers seeing their role as countering social injustice by promoting opportunity for the least advantaged. Conversely schools as institutions reflect the societies which produce them and have the added force that they can reproduce those societies. Thus there is no part of school 'which is not part of the curriculum' (Walking 1998: 40). For example, sexism and sexual harassment if tolerated in school become part of the socialization and formation of students (and staff) and continue to be replicated and unchallenged in the wider society (Hame 2000).

Schools employ teaching and non-teaching staff, as well as involving educational, health and social welfare professionals who visit and work in schools, often interacting with school staff and students on a daily basis. Additionally, although self-managing, schools do not operate in isolation and there are many other individuals that this study impacts on and whose professional perceptions, values and attitudes will add holistically to an understanding of the role of school in relation to children living with domestic violence. Moreover, teachers and schools have been identified by others as having an important role in addressing violence.

Although there are currently increasing numbers of schools being supported to develop this neglected area of work, the main focus is on teaching strategies and curriculum development. Predominantly, practitioners outside of the school setting and sometimes women affected by violence initiate it, although often in partnership with schools, for example the Westminster Schools Project (Debbonaire 2002). Moreover for almost two decades schools and education practitioners have been subject to major and radical changes that have been imposed from without, for which their views have rarely been sought. This thesis, although addressing discrete facets of school life, acknowledges that they cannot be viewed in isolation and can affect and be affected by other interactions, relationships and priorities, both inside and outside of school.

Practical questions to be considered within this thesis include:

How do respondents understand violence?

How do respondents perceive their roles and responsibilities?

Are respondents aware of how violence may impact on children and young people in schools?

How are respondents recognizing and supporting children and young people living with violence?

Do respondents work collaboratively?

Do respondents seek to integrate violence into the whole school curriculum?

Statement of the Problem

Currently in the United States there is great interest and concern in the problem of school violence. There have been several reports in recent years of bomb threats and school shootings. Research has shown that most school violence stems from bullying, which shows the extent, to which, bullying can make students reach.

School violence has become such a phenomenon that most schools districts are making anti-bullying lessons a part of their guidance curriculum. More attention is being focused on how students relate to each other. More supervision has been the answer to schools in hopes of limiting the occurrence of bullying and violence.

Objectives of the Study

As mentioned, the aim of the study is to measure the effects of social support and school violence. The following objectives will be addressed in this study:

1. To determine if social support is a significant factor when it comes to students and school violence.

2. To determine the advantages and disadvantages of social support among school aged students.

With this knowledge I hope to plan on gaining from this study. I hope to improve my ability as a counselor to help reduce bullying in my school and to help students cope with bullying behavior.

Literature Review

The need for anti-bullying curriculum is clearly evident by numerous research studies. In 1999 a survey by Peter Smith included several countries; America, Africa, Australia, Europe etc. showed that schools were required to have anti-bullying policies in the schools (Rigby, 2001). Given the effort that schools in many countries are now making to reduce bullying among students, we need to know if these interventions truly work. There have been several studies on this topic and most of them agree that interventions are more likely to be successful when they are applied to younger students and they are applied completely (Rigby, 2002). This ensuring the fact that anti-bullying must be a priority and it is a crucial part of school guidance curriculum.

Students are victims of a variety of problem behaviors at school, ranging from trivial disciplinary problems to more difficult problems. Physical aggression can be referred to as direct bullying, which often takes the form of physical contact where the victim is plainly attacked. Name calling and socially excluding someone can be referred to as indirect bullying. This is often just as deliberate as direct bullying but might not be as noticeable.

There are studies showing that girls and boys differ in the use of direct and indirect bullying. Girls tend to often use the indirect form of bullying and boys use the direct form (Ericson, 2001; Banks, 1997; Carney and Merrell 2001; Crick and Grotpeter 1995). In this study it will be important to consider gender differences and a wide range of aggressive behavior.

If schools are to be truly inclusive and also fulfill their legislative responsibilities, it could be expected that teaching about violence is a prerequisite of supporting and educating children to succeed in the transition from childhood to adulthood. However, as yet violence as an issue to be addressed remains invisible in many schools. Current studies relating to children involved with violence emphasize the social, health, mental, welfare and to a lesser extent educational implications of violence as a form of maltreatment for children, with a focus on the preventive and supportive role of health and social services. It has been suggested that the impact being involved with violence can have both immediate and long-term negative effects on some children, sometimes with profound outcomes. Other children may possess or develop a protective resilience that safeguards them; however it would be myopic to presuppose that this 'immunity' will offer lifelong protection. Increasingly studies, reports and consultations (EMSO 2003, WEE 2004) are suggesting that schools and the education system also have a role as partners in a multi-agency response to recognize and support children involved with violence.

The secondary health and social welfare role of state schools has developed in reaction to particular 'visible' social problems which were having a national impact. For example, the provision of school meals in the early 20th century came in response to malnourished army recruits and concerns for the future health of the nation (CCCS 1981). A pastoral role has always been an expectation of the public school system and has incrementally been incorporated into the state system. However, the primary role of school is to educate, underpinned by the necessity of ensuring children are attending, it sometimes being argued that education cannot be successful until children are emotionally ready (Pring 1987, Sylva 1994).

The increasing body of 'children and violence' research has not yet fully progressed into the domain of education and, where it exists, is still limited to issues of prevention through practice-based initiatives, including resource development and curriculum delivery. There is as yet little evidence-based research or evaluation to suggest models of existing good practice for curriculum planning or delivery, although there is much to be learnt from SRE and HIV/AIDS methodology (Holland et al 1990, Thomson and Scott 1991). However there is an even smaller body of research interest to draw on relating to the pastoral domain of school life that particularly priorities violence. Child protection and education research nonetheless provides a firm foundation and there are many similarities. From this information desert my natural instincts have been to additionally draw on professional experience underpinned by a 'self empowerment' theoretical model to enable the meeting of needs (Maslow 1968, Hopson and Scally 1981, Tones 1987).

This has led me to question what is blocking schools from considering the inclusion of children living with violence. Additionally, 'what can enable schools to be encouraged and supported to work on the social support and to benefit all children? Although violence may be considered contentious, schools have for many years successfully integrated other related and similarly challenging issues into the curriculum (Warwick et al 1988, Thomson 1992, Ray 1995).

Contextualizing violence for children

Despite apparent links between children living with violence, child protection and schools, research, policy, practice and theory are apparently slow to develop these links to the benefit of children. Embedded in all three are issues of power and control, responsibility and the invisibility of violence for children. Power and control are manifested and embedded in patriarchal attitudes in the home, school, the legal system and social services. Responsibility for violence is not demanded of perpetrators, nor of institutions for intervention and prevention. Fundamentally underpinning both is the invisibility of women, children and perpetrators within policy and practice, at national and local levels.

Violence has until recently only been recognized in abusive adult relationships and only during the last decade has it been seen also to implicate and involve children. For a child attending school, any intervention or support offered to an abused child is likely to be initiated by a school practitioner and offered frequently only to the child, ignoring the combined and interrelated impact on children and their mothers. It is crucial, therefore, to contextualize violence for children within a wider understanding of the effects it also has on other family members, particularly their mothers. This is necessary for all school practitioners, teaching and non-teaching, but is particularly salient for those in primary schools, when younger children are more dependent upon their mothers.

For children in school of all ages, teaching about violence has implications for all educational practitioners. Firstly, for children living with violence who may not have already been recognized in school, being taught about it can have both positive and negative impacts, the latter necessitating supportive pastoral and welfare action, often jointly working other agencies. Secondly, violence could be taught in many areas of the curriculum, but it is particularly relevant for Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) and Citizenship, which in some schools overlaps with the pastoral system, and especially in Sex and Relationships Education (SRE). At this point it is important to remember that they have had a difficult and fractured history and are frequently taught from a purely information or medical model perspective (Tones 1987), with minimal reference to gendered relations. For education relating to violence to be meaningful, teachers will not only benefit from an information base but also a theoretical understanding embracing the concepts of gendered power and control (Hame 2000).

What is Violence?

When focusing on definitions in research terms, the data collected in the context of the breadth or narrowness of the term 'violence' has far-reaching implications. A broad and inclusive definition will present a problem of greater magnitude than a narrower definition and present a more generalizable picture across a wider spectrum of violence(s). Adopting a narrower definition of physical violence may address an understanding with more specificity and be more quantifiable, but equally may be problematic in reflecting the reality of women, and also their children, experiencing violence in the totality of its overlapping forms (Dobash and Dobash 1998). For abused children, a child protection response is frequently limited to physical and sexual violence, which for schools is more easily identifiable as a cause for concern than emotional abuse and neglect (Geffner and Rossman 1998). In a school setting, the effects and impact of domestic violence for children manifest through social, behavioral and emotional difficulties are more easily attributable to other causes if a narrower definition of violence is adopted.

Violence serves to function as an effective form of social control (Hamner 1978). Walker (1979) also refuted that physical violence is worse than other forms, by illustrating that most of the women she interviewed described verbal abuse and humiliation as their worst experience of abuse. This was irrespective of whether physical violence had been present or not (see Mooney 1994).

Despite the fact that studies that have consulted women suggest that violence can take many forms, physical violence is still the most obviously identifiable and measurable (Mirlees-Black 1999, Walby 2004). Moreover violence and abuse (however categorized) between people who know each other is more frequently considered to be less serious that that from 'Strangers'. Helping professionals, such as lawyers, social workers and doctors as well as police officers, have been criticized not just for their indifference but as being centrally implicated in the very construction and perpetuation of violent relationships through their unsympathetic and unhelpful reactions and interventions (Mullender and Morley 1994: 9).

Any incident of threatening behavior, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or who have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender (Mulraney 2001: 22). Although a positive development, this expanded definition clearly situates adults (of either gender) as both recipients and perpetrators of violence and excludes children by negating their experiences. Although physical assault is one facet of the phenomenon of violence, there are indications that it is beginning to be taken seriously as a criminal offence by the police and legal system (Home Office 2003) and other statutory services (Humphreys 2000).

Violence is very seldom an isolated behavior or event, rather more it is a combination of associated abusive and controlling behaviors that incrementally increase both in form and severity and frequency, pervading all aspects of life (Walby 2004). The degree and frequency of the violence, abuse and coercion is further influenced and maintained by the structural nature of cultural, hierarchical, family and social boundaries, which may differ between women (Hamner 2000); there is no one stereotype or syndrome but a variety of recognizable patterns.

This study now turns to the role of schools in relation to children experiencing violence and we do know that there are many children living with domestic violence and many are affected, exhibit behavioral and emotional difficulties and some have inconsistent school attendance patterns. Both of these seriously impact on their access to education in school and educational and adult outcomes.

It has been shown previously that when asked, children invariably have said that schools and particularly teachers could have both a pastoral and preventative role (McGee 2000). A recent study has suggested that children would welcome lessons on violence (Mullender et al 2002). Teaching about violence is even more pressing when research with young people suggests that many young men and women thought there could be circumstances in which it would be acceptable for a man to hit a female partner (Burton and Kitzinger 1998; Mullender et al 2002).

This considers how school, despite institutional differences, can make a difference to benefit all children, both now and for their future. It discusses difficulties between the overriding responsibility of schools to deliver the national curriculum with other curriculum areas and the interrelationship with 'caring' and the pastoral care system. School predominantly has a responsibility to educate children of which students' personal, social and moral development is a major aim (NCC 1990) and can be integrated into the taught and informal curriculum, which in its entirety is frequently referred to as a 'whole school ethos'. Underpinning a philosophy of education in schools are concepts of social justice and equality of opportunity for all, however the current social inclusion agenda although proactively promoting children's rights to an education and recognizing groups of vulnerable children, omits to name children living with domestic violence.

The pastoral care system and the teaching of 'Personal, Social and Health Education' (PSHE) and 'citizenship' are sometimes considered to be 'added on' and subsidiary to the teaching of academic subjects. However they are embedded and interrelated facets influencing the whole school ethos and are central to both recognizing and supporting children living with domestic violence. Moreover they are ideally placed to provide preventative education that addresses gender and other social inequality issues. While recognizing that all schools are different they all have common responsibilities to be involved in multi-disciplinary partnerships to safeguard and protect children and to educate children for life.

Changing Schools?

A school is fundamentally an institution located in a building, a social site (CCCS

1981) that is tangible and recognizable, in which, education in its broadest or narrowest sense can take place. No two schools are identical, not only do they differ architecturally, aesthetically, or in size, they also serve children of different ages, ethnicity, socio-economic background and ability and sometimes gender. They vary in popularity and management styles, experience differential rates of student attendance and types of behavior, employ different pedagogies and produce a wide range of outcomes and, significantly, are culturally different (Hargreaves et al 1996). However they all serve the educational needs of children, have a responsibility to ensure that children can access that right and that children are able to have a voice in aspects of school planning and governance (Keff and Cleaver 2004: 41).

The education system includes schools, as an institutional instrument and democratic social system, which are themselves integral to a much wider whole of 'lifelong learning' of knowledge, skills and values and the development of citizenship, social justice and morals. Implicit to the school as an institution is the need for an organizational structure (Burgess 1986) and an understanding of what schools are meant to attain and how this is measured. Despite differences between schools, the priority of school effectiveness is most often measured in terms of comparing 'like with like' and schools are publicly seen to have a responsibility to succeed by providing a 'quality' education, measured currently by improving academic outcomes (Gray 1995). The predominantly academic orientation of secondary schools, and increasingly of primary (Pollard 1996), presupposes a narrow definition of what counts as achievement and success, limiting the recognized value of less academic education ( ILEA 1984). A current way of maximizing academic success is seen to be grouping or tracking students according to ability, which is suggested to be inconsistent with wider aims of providing a broad and balanced curriculum and positively recognizing a wide range of achievements for all children. For some children living with domestic violence, academic success is not always allocated a high priority, for others it can positively promote self-esteem, value and belonging. However, as Hargreaves et al suggest:

Tracking or streaming is a product of the overwhelming academic orientation that characterizes the culture of secondary school. This culture values academic achievement above all else and ranks students in relation to it (Hargreaves et al 1996: 30).

The prevailing educational 'effectiveness' discourses of the measurement of good and bad, improving and failing schools, articulated through managerialism, inspection and accountability (Weiner et al 1997: 624) have a resonance with the rise and fall of the fortunes of corporate businesses in the transition from modernity to post-modernity. Schools, professionals within them, children attending them and their parents, have for some time been at the sharp end of challenges and change responding to a globalised political economy (Tomlinson 2001). The heterogeneity of responses to the challenges can be as diverse as the needs of the students and communities that schools serve, ranging from Hargreaves culture of 'balkanized' schools to those that care about, collaborate with and empower all those who are involved with them (Hargreaves 1994).

Pring (1988) alternatively considers child centered ways of measuring educational outcomes. Firstly, he considers the way that a child develops as a person, as measured through the development of the powers of the mind and intellect. Secondly, he looks at the capacity to recognize others as persons, as centers of consciousness and reason. Thirdly, he measures how one acts intentionally and deliberately and is accountable and responsible morally for one's actions. Finally, as culmination and synthesis, he asks to what extent is the person conscious of her/his self, with a sense of her/his own worth and dignity. However what is less apparent is how the 'development of a person' can be appropriately measured that looks to the more affective, social and other educational domains. Particularly in an increasingly 'low trust, high surveillance' school culture where the success of the technical and market driven environment of school is measured in quantitatively assessed data.

Wrigley (2003) details eight mutually reinforcing significant points to substantiate his hypothesis that the prevailing emphasis on school effectiveness is antidemocratic. All of these are pertinent to this study, but two are particularly crucial: firstly that it narrows our discourse for thinking about education and its goals, and secondly it limits the scope of teachers to provide curricula to all pupils and particularly to those who may have difficulty with their learning (Wrigley 2003: 109).

Sixty years have passed since the 1944 Education Reform Act (ERA) heralded the democratization of the schooling system with the aim of equality of opportunity for all children. However Skelton (1997) suggests that girls were awarded less equality of opportunity than boys, by both the gender divided curriculum and by access to a relevant school (Deem 1981). The goal of equality of opportunity to a compulsory school based education demonstrating an ideological shift from an education determined by accident of birth to one of achievement was contentious, both in the decision making process and also in the implementation. Successive governments have implemented massive changes to the structure of the educational system, in an attempt to address the fundamental needs of children and young people to develop into educated, responsible citizens with the ultimate outcome of entering into the world of work.

Inclusion of Social Justice

The concept of social justice in educational terms, developed from Aristotle's notion of distributive justice, lies in the requirement of treating equals equally. Rather than the distribution of goods and services in relation to schooling, however, social justice implies a consideration of how every child in every school could be justly treated, by ensuring that they receive a 'good education'. Connell (1994) considers that it is not just the distribution or material resources that arc necessary, but the need is to deal more with the content and process of education that is 'curricular justice. In educational terms 'the "how much" and the "who" cannot be separated from the "what"' (Connell p140). The ‘what; is the hegemonic curriculum that originates historically from the educational practices of European men, thus authorizing the experiences of white men and marginalizing those of women and dominated groups.

The Third Way of social justice and inclusion of the current Labor Government has not as yet been effective in radically altering the inequality or diversity of educational situations that many children and young people experience. Social democracy’s till looks to school improvement’s as being the panacea of disaffection There are targets and performance indicators for raising levels of attainment but not for reducing inequality. According to Mortimorc and Wehitty:

one of the depressing findings is (that) the relative performance of the disadvantaged has remained similar even when the absolute performance of such groups has improved (Mortimore and Whitty 1997: 9).

It is not only in the economic and productive spheres of life that a 'quality' education can be advantageous. The causal link between level of education and risk of poverty takes in various interim factors. A poor educational career has direct consequences beyond the labor market position of the individual as an adult. For example, people with a better level of literacy enjoy markedly better health because they are better informed of risks and can make more effective use of health care and because their living environment exposes them to fewer dangers.

Despite the emphasis on educational inclusion being '... about equal opportunities for all pupils whatever their age, gender, ethnicity, attainment and background' (OFSTED undated), the paramount concern of the Social Exclusion Unit is prioritized as the reduction of truancy and school exclusion (Levitas 1998) and the emphasis for OFSTED inspectors when addressing inclusion is that of attainment (OFSTED undated).

All of these educational developments can disadvantage many children in school

However for children who are additionally disadvantaged by chaotic and disrupted home lives, abused and experiencing emotional and behavioral difficulties, school can be a fearful, disempowering and difficult place to be. As Atkinson and Homby remind us, the national curriculum omitted to give equal attention to the preparation of children for other aspects of life in addition to that of economic opportunities, suggesting that: social and emotional awareness are as important, if not more important than intellectual ability in achieving success... Yet attention to children's emotional competence has so far been omitted from the school curriculum (Atkinson and Homby 2002: 8-9).


All junior high students, grades six through eight, at an Iowa school will take a social support questionnaire. There will be forty participants selected by the results of the social support survey. Half of the participants will be male and half will be female and include multi-cultural students. They will be split into two groups a control group and an experimental group. Each group will participate in a pretest and a posttest.

Research Design

Data collection strategy will be pretest-posttest control group approach. A group of participants will be selected and randomly assigned to an experimental group and a control group. Both groups of participants are pre tested on the dependent variable and then post tested after the experimental treatment condition has been administered to the experimental group. This approach controls for all of the standard threats to internal validity.

Data Analysis

The latest SPSS or Excel software will be used to analyze the scores of the pretest-posttest control group analysis.

Implementation of Plan

The study will have four stages of implementation: the preparation stage, data collection stage, the analysis stage, and the documentation stage. These stages are described in further detail below.

The preparation stage will deal directly with the preparation of materials needed for the study. Also involved during this stage is a literature review of related topics and studies, along with a testing site, selection of participants, and other administrators/helpers.

The second stage will involve the whole control group process. The project site will be an Iowa middle school and the participants will include 40 sixth through eighth graders. The participants will be half male and half female and include multi-cultural students. The participants will be randomly split in half, the first group will be the control group and the second will be the experimental group. The control group will take the pretest and posttest but will not participate in anti-bullying guidance curriculum. The experimental group will also participate in the pretest and posttest, as well as participate in the anti-bullying guidance curriculum.

The third stage is the analysis stage and will involve a comparison of the two groups results from the study. An SPSS or Excel analysis will be used to compare the test scores of the two groups. Tables will be used to better illustrate the results in an easy way to understand.

The final stage, the documentation stage will involve writing the conclusion and recommendation for the results as well as the documentation of the project. That will provide support for the hypothesis to determine that social support has an influence on violence in the school setting.

Conclusions and Recommendations

For children involved in violence schools can make a difference, just by being schools and therefore an important part of children's life. However for schools to make a real difference for all children living with domestic violence and to continue to make a difference to the quality of the rest of their life I have several recommendations.

Firstly and most importantly central government’ also have a responsibility to place children living with domestic violence at the centre of their concern for safeguarding children, to include schools more prominently in its implementation and legislate for domestic violence in the curriculum. It is essential that this requirement is accompanied by adequate funding. Each LEA needs to have a Domestic Violence senior officer with responsibility for policy, strategy and operational developments. Additionally children living with domestic violence need to be recognized and named with-in the educational social inclusion agenda.

Secondly to make it work in schools, all schools need to have a domestic violence coordinator, separate from but in partnership with a child protection coordinator, and outside supportive agencies. The domestic violence coordinator should be a member of the senior management and pastoral care team and straddle academic and pastoral care responsibilities and essentially be part of the Domestic Violence Forum and network and be able to effectively communicate with other schools. Training and support for all staff and governors, but particularly pastoral care staff, needs to be prioritized.

Thirdly all schools need support, training and additional curriculum time to continue to develop PSHE and citizenship that is focused particularly on recognition of gendered equality and equity but also on all forms of oppression in school. Additionally PSHE should have equal status to citizenship and other academic subjects in the curriculum and the recognition that its effective delivery underpins all aspects of school life for all students and staff. Domestic Violence education has to be integrated into PSHE, SRE, citizenship and NHSS at all age groups and as part of the spiral curriculum. Essentially skills development and the process of teaching is as important as the content.

Fourthly the importance of the whole school ethos is too importance to be left to chance, and underpins the success of all the previous recommendations. It needs to address all aspects of school life for all staff and students alike. The distinction has to be made with whole school curriculum development and recognize that a schools is not only about academic success although the two are mutually interdependent.

Finally if these recommendations can be achieved students will be empowered to communicate, discuss, respect, trust and value each other and staff. They will name their own feelings and needs and find their own ways to successfully achieve them.

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