Children’s Matters

Coping With The Troubling Reality Of “School Violence”

Vania Van

School violence remains a pressing concern that causes distress for parents and outrage in society.  Never has the issue of school violence been as alarming as it is today.  Its consequences go beyond physical and psychological pain for the children; it has even claimed the lives of some.  The death of a 10th-grade female student at Vinh University High School has been reported by the media, leaving the public shocked and saddened in recent days.  How many more cases of school violence are happening?

According to the Ministry of Education and Training, there are 1,600-1,800 cases of school violence each year.  On average, there are five student fights per day.  The severity of these incidents is increasing.  School violence is no longer limited to petty disputes among students. We must have a more accurate understanding and show more concern for this issue.  It is due to minor conflicts that students lose control, engage in fights, cause injuries, or damage each other’s mental well-being.

What is school violence?

There are various interpretations of school violence.  According to Clause 5 Article 2 of Decree 80/2017/ND-CP, school violence refers to behaviors such as physical assault, mistreatment, beatings, bodily harm, humiliation, insult to one’s dignity, character, isolation, expulsion, and other deliberate actions causing physical or mental harm to students occurring in educational institutions or independent classrooms.

Therefore, school violence is understood as aggressive and disrespectful actions that disregard the law while causing physical and psychological harm to students in an educational environment. It can also be seen as negative actions that affect a particular student.

With the development of the internet, the incidence of school violence has been on the rise.  Conflicts, disagreements happening online, or small misunderstandings that students do not know how to handle can lead to instances of school violence.  The severity of school violence is increasing, and some victims even contemplate the act of suicide.  School violence has a profound impact on the psychological well-being and the future personality development of both the victims and the perpetrators.

Causes of School Violence

School violence arises from various factors, which can originate from families, schools, and communities.

  • The Students Themselves: The psychological aspects of adolescence are noteworthy when discussing the causes of school violence. During this phase, students undergo significant physical and psychological changes. Their awareness is still limited, and they may not fully grasp the consequences and harm caused by violent behavior toward their peers.  Children are influenced and stimulated by negative individuals, leading them to emulate such behavior.  Some children understand that violence is wrong but struggle to control their actions.  Those who have experienced abuse, violence, neglect, or psychological trauma are at a higher risk of engaging in violent behavior.  Some children may want to assert themselves, aiming to become leaders among their peers, even if it means bullying other students.  They believe that being a leader will protect them from bullying and harm from others.
  • Family:The family is the primary source of a child’s education, directly influencing their psychological development and behavior.  Children are influenced by violent behavior within their own families, which can lead to a higher tendency for violence compared to students from more nurturing family environments.  Unhealthy family environments lacking emotional bonds and parental supervision, and conflicts resolved through violence, can contribute to the likelihood of aggression and rebellious behaviors among children.
  • School: While not entirely to blame, the school environment plays a significant role in school violence. The primary role of schools is to provide knowledge and skills to help students lead positive lives and become good individuals.  Therefore, if schools do not offer suitable educational programs, it can contribute to negative behavior.  Education is often academically focused with an emphasis on knowledge, sometimes overlooking the importance of character development and social etiquette.  Many schools fail to incorporate practical and beneficial activities into their curriculum, lacking discipline and codes of conduct for social behavior.  Additionally, the pressure on schools to achieve academic excellence can lead to misguided actions and cover-ups, contributing to the prevalence of school violence.
  • Society: The social environment significantly influences a child’s character. If children grow up in a society characterized by negativity, criminal behavior, or widespread violence, they are more likely to exhibit violent tendencies and engage in criminal activities.  Negative news can create fear about personal safety, encouraging extreme measures for self-defense.

Penalties for School Violence

School violence is strictly prohibited under Article 37 of Circular 32/2020/TT-BGDĐT.  It prohibits actions that insult human dignity or infringe upon the physical well-being of students or teachers.  Currently, penalties for students involved in school violence typically involve disciplinary measures, such as written warnings, parental involvement, reductions in behavior grades, school-wide warnings, temporary suspensions, or even expulsion.

According to the law, school violence can be punished as an administrative violation according to Article 5 of the 2012 Administrative Violations Law.  Individuals aged 14 to under 16 can be administratively fined for intentional violations, while individuals aged 16 and above can be administratively fined for all violations.

Under the Civil Code 2015, school violence, which infringes upon the health, dignity, or honor of others, may lead to compensation for expenses related to medical treatment, rehabilitation, and the restoration of the victim’s health, property damage, or mental distress.

The severity of school violence can potentially lead to criminal offenses as stipulated in the Penal Code.  For example, it may constitute the offense of intentional infliction of injury under Article 104 of the Penal Code 2015 or the offense of humiliating others: “Anyone who seriously offends the dignity and honor of another person shall be subject to a warning, reform through education for up to two years, or imprisonment for a period of three months to two years,” as stated in Article 121 of the Penal Code 2015.

Moreover, according to Article 1 of the Law on Children 2016, children are individuals under 16 years of age.  In cases where children are not old enough to bear criminal responsibility but are at least 12 years old, the appropriate measures may vary.  They may be subject to educational measures at the commune, ward, or town level as stipulated in Article 89, or they could be placed in an educational institution according to Article 91 of the 2012 Administrative Violations Law.  In instances where the individuals participating in school violence are not of an age to bear criminal responsibility, their legal guardians will naturally be held jointly liable.

Responsibility of Schools in Addressing School Violence

Addressing school violence requires a collective responsibility from parents, educational institutions, and society.  While it is not fair to solely blame schools, the recent surge in school violence cases prompts us to reevaluate the effectiveness of schools in preventing and addressing this issue.

It is accurate to say that families play a crucial role in educating and raising awareness among children to combat violence.  However, schools are not just places for academic learning.  Unfortunately, many schools seem to focus solely on imparting knowledge and neglect other responsibilities.  School violence incidents occur both within and outside school premises and involve students as the primary culprits.  Schools should provide an environment where students can develop not only academically but also morally and ethically.  Have schools created such an environment that fosters students who abide by rules and exhibit good behavior?  Are subjects related to civic education and psychology taught seriously, or are they merely treated as a formality?  Perhaps it’s time for schools to pay more attention to nurturing students’ character and life skills.

The issue of school violence needs even more attention, especially in terms of educating students and enhancing their awareness through subjects related to ethics and life skills.  It is crucial to identify individuals displaying negative behavior and at risk of engaging in school violence and take timely measures to prevent regrettable actions.  Only through these efforts can schools fulfill their role in education effectively.

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