School Violence in Context: Culture, Neighborhood, Family, School, and Gender

By Rami Benbenishty; Ron Avi Astor | Go to book overview

Chapter 12
Revisiting Our Central Thesis: Schools to the Center
of the Theoretical Model

The bell rings and within a few seconds an ocean of students spills into the hallway. Students are rushing to their lockers, talking to friends, some meandering aimlessly while others walk with a sense of purpose to their classes. Suddenly, from somewhere in the crowd, a voice yells “FIGHT!” Most students stop what they are doing and energetically attempt to locate the fight. “Where is the fight?” and “Who is fighting?” are their frenzied questions. At the same time, down the hall, a circle of 30 or more adolescents engulfs the two fighting students. Those standing at the back of the circle are stretching their necks to catch a glimpse of the violence—a punch, a kick, or perhaps even a weapon. Some of the students in the circle are watching quietly. Some are cheering the fighters and commenting about the quality of the punches. Finally, after several long minutes, a teacher tunnels through the crowd, screaming, “Break it up! Break it up! O.K., everyone back to class. Break it up. Move aside.” Slowly, the crowd begins to dissipate and the fighting students are separated to opposite sides of the hallway. The lone and courageous teacher continues to admonish the few remaining gawkers who continue watching and hoping for another outburst of violence. The disheveled fighters are escorted by the teacher to the vice principal’s office. What happens in the office is not entirely known to the students who watched the episode. Likewise, the intervening teacher probably never finds out what happens to the fighting students.

As with our beginning scenario (Chapter 1), the sequence of social dynamics surrounding a relatively common physical assault in a school is probably recognizable to most individuals who attended a secondary school in the United States, Israel, Australia, and many other countries. In fact, it is quite probable that most current students and teachers could recount remarkably similar stories regarding the social dynamics of school fights and other forms of school violence.

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