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

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

Chapter 1
School Victimization Embedded in Context:
A Heuristic Model

THE SOCIAL COMPLEXITY OF A SCHOOL FIGHT:
A CASE OF IMPOVERISHED THEORY

I recall, in detail, the circumstances that led to a fistfight between two fellow classmates when I was in fourth grade.1 On the playground during recess, several students, including myself, spread a false rumor that David had called Carl a girl because of the way he kicked the ball. Within a few minutes, Carl heard of the rumor from other boys in our class. He marched over to the basketball court and pushed David. Almost immediately, a group of excited boys gathered in anticipation of a fight and circled the two students. Carl barked, “Why did you call me a girl?” David vehemently denied it, and there was an awkward moment of indecision. Then, from the crowd, several voices rang out, mainly from other boys, encouraging Carl to fight David. One student, named Randy, egged Carl on, saying, “You are afraid to fight him, you are a girl—Carla.” Carl appeared flustered, humiliated, and publicly pressured by the comment. At the time, being called a girl in front of a crowd of boys was indeed a challenge that required proof of machismo. In a somewhat contemplative and delayed response, Carl called David a liar and punched him in the nose; it started to bleed. Clearly stunned by the baseless accusation and subsequent attack, David fought back and punched Carl several times in the gut. More than a dozen students silently watched with contorted expressions on their faces, while a handful of other boys gleefully cheered the fighters on. Students from all over the playground ran to the circle like a magnet once they heard the echo of “Fight, fight, fight.” A group of younger girls ran in the opposite direction and alerted the teachers on yard duty. Soon the mainly female teachers and yard aides arrived and separated the boys, the energized crowd disbursed, and the two fighting students were escorted to the principal’s office. There, a verbal debriefing of students was

-1-

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