There has been a 25 percent drop in school violence over the last two years among the country’s elementary and junior high school students, according to a new Health Ministry study. Among senior high school students who took part in the survey, which consisted of 25,000 pupils in state and state religious schools, there was no discernible change in violence levels.

The survey − which asked students to respond to 100 questions about violent incidents inside their schools or on school buses, during the previous month − did not include children in special education or ultra-Orthodox frameworks.

Its main finding was that some 26 percent fewer elementary school students and 27 percent fewer junior high school students complained about dangerously violent incidents in 2011, compared to 2009.

The study shows that 16 percent of pupils between seventh and eleventh grades define themselves as victims of sexual violence, a term that includes touching and pinching of private parts without consent, and also inappropriate sexual comments.

Among children in fourth and fifth grades, 10 percent complained of such sexual violence in the recent survey − a decrease of 29 percent compared to the last survey, in 2009. Roughly 9 percent of pupils complained of violence by school faculty. Such violence was defined in the survey as attempts at inappropriate touching, slaps, pinching and pushing.

Among high school students, roughly a third of respondents reported heavy drinking experiences − 47 percent of respondents attest to drinking vodka, whiskey and other forms of alcohol; 5 percent smoke marijuana, 4 percent attest to using Ecstasy or amphetamines. Almost half of pupils between fourth and sixth grades have been exposed to verbal violence. This figure drops to 20 percent among high school students.

“This is no cause for victory celebrations, but the survey shows that we are on the right track,” said Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar at a press conference on Tuesday.

He suggested that the improvement stems from measures taken to “stiffen discipline and order” in the schools, and to the support provided to teachers and principals in the campaign against violence. Sa’ar also modified the “law for students’ rights” − a change which enables a school to suspend a pupil immediately in response to violent infractions, without having to wait until a pupil exercises the option of appeal.