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Schools that offer a special education program that discourages violence have reported an 18 percent drop in various manifestations of abuse, including physical blows and shoving, verbal put-downs and theft. The research study examined schools that boasted the biggest decreases in violent activity among children.

According to findings released yesterday by the Education Ministry, one of the main reasons for the dramatic improvement is the increased involvement of students and parents within the schools.

The findings also show a decrease of 24 percent in the number of incidents in which medical treatment is needed for students involved in an altercation; a 20 percent drop in the number of instances in which an attacking student used a stone or other object to harm another student; a 19 percent decrease in cases where a student punched or kick another student; and a 15 percent drop in the number of shoving incidents.

The study is based on comparative questionnaires that were answered by pupils in 279 schools two years ago - when the anti-violence program was first introduced - and in recent months.

The initiative, which is known as "Promoting a Safe Environment and Minimizing Violence," was administered by the ministry's advisory and psychological service.

The program is tailored to the needs of schools based on the results of the original questionnaire. The survey was intended to gauge the levels of violence in educational institutions as well as the feeling of physical security among the students at the institutions.

The initiative was expanded a year ago and today encompasses some 1,300 schools around the country.

In the latest follow-up, the ministry discovered three main trends: an increased sense of belonging and respect between teachers and students; less physical violence; and a greater sense of physical security.

According to the findings, there was an 8.7 percent increase in the number of students who felt that teachers were more attentive to their needs and an 8.1 percent in the number of pupils who felt that teachers accorded them greater respect.