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Some 80 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls say they would respond violently if attacked at school, according to a new study that looked at student and parental attitudes toward retaliation.

"There is a system-wide difficulty with stopping the practice of 'hitting back.' The school system has limited deterrence in this matter," said Dr. Amos Fleishman of Achva Academic College, which conducted the study. "Given the level of violence common today, hitting back is boys' preferred way to defend themselves against further attack, and their preferred way to maintain their social standing."

The study, which encompassed 736 pupils, from first through twelfth grades, and their parents, revealed how prevalent violent responses are in schools. For example, 82 percent of the boys and 73 percent of the girls answered affirmatively when asked whether they would take a beating in a fight they themselves started. Many of those polled even took a positive view of violent responses: Some 50 percent of the parents, 63 percent of the boys and 42 percent of the girls claimed that teachers "have to understand" the need for hitting back. About half of the parents even objected to punishment for such behavior.

A majority of respondents noted that their school has a clear policy forbidding pupils to hit back.

The study also found almost no correlation between the positions of parents and those of their sons on hitting back. However, a relatively high correlation was found between the positions of mothers and daughters.