Education Min. Takes Broader Approach in Tackling School Violence

Main program used to combat school violence has come under criticism, prompting review of protocols.

The Education Ministry has told schools that use a controversial program to counter violence that they will have to include other systems in the field. The program to receive company is the one created by Prof. Amos Rolider, chairman of the Behavioral Sciences Department at Jezreel Valley College.

The reason for the change is the serious criticism of Rolider's program at the Education Ministry. Rolider is considered one of the country's biggest experts on dealing with violence and is involved in the Public Security Ministry's project "A city without violence."

The decision to require other programs reveals a struggle at the ministry between two educational perspectives. While the ministry wants to advance the students' "educational well-being" in a number of areas, Rolider's program focuses on providing tools to mold the child's behavior.

"Rolider's intervention program only deals with one area: the feeling of protection and safety inside the school, but an educational institution is not just a place where you prevent violence. It is intended to enable all forms of development in the personal, educational, social and other spheres," said the director of the ministry's Psychological and Counseling Service, Chana Shadmi.

"The focus on only a single topic is very problematic. That is why schools will be required also to deal with the areas of relationships with teachers and 'life skills' of the students."

Shadmi said that "there is no justification to use non-ministry programs." Last school year, such outside programs were used in about 800 schools, and Education Minister Yuli Tamir said that "every external project must be coordinated with the values, messages and methods of the school."

Rolider's Harel program (the name is based on a Hebrew acronym for self-restraint, moderation and learning) is used in about 15 schools. But its basic principles and parts of the program are used in many more educational institutions, including those that participate in the city without violence program in 10 towns.

Rolider's program is based on a strict list of rules that dictate interactions between teacher and student. Any anomalous behavior is documented, and in extreme cases a child disturbing the class is removed by "protection counselors" after they are called in by walkie-talkie.

Once a week parents receive letters on their child's behavior. Rolider claims that the level of violence in schools operating the program has dropped by half, but the Education Ministry notes that the program has never been examined by an outside body.

"The problem is not Rolider's program but the situation of the educational system, which suffers from a lack of support," said Dr. Bolha Noy, who retired last year from the Psychological and Counseling Service.

"The teachers receive no support from the principal, who does not receive support from the regional manager, and so on. In such a situation, it is hard to exercise authority and set down clear boundaries. Everyone wants an instant solution. And then a so-called savior appears, who promises in short and clear messages to return quiet to the schools. I can understand the rush to follow him, but it is false magic."

A senior ministry official said: "Rolider is not a prophet and he is not the only [person] with a proper educational viewpoint."

According to Rolider, "the only stable thing in the ministry is the bureaucracy, which objects to everything differing from its views." He says the ministry has failed for years to deal with violence.