Israel's Education Ministry Report Shows Drop in School Violence

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Illustration: School hallwayCredit: Dreamstime

A multiyear study has found a drop in most categories of school violence, physical and verbal.

Between 2009 and 2015, as judged by answers to questions such as, “Did anyone over the last month insult you with the aim of hurting you?” or “Did any of the pupils at school mock you or insult or humiliate you verbally in the last month?” there was a reduction in the numbers answering yes from 52 percent to 38 percent in grades 4-6, and from 42 percent to 39 percent in grades 7-9. The study was conducted by the National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation in Education.

Nevertheless, a change in this trend could be seen when comparing 2013 and 2015. In grades 4-6 there were no changes, whereas in the higher grades there was a 5 percent increase. The numbers were stable at around 27 percent in grades 11 and 12. The researchers noted that it should be examined in coming years to see if this indeed portends a reversal of the earlier decline, especially in grades 7-9. In 2015, the incidence of pupils reporting being subjected to verbal violence in Hebrew-speaking schools (38 percent) was higher than in Arabic-speaking ones (31 percent).

In terms of moderate violence such as threats, shoving, kicking or punching, there was a drop in the number of pupils in grades 4-6 and grades 7-9 reporting being victims of such acts, from 35 percent to 25 percent in the former, and from 22 percent to 18 percent in the latter. Comparing 2013 and 2015, though, again showed some halt in the decline. Among 10th and 11th graders the numbers were stable between 2009 and 2013, at around 10 percent to 12 percent.

As for severe violence, including painful blows leading to injuries and requiring medical attention, extortion of money, food and other valuables under threat, and threats with weapons, it turns out that as the age of the pupils increased, the numbers reporting violent incidents declined. In 2015 the incidence was 12 percent in grades 4-6, as opposed to 8 percent in grades 7-9 and 6 percent in grades 10-11. The incidence of pupils in Hebrew-speaking schools who reported more serious violence was 7 percent, in comparison to 15 percent in Arabic-speaking schools. These gaps persist for other age groups as well.

The multiyear survey shows a decline in the number of pupils reporting being the victims of severe violence. In grades 4-6 there was a 7 percent drop, with only a 3 percent drop in grades 7-9 and 2 percent in grades 10-11. Most of the decrease occurred between 2009 and 2011, with mainly stable numbers thereafter.

Between 2009 and 2015 there was a 2 percent drop in the number of pupils reporting the bringing of weapons to school, at all age groups. Most of the fall-off occurred by 2011. In this period, Arabic-speaking schools saw a decline in the prevalence of weapons at school, dropping from 10 percent to 6 percent in grades 7-9 and from 12 percent to 8 percent in high schools. The numbers were unchanged between 2013 and 2015.

The report also found a slight decline in alcohol consumption, though 47 percent of high-school students said they drank mildly alcoholic beverages like beer, as did 20 percent of junior-high students and 10 percent of sixth-graders. Nor were the percentages significantly lower for hard drinks like whisky or vodka – 41 percent of high-school students, 14 percent of middle-school students and 6 percent of sixth-graders. A quarter of high-school students said they had gotten drunk, as did 6 percent of junior-high students.

Asked whether they had experienced verbal violence in the last month, the proportion of fourth- through sixth-graders who answered affirmatively fell from 52 percent in 2009 to 38 percent in 2015. But for grades seven through nine, the decline was minuscule (42 to 39 percent), and over the last two years, the figure actually rose. For high-school students, the rate remained stable at around 27 percent.

In terms of social violence, including ostracizing and spreading of rumors, there was a drop for all ages between 2009 and 2015 – 7 percent in grades 7-9 and 4 percent in grades 10-11, with a sharper 15 percent drop in grades 4-6. Again, most of the drop was between 2009 and 2011, after which the numbers did not change much.

Digital violence, including dissemination of hurtful photos, receiving hurtful messages or threats over the phone or internet, had an incidence of 9 percent to 11 percent for all age groups.

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