Survey: 15% of Students, 20% of Teachers Consider School Unsafe

Twelve percent of junior high and high school students say they have seen other students doing drugs at school, while 7 percent say students at their school have come to class armed with knives, according to a new survey on school violence commissioned by the Citizens' Empowerment Center in Israel.

The survey, which will be presented at a conference at Tel Aviv University tomorrow, also found that 15 percent of students and 20 percent of teachers view their school as an unsafe place, while 5 percent of both students and teachers consider it downright dangerous, or even very dangerous.

The most common form of violence at schools is threats, the survey found: More than half of teachers and about a third of students said they recently had witnessed someone being threatened.

But 10 percent of teachers and 15 percent of students said they knew of a student who had been indicted for a crime committed at school.

And fully 20 percent of teachers, along with 12 percent of students, said they recently had encountered violence at school severe enough to warrant calling the police.

While 7 percent of students said they had seen another student come to class with a knife, the proportion climbed to 11 percent among teachers. With regard to drugs, however, the opposite was true: Only 4 percent of teachers said they had noticed a student doing drugs at school, compared to 12 percent of students.

Fully 21 percent of teachers said they had been cursed at, threatened or even hit by a student over the last year. In contrast, only 5 percent of students reported being cursed at, threatened or hit by a teacher.

That finding, however, contradicts the results of a similar question asked on the last Meitzav, the Education Ministry's standardized achievement test. As Haaretz reported last week, the Meitzav survey found that almost one in five students in grades five through nine said they had been mocked or humiliated by a teacher, while 7 percent said a teacher had deliberately pushed or hit him or her.

But despite all the reports of violent behavior, a whopping 99 percent of students and 96 percent of teachers told the CECI survey that they have no fear of going to school.

According to one professional whose job involves addressing school violence, most student "attacks" on teachers are insulting remarks.

"An ordinary student doesn't take on an authority figure, along with the entire system, just like that," he said. "There's no argument that such remarks are forbidden, and that the student is being impertinent, but we should also examine what led him to act that way. Such examinations, however, are not common."

The survey, conducted last month, queried a representative sample of 516 students age 13 to 18 and 222 teachers. The conference at which the results will be presented deals with implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and one of its topics will be the 10-year-old Student Rights Law.

The law has been criticized by many, including teachers unions, as giving too much weight to student rights, and thereby making it hard to combat violence at school.

But Yuval Lipkin, the director of the Citizens' Empowerment Center, disagreed.

"A school, first and foremost, must be a safe place, whereas the survey indicates that violence, threats, drugs and knives are common phenomena," he said. "But contrary to the claim that the Student Rights Law makes it impossible to address these problems, implementing it properly would actually reduce them."