Focus 3: Research and Documentation

Violence in the schools is not a new phenomenon, although is still largely misunderstood. Researchers and people working in the area, both in Québec and elsewhere, have been striving for years to clarify the issue and to develop promising strategies. Focus 3 of the action plan includes two objectives and several measures intended to make current information available in order to help the school community to understand the phenomenon and to choose the actions it will take. It also aims to define the situation regarding violence in Québec schools.

Objective 3.1: Ensure that schools and school boards and the Ministère have a better understanding of violence in Québec schools

It is essential to understand the factors that put young people at risk as victims or as perpetrators of violence in order to develop an intervention process to prevent and deal with violence in the schools. Scientific data, both qualitative and quantitative, must be gathered and professionals and decision makers must be provided with current information on the subject.

This objective has three measures.

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Measure 3.1.1: Document the phenomenon of violence in terms of its causes and determining factors

This measure, which involves conducting a review of the literature available, aims to inform the school community of the state of theoretical and practical knowledge currently available concerning the phenomenon of violence. The review can provide an expert‑approved definition of violence, differentiating between violence, aggression, rudeness, misbehaviour, and anger, and help document the phenomenon of violence in terms of its causes and determining factors.

This documentation is provided during training sessions to the different actors of the school community, so that they are better informed and develop a clearer shared understanding of the phenomenon. Thus the review helps to determine the actions required to prevent and deal with violence in the schools.

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Measure 3.1.2: Using existing data, draw up a profile of violence as seen and experienced in Québec schools

In 2008, at the request of the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (MELS), now the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l'Enseignement supérieur, the School Environment Research Group (SERG) of the Université de Montréal prepared reports on the violence seen and suffered in public elementary and secondary schools. The research was carried out using data collected between 1999 and 2005 throughout samples of Québec schools.

This report outlines the extent of the violence in elementary and secondary schools and examines the links between this violence and other aspects of the socioeducational environment, especially the school climate and certain educational and organizational practices. The data was collected using the Questionnaire sur l’environnement socioéducatif (QES). The profile of the provincial situation is the second measure under the Research and Documentation component of the Action Plan to Prevent and Deal with Violence in the Schools.

Reports submitted by the School Environment Research Group (SERG):

The main conclusions of these research reports are as follows:

  • The extent of the violence in Québec schools varies in accordance with the nature of the behaviours examined, the identity of respondents and the seriousness of the acts committed. Here are some of the results:
  • The number of students and staff who have witnessed violence in the schools far exceeds the number of those who have been victims of it.
  • Students generally outnumber staff as witnesses and victims of violence. Everyone agrees, however, on the degree (frequency) of various acts of misbehaviour at school.
  • The types of school violence to which individuals are most exposed, either as witnesses or victims, consist of insults, threats and fights between students. Cases of extortion, armed aggression or physical attacks on staff by students are much less frequent.
  • The more positively the socioeducational environment is viewed, the less the respondents witness violence or are victims of it.

The Action Plan to Prevent and Deal With Violence in Schools provides for monitoring of the phenomenon of violence. It will be implemented in 2012.

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Measure 3.1.3: Create an ongoing profile of the situation regarding violence in Québec’s schools

In Québec, the lack of a longitudinal database for a representative sample of Québec schools makes it difficult to properly document the scope of violence in the schools and how it has evolved. To this end, a monitoring system must be set up to create an ongoing profile of violence in the schools, including the location, number and nature of its manifestations, as well as a description of its victims, witnesses, and perpetrators, including their gender, age, etc.

In addition, this monitoring system will be useful in guiding the adoption of effective policies to prevent violence, as well as in evaluating incidents with a certain degree of accuracy.

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Objective 3.2: Ensure that the schools and school boards are familiar with programs and activities for preventing and dealing with violence in the schools

A number of quality studies, programs and tools that have been developed in Québec or elsewhere remain unknown to those responsible for preventing and dealing with violence in the schools. Making this expertise accessible would help to support and strengthen the means available in the schools system.

The following four measures present the different means available to stakeholders and partners to meet this objective.

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Measure 3.2.1: Establish a means to share information about the phenomenon of violence in the schools

A semiannual newsletter will be published on the MELS Web site, including relevant information for stakeholders and current knowledge about preventing and dealing with violence in the schools. It will foster the development of a culture of violence prevention in the schools while encouraging the school community to reflect on support and guidance.

In addition, the newsletter will be a medium to share information between the research and school communities, by publishing news of discoveries, new projects and best practices by stakeholders and researchers in Québec and elsewhere.

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Measure 3.2.2: On the MELS Web site, create a section on violence in the schools

Another measure to support the school system is the addition of a special section to the MELS Web site on preventing and dealing with violence.

School stakeholders, parents and partners will find up-to-date information on the issue of violence in the schools and will have access to different tools to support them in their interventions. Specifically, this section of the Web site will highlight best practices and programs recommended by school and health professionals, as well as initiatives by other government agencies and organizations concerned with violence and young people. It will also provide information about existing documents and initiatives.

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Measure 3.2.3: Encourage the sharing of experiences and the publication of studies on violence in the schools for the various partners and stakeholders in the school system

A provincial forum will be organized one year after the action plan has been implemented, to allow resource groups and the various stakeholders to share their experiences and expertise.

This event will provide regional support officers, regional resource groups and specialists with an opportunity to meet and report on their work at the local and regional levels. It will also allow the school system to stay abreast of current knowledge on the phenomenon of violence, its manifestations and any recognized, effective interventions.

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Measure 3.2.4: Create a directory of procedures and programs developed in Québec or elsewhere to prevent and deal with violence in the schools

Many reputable studies, programs and tools have already been developed by the various organizations, school boards and other government agencies concerned with violence and young people, but they remain unknown to those responsible for preventing and dealing with violence in the school community. Whether these resources originate in Québec, Canada or abroad, many of them exist and would be useful to support and enrich the means set up in schools. Measure 3.2.4 aims to give the school system a directory (French only) of strict programs and procedures designed to prevent and deal with violence in the schools.

Making this expertise accessible will help to support and strengthen the means in place. Participants could also add to and share this directory during their training sessions.

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