So far this academic year has passed, experts are concerned about the increase in violence and bullying in schools. Teachers from the Faculties of Education and Psychology of the Universidad San Sebastián analyze its causes and give advice to the educational community.
A few weeks into the school year and after the return to face-to-face classes, several videos have gone viral on social networks reporting a drastic increase in violence in schools. The escalation of fights, attacks and bullying between students has educational communities on alert, which has led experts to evaluate its causes, the socio-emotional consequences of confinement and how schools should work on an adequate reintegration of students.
Carola Quinterosdirector of School of Pedagogy in Differential Education of the San Sebastián University (USS), assures that during these two years of isolation due to COVID-19, children and adolescents have lost social skills: “These are basic skills that we teach children in the first years of school, such as starting a conversation, listening, responding, asking questions, which are the foundation for developing empathy, assertiveness, listening skills, and serve to resolve conflicts; for the ability to define a problem and evaluate possible solutions. ensures.
For the academic, these skills have been the last priority in what both establishments and parents have worked on: “And it is very understandable,” she indicates. “We continue to live in a very complex and exceptional situation, where each of us has learned to get ahead with the tools that she had. However, now we have to return to the real context, to interact with others and we see that our frustration is very low; we don’t know how to resolve conflicts and we come to blows, ”she says. “The pandemic, the isolation and the context of violence is being the immediate response to what we have experienced”, concludes the professional.
The educational psychologist Isidora Mena Edwards, Director of the Valoras UC Program and guest lecturer at Diploma in School Coexistence Management of the San Sebastian University, indicates that “it has been studied that interaction with peers is the best vehicle for many learnings, and for this it is necessary to learn certain types of socio-affective skills”. Then, in the absence of these links, learning becomes more difficult.
Positive mediation: the role of establishments
During the pandemic, not only did face-to-face classes end; Programs carried out by schools, such as the reinforcement of positive values, something that urgently needs to be resumed, were also annulled.
“Schools must do preventive training; educate in values such as empathy, solidarity, friendship, acceptance of differencesempowering children to deal with situations that are not pleasant for them and inviting them to say things directly, not aggressively”, he assures Carmen Birke, director of Diploma in Management of School Coexistence USSPatagonia headquarters.
According to Isidora Mena, “The first thing is to have a serious socio-emotional training program in the school. This implies guidance, and the model of all adults in the school. So also a real management of the Coexistence Manuals in a training approach. Understand well what a regulation is and the discipline in a formative approach, because there is a lot of confusion there. With that, 80% of the way is done”.
Regarding students who use violence, Mena points out that “it is important that the school can understand where the anger comes from and help resolve it, or make it conscious and show other ways to express it. Theater, painting, music, writing or dance workshops are also good opportunities for students to express and work through their emotions. Many violent people do not know not to be, or have had models of violence.
Talking with the families of child aggressors is a task of the establishment, in which special care must be taken. “It is very rare for parents to assume out of the blue that their child is a bully.. But it is also one of the issues that must be achieved”, indicates the teacher. Those children are also likely to require therapy: “schools must demand this from families when necessary, which is usually within the coexistence protocol”, Carmen Birke points out.
Promote peaceful resolution of conflicts It is also a recommended strategy: “train mediators in school coexistence, training students with more social skills, who are not aggressive and get along with people. They play the role of mediator, which comes to have a very great significance”, says Carmen Birke. Something that also helps the victims is that the parents of the aggressor ask their son to apologize. What cannot be done, she warns, is to confront the aggressor with the victim: “That will not allow the victim to speak in front of the aggressor, because she is terrified of him.”
Birke warns that schools may not be aware of situations of violence, because it does not always take place in public spaces. Then, “It is essential that the parents report the problem and ask to activate the school coexistence protocol, which exists by law in all establishments.” It must be ensured that all officials know what their role is and who to contact, explains the expert. And in a situation of harassment, “the case must be reviewed and actions established. If the school does not believe them or does nothing, parents can go to the Superintendence of Education to ask for help and the establishment could be sanctioned, ”she says.