QUEBEC CITY – A new study released Tuesday shows there is less violence in Quebec schools: fewer physical altercations among students, less conflict between students and teachers and reduced aggressiveness among staff.
“We have seen a decline in violence over the last three years in school,” said Eric Frenette, one of the Laval University education professors in charge of the study.
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More than 30,000 students in elementary and high schools, as well as parents and staff responded to surveys between 2013 and 2015.
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Specific questions centred around all types of aggressive behaviour, including name-calling, threats, cyber-bullying and physical violence.
While there was a general reduction overall, there was a slight increase in the number of racially-driven conflicts.
“It saddens me because mostly our kids do what we do. They use our words. They don’t make them up,” said Marie Hélène Pitre, a mother of three and psycho-education Master’s student.
“It’s quite low, but there’s a slight increase and people need to look at this,” Frenette said.
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Researchers’ only hypothesis is that students’ behaviour echo a rising level of intolerance in Quebec society.
Opposition party Québec Solidaire (QS) said it’s urgent that the Laval professors prod deeper into the matter.
“If we know the reasons why it’s like that, we will be able to act,” said Françoise David, QS leader.
The education minister viewed the report as generally good news and congratulated schools that took local initiatives to prevent violent behaviour.
However, the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) argued the government has played a role in making schools less culturally tolerant by getting rid of spiritual and guidance counsellors, whose job was to foster understanding.
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“Those professionals were the first to be cut by the Liberal government, so we’re paying now for those cuts,” said Jean-François Roberge, CAQ education critic.
However, researchers warn not to make hasty conclusions.
While the numbers are important, they don’t yet indicate a trend and it will take more time to determine how safe schools really are.