School Violence in Context: Culture, Neighborhood, Family, School, and Gender

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Images, threats, and experiences of political violence daily confront school children in the Middle East. Previous studies into school violence, which sought to forge a strong connection between the external environment and the level of violence in schools, would lead us to believe that political violence is a leading cause of school violence. Here, though, Benbenishty and Astor making striking use the geopolitical climate of the Middle East to model school violence in terms of its context within as well as outside of the school site. The book's approach is unique in that the authors use empirical data to show which variables and factors are similar across different cultures and which variables appear unique to different cultures. This empirical contrast of universal with culturally specific patterns is sorely needed in the school violence literature. Crucially, the authors expand the paradigm of understanding school violence to encompass the intersection of cultural, ethnic, neighborhood, and family characteristics with intra-school factors such as teacher-student dynamics, anti-violence policies, student participation, grade level, and religious and gender divisions. It is only by understanding the multiple contexts of school violence, the authors argue, that truly effective prevention programs, interventions, research agendas, and policies can be implemented. Drawing on the only major study ever conducted comparing Jewish and Arab-Israeli students, in conjunction with census and police data on neighborhood characteristics, Astor and Benbenishty explore and differentiate the many manifestations of victimization in schools, providing a new model for understanding school violence. Their innovative research maps the contours of verbal, social, physical, and sexual victimization as well as weapons possession, presenting some startling findings along the way. When comparing schools in Israel with schools in California, the authors demonstrate for the first time that for the most violent events the pattern of violent behaviors have strong cultural influences. They reveal, for example, how Arab boys encounter much more boy-to-boy sexual harassment than their Jewish peers, and that teacher-initiated victimization of students constitutes a significant and often overlooked type of school violence.