by Cécile CARRA – october 2009
Cécile CARRA teacher and researcher working at the Nord/Pas-de-Calais Institut Universitaire de Formation des Maîtres (teachers training school within the Université d’Artois), at RECIFES (Recherches en Éducation Compétences Interactions Formations Éthique Savoirs), and at the CESDIP, has been conducting research on deviant behaviour in schools for several years. She reports on the main findings of her latest study of violence in elementary schools.
The research discussed here was aimed at gaining an understanding of the phenomenon of violence in elementary schools, based on the way it is experienced and perceived by teachers and pupils. The decision to describe acts as violent was left up to the respondents. What teachers and pupils view as violent is then found to differ radically from what is recorded by the statistical instruments of the French Ministry of Education. For example, respondents very rarely mentioned thefts as violence, whereas they represent a large part of the violence recorded by the Ministry’s central statistical system (SIGNA, and later SIVIS ). The idea was to uncover what respondents view as violence and to gain a perception of how this violent dimension affects educational and professional experience. As will be seen, the outcome is far from validating the representation of schools as besieged, any more than as havens of peace (point 1).
 The objective of SIGNA was « to make an exhaustive count of « serious » acts of violence occurring in and around schools » (Information note 06-03, MEN, http://media.education.gouv.fr/file…]). With SIVIS, the Ministry of Education purports to refocus on the most serious acts. The new nomenclature is divided into 14 items (instead of 26 in SIGNA), under three headings : personal offences, property offences, and threats to safety.