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Mallet, P., & Paty, B. (1999). How French counsellors treat school violence: An adult-centered approach. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 21, 279–300.

Particularities of the French approach to school violence: In French schools, there are two types of psychologists, school psychologists in elementary school, and career counsellors-psychologists in the upper grades. The concern for improving the social and psychological life of the students became the goal of the psychologist. The practice of counselling receives very little institutional support in France. The French elementary schools have no psychological services offering a place where students and their families can be received (Guillemard, 1982).

Who are the French experts on school violence? : In French universities, psychologists who study the development and education of children and adolescents are less interested in the problems of school violence. Most often, social aspects are treated from a sociological point of view by specialists from that discipline. In terms of the emotional aspects, it is the psychiatrists and psychologists/psychopathologists who do the work. Secondary-school counselling psychologists are much better prepared to confront the problems of school violence. The counselling psychologist also serves a teaching function in the area of knowledge about individuals and school environments. These teaching functions sometimes consist of running workshops with teachers and other educators.

It is more the adult than the student who is considered the victim. In 72% of the cases, the aggressor is either a student or parent, and in 65% of the cases, the victim is a member of the national education system (a teacher or principal). An investigation by the Ministry of National Education (MEN, 1998) on violence in junior high schools and high schools over the course of the 1996–1997 school years indicates that 92.5% of the perpetrators of school violence are students; however, personnel from the National Education system are the victims in only 17% of the cases, while students are the victims in 67% of the cases. Other studies confirm the fact that many students claim to be victims of school violence. For example, in a questionnaire-based study conducted by Carra and Sicot (1997) using students between the ages of 12 and 15, 47.8% claimed themselves to be victims of a lack of respect, 27.7% of destruction of their personal property, 23.7% of stealing, 15.8% of blackmail, 15.6% of being hit or kicked, 9.7% of racism, 4.3% of bullying, and 2.8% of aggression or sexual harassment.

An internationally atypical institutional approach to school violence: According to most studies, the efficient treatment of bullying necessitates the active joint participation of children or adolescents, parents, and school personnel together. Thus, for Olweus (1997), it is necessary to create “a school environment characterized by (a) warmth, positive interest, and involvement from adults, on the one hand, and (b) firm limits to unacceptable behavior, on the other. Third (c), in cases of violations of limits and rules, non-hostile, non-physical sanctions should be consistently applied . . . Finally (d), adults, both at school and at home, should act as authorities, at least in some respects” (p. 504). Olweus (1997) insists on the role of teachers, who must “take responsibility for the children’s total situation, not only their learning, but also their social relationships” (Olweus, 1997, p. 505).

Combating school violence through adult counselling: Horenstein and Voyron- Lemaire (1997), two psychiatrists who treated teachers who had mental problems following school aggression, observed that the most frequent symptom is socially evasive behavior. The interviews conducted by Boumard and Marchat (1993) reveal that a perpetually rowdy class usually allows the teacher to feel overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and failure. Boulton (1993) observed that in many cases women see aggressive behavior where men see playful behavior. A significantly greater proportion of teachers than pupils viewed specific behaviors such as hitting, pushing, and kicking as bullying.

Training aimed to ameliorate adjustment of teachers to school violence: Adults were provided with specific knowledge about working with adolescents and were encouraged to reflect together on their professional experience and jointly develop an educational approach to better confront school violence. The first day was dedicated to a series of conferences on the psychosociology of aggression and adolescent psychology and was directed by psychologists specialized in these areas. The second session consisted of a case study documented by Olweus (1996, p. 29): “Over the course of two years, X, a boy of 13, calm, relatively unobtrusive in class, was the scapegoat for some of his classmates. The adolescents hit him, forced him to eat grass and drink milk laced with detergent. When asked about this harassment, X’s torturers said they persecuted their victim because it was fun”. The trainees were asked to verbally react to this situation and eventually to propose a solution to the problem.

Conclusion: In order to act with the personnel so that they can act more effectively with the students, one must have a maximum of staff participation. The potential success of this training is directly proportionate to the number of adults from the same school who participate. It is important that the staff be willing to undertake this kind of work. This is especially true of the teachers, because of their greater number and prolonged contact with the students. Two factors that contribute to the development of school violence are teachers more interested in their academic subject than adolescent psychology and the lack of solidarity between colleagues.