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Schools and crime: Policing violence and intimidation at schools

Research project
Active research
Project size
5 034 000
Project period
2016 - 2020
Project owner
Department of education, communication and learning

Financier
Swedish Research Council

Short description

Swedish investigations have shown that the risk of being a victim of different sorts of violence is prevalent and extensive in schools (BRÅ, 2009).The focus of the present study is on how a number of Swedish schools define and categorize students and situations of different forms of violent or abusive acts in schools. Increasingly, schools tend to treat violence in schools as a crime, which means that it becomes a police matter rather than a pedagogical problem.

About the research project

Swedish investigations have shown that the risk of being a victim of different sorts of violence is prevalent and extensive in schools (BRÅ, 2009). This pattern is also more visible and widespread when it comes to older children in the age group 13-15 years.

Violence in schools encompasses a wide range of behaviors, from school shootings to minor theft, bullying and sexual harassment. Since the 1990s, we have also been witnessing a radical change in schools’ approaches to violence and violent behavior. Increasingly, schools tend to treat violence in schools as a crime, which means that it becomes a police matter rather than a pedagogical problem.

At the same time, there is no clear evidence that violence and degrading treatment are actually increasing in Swedish schools. There is evidence suggesting that it is societal norms and school policies that are changing rather than the actual prevalence of violence.

The focus of the present study is on how a number of Swedish schools define and categorize students and situations of different forms of violent or abusive acts in schools. In institutions such as schools, categorizations are important tools for professionals in making sense of their daily work and in helping them to manage various dilemmas and problems in their work.

Methodologically, we approach the different statements and stories from a discourse analytical and narrative perspective. We are influenced by discourse theory in the broadest sense, but we also try to place the different narratives and discourses within a sociological and theoretical framework.

The ambition is to theoretically explore and use quotations to study how educators shape and reshape their understanding of low- and high-level violence, and harassment in schools. The study is designed as extensive case studies of six Swedish secondary schools and focuses on students in the 7th to 9th grade.

During the fieldwork we are using interviews, focus group interviews and observation and data from the police registration of crimes in school. The schools selected for the study are located in different geographical and socioeconomic areas.

Project members

Johannes Lunneblad, professor, project leader
Department of education, communication and learning

Susanne Fransson, associate professor
Department of social work

Thomas Johansson, professor
Department of education, communication and learning

Ylva Odenbring, associate professor
Department of education, communication and learning

Hanna Wikström, associate professor
Department of social work