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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 15:39 GMT
School violence: Is expulsion the answer?
Schools are to get new powers to crack down on bullies and pupils who carry dangerous weapons.

The new guidelines, to be published next week in England, will make it easier and quicker for head teachers to expel pupils who bring such weapons into school.

At present schools can only expel pupils after a specific first offence.

Teaching union leaders say 80% of teachers identify pupil misbehaviour as a major problem, and have welcomed the move.

Have you experienced bullying and intimidation at school? How should the problem be handled? Is the answer to make expulsions easier?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Parents of bullies and disruptives should be forced to sit in class with their offspring until both have learned their social responsibilities. The majority of problems in our society are a result of incompetent parenting!
Brian Langfield, Doncaster, UK

Bring back the cane? I hate to sound new-age P.C. but I think that's a disgusting idea. I was bullied for most of my elementary school years, and all that would have resulted from corporal punishment is that I would have been punished just as much as the people hitting me. Human nature and bureaucracies being what they are, I don't expect that the ability of teachers and principles to punish fairly - without simply throwing their weight around - has improved any since I finished high school. Simple retribution - even if correctly directed, which it wouldn't be - teaches children nothing other than to wait until someone's back is turned. The crime becomes not the act, but rather being caught. I do, however, think that the idea of special camps - of immersing children in an environment specifically designed to combat their behaviour - may well have its merits. But the cane? I know many parents who have successfully raised their children into adulthood--and whose children are now effective, intelligent, contributing human beings - without so much as spanking them.
Ari, Canada

Unprovoked acts of violence should be met with expulsion. Children and teachers should not be expected have to tolerate violence. It is up to parents to deal with their children, teachers are there to teach.
Paul, UK

I don't think it will ever be fully wiped out

Kelly, UK
Bullying is and always has been a major part of school life. I don't think it will ever be fully wiped out, no matter how hard anyone tries. Kids tend to pick on the children that are 'different', who don't conform to fashion. Or can't afford to. I was bullied for years at my school because I wore lots of black clothes and so was seen to be a "weirdo." I've had rocks thrown at me, been chased down the street by mobs of people, had abuse screamed at me and been physically attacked. I was once even threatened by some 'hard nut' with a knife, who stated that "he didn't like devil worshipping freaks." I would like to point out here, that I have never worshipped the devil. I just wear the clothes I like to wear. Nothing was done about these bullies. I was told that "I shouldn't wear those clothes, I should try to fit in more." Why should I have to change what I like to wear just because people can't accept non-conformity? Needless to say I left the school, because I wasn't able to cope with all the bullying. The amusing aspect of this is that I saw one of my bullies recently and they just started to talk to me. They apologised to me for all the grief they caused and actually stated that they found me a pleasant person to talk to. It just goes to show how closed-minded some people can be. It doesn't matter if you like wearing black, green, yellow or nothing at all! Everyone is a person and everyone has feelings. Well, except maybe the bullies??
Kelly, UK

I am 15 years of age. I have been physically bullied many a time, and I say expel them. They should be taught that physically abusing someone is not right, and shouldn't happen under any circumstances whatsoever.
Tom, England

Although exclusion, backed, where appropriate by the sanctions of the criminal law, must remain the ultimate sanction for violent bullies, there may remain scope for more imaginative forms of punitive action. Those that disrupt other students and teaching staff should be given the opportunity to make amends to the society they have offended. The performance of menial tasks around the school-clearing litter, weeding, re-marking sports pitches, etc. are all potential forms of "Community Service", which could be rendered.

The key point is that bullies and other disruptive pupils must learn at an early stage that all forms of illicit behaviour, which harms and disadvantages their peers must ultimately result in retribution. Current policies and attitudes aimed at protecting the rights of malefactors, whilst penalising those responsible for ensuring order, are sending out the wrong messages.
Peter Sykes, UK

Mental and physical abuse is not tolerated in society, so why should people be allowed to get away with it in schools? I welcome the Government's decision to expel violent and unruly students. Why should the education of many be placed in jeopardy by small groups of violent young thugs who have nothing else on their minds but to inflict pain and suffering on others? All too often, the system has let us down. It seems to me that there is too much emphasis placed on the bully and not enough on the victim - it's a case of protecting the guilty and punishing the innocent.
Leon, U.K

People should realise that the victims of bullying suffer from their experiences later on in life

Donna, England
I was bullied at secondary school. My family knew about it and saw how it changed my behaviour. They wrote a lot of letters to the headmaster and other teachers but they tried to put the blame on me. My family even went to the school but the headmaster and teachers were of no help. One of the bullies was racist towards me but when I complained to the headmaster and teachers they put the blame on me and said that I was the problem. Bullies should be excluded so that they do not disrupt the education of others. People should realise that the victims of bullying suffer from their experiences later on in life.
Donna, England

First you have to see if it was provoked and how much he/she was provoked. If they weren't provoked then they should expel them straight away.
Ben, England

Having access to the mainstream education system should no longer be a right, it should be a privilege offered to those who can behave. Whilst the multiple forms of bad behaviour are rampant in our secondary school system it will be the well behaved that have to sacrifice their happiness and education on the altar of political correctness. The current masters and decision makers of British society long since lost the ability to distinguish between right and wrong and it is the majority of British society that is catching the fallout from this.
Philip, UK

If I was a teacher who suffered from violence then I would use the Health and Safety at work legislation to take legal action against the school.
Tom, UK

There is a financial reason not to expel bullies

Nick, UK
A major point is being overlooked here - Headmasters are penalised for excluding pupils by having part of their grant funding withdrawn when a bully is expelled. Therefore there is a financial reason not to expel bullies, as they simply cannot afford to. This is what happens under the governments ludicrous "inclusion" policy. As a parent of a bullied child, I am appalled at such stupid government rules.
Nick, UK

Bullying in my opinion starts at home, from parents, and from the way they are brought up. Since home life and family relationships have gone down the drain for the last 20 years, its no surprise to see a increase in bullying, assaults, and truancy. Everyone is a victim nowadays. We are becoming a society of weaklings, and cry babies. Everything needs to be politically correct, people need to be 'protected', you need to be careful not to offend someone by accident. Bullying can only be stopped at its source, any other way would not permanently solve the problem.
CK Lam, UK

Did having the cane or the birch stop bullying? This is an eternal problem - in any group of humans, the bully will appear. Until the root cause of this problem - children are being brought up to demand 'rights' without understanding that with rights come obligations - then there can be no solution.
Bryon, London

What bullies need is a dose of the misery they inflict on others, delivered ruthlessly

Gavin Pearson, Detroit, USA
I think the government needs to understand the bully mentality. They don't think like intellectuals but with their fists. Expelling them from school is being let off lightly. What bullies need is a dose of the misery they inflict on others, delivered ruthlessly. This will ensure they get the message that it is unacceptable before they are a lost cause.
Gavin Pearson, Detroit, USA

Expelling children from school is not a permanent solution. They will need education and while home schooling is an alternative, they will lose valuable contact with their peers. The problem isn't the school that the child is attending; it's the child him/herself. Expelling him/her will not solve the problem; it will only make it go away for a short while. A violent person will remain violent, regardless of the environment they are placed in.
Weston Abney, USA

Unfortunately, children today are constantly being exposed to acts of violence through the internet, video games and other media. As such, they become a product of their environment and easily desensitised. While I fully support expulsion, it is really a band-aid solution. Perhaps if there were programmes in place to rehabilitate children inclined to exhibit violent behaviour, it may prove more successful in the long term. What's worse than a bad child is a bad adult!
DPK, Canada

Action has to be taken on bullying now

Kevin Donnelly, UK
This has been the finest Talking Point discussion yet. The passion and the reason have been enlightening. It goes to show that whatever the right policy is, action has to be taken on bullying now before more lives are destroyed.
Kevin Donnelly, UK

My son has been bullied and harassed for some time. The effect it has on his self-worth, academic performance and general well-being is painful to witness. And the stress it puts on our family is sometimes unbearable as we are continually counselling, re-assuring, making allowances for his behaviour problems (developing from being bullied). And we have had to pay for private counselling. I do think expulsion is an option that should be open to schools for any behaviour that disrupts the academic and emotional well-being of other students. At many of the "international" schools here, the standards applied in Europe are applied here so to see movement in the UK towards addressing this problem is good news for us too.
Sue, Zambia

I was bullied for a few weeks at the age of 13 by a boy of the same age. Eventually I decided the only course of action was to hit back. I punched him as hard as I could in his face and he was reduced to a gibbering wreck. The next day his father brought him to school and I was summoned to the headmaster's office. The headmaster swallowed the bully's father's tale of my "reign of terror" and caned ME for bullying. I was deeply wounded not by the caning but by the injustice of it. I have had, what I believe to be, a healthy disrespect for authority ever since. I was rarely bullied again and never ever bullied anyone else. I also learned that I could use my intelligence to evade bullying rather than my fists.
Kulu, UK

Kulu's comments are exactly right. Bullying only happens to those who take it and don't fight back. I took a lot of nonsense for a while at school myself and then struck back at someone who thought he could do what he liked. It never happened again, and as I was in front of a large group of my peers, they also saw that it was not wise to overstep the mark.

This happens throughout our lives too though. It's not just at school that this problem exists, but everywhere. The bullying types only do it to those who do not stand up and fight back, whether it's verbally, psychologically or physically. Let them know that they can't get away with it as far as you are concerned. It is that simple actually.
Simon Devine, England

I'm not looking for one drop of sympathy, but I have also been scarred by the experience

Anon, Poland
I was at secondary school in the mid to late eighties. I was a bully in a gang of bullies. At first it was reasonably harmless, but as we got bigger we started pushing people around. It was exciting and felt cool to be able to control the whole of our year-group. Looking back, of course I can see how much pain we caused and how pathetically we needed to belong to our gang. But at the time we felt the school was unreasonably against us (which they weren't) and that we were big hard men who could look after ourselves (which we couldn't).

Also, it has to be said there was the sick cowardly gratification of making some poor 'specky-kid' crawl, squirm and beg. That was much more central to the bullying 'buzz' than walloping someone. We had no idea how much long-term damage we were doing. On the whole the teachers knew what we were up to but they couldn't really stop us. Our parents were just as worried and ineffective. I don't know how it started or why we did it, but we're not thugs now and even though we behaved like thugs, we weren't really thugs then, we just wanted to be in our gang, and somehow it all got out of our control.

Recently I talked with someone from my year and he still seemed to have fresh emotional scars because of me, I'm not looking for one drop of sympathy, but I have also been scarred by the experience. We were just kids and as everyone knows, kids can be incredibly cruel and stupid.
Anon, Poland

Having been bullied badly during the early years of my secondary education, I feel I can speak from personal experience about this political hot potato. Despite everything I rarely felt anger towards the bullies themselves but I often wished that they could be removed from the school. The problem would be in such a situation is that it is the culture which must change, not just individuals.
Paul, England

I suggest all expelled pupils are sent to a centre each week and taught together under strict discipline. Pupils are only allowed home at weekends and performance reviews take place every six months to assess whether they are suitable to reattend mainstream schools.
Michele Travis, England

I never heard anyone expressing remorse from bullies

Gareth, UK
I didn't realise until about four years ago how badly I was bullied at school. To see it and hear about it now fills me with anger. I never heard anyone expressing remorse from bullies, it always seems to be the victims who have to do all the talking. My bullies would never have stopped, they were also the people I was supposed to call "friends".

Now, nothing but seeing them feel the iron hand of God would make me feel better about it - what a sad way to feel about one's school days. Let schools punish these awful people, who behave more like wolves than human beings, as they deserve to be treated - with more of their own medicine than they can stomach. It must NEVER be okay to destroy someone's self-esteem in this way.
Gareth, UK

I have a child who is persistently bullied at school, despite their laughable "No bullying" policy - which seem to consist of pretending that incidents don't occur. The teachers' hands are tied in the way they are allowed to deal with these disruptive children, and as a result, too often the victims are removed from classes (for their own protection), rather than the bullies. Teachers should be given more powers to discipline children - using an "appropriate" level of force where necessary.

I personally favour some form of disciplinary camp, rather than expulsion. We need to get these anti-social types sorted out as early in life as possible. Don't forget that the problem with these children does not end when they leave school. Bullying children may well become bullying adults, inflicting further damage on society.

The "blame the parents" line does not work either. If they have failed to bring their children up to an acceptable social standard, no amount of blame will make them miraculously able to do anything about it. Possibly, parents of bullies should be required to attend "parenting" classes.
Brian, England

I was the victim of systematic bullying for four years

Mo, UK
I was the victim of systematic bullying for four years. The system protected the individuals because of their commitment to school sports teams. The ringleader himself was just a thug. In one attack a steel bar was brought in and threatened against another pupil. The person who was attacked was taken to the headteacher's office and told not to take this further.

I recently had an apology from a classmate while at an official dinner. He now (20 years later) regrets not doing something at that time to stop me being bullied. He thought it better to keep quiet rather than become the victim. The school is now closed and demolished.

My lack of self-worth continued for years and I still have problems in dealing with the aggressive behaviour of others. The main culprit wanted to belong, and found this was his way of being accepted. I feel everyone else was a victim in one way or another. There are very few evil people in this world. He was one of them.
Mo, UK

Expulsion is the right way to go, as long as the government genuinely intends to set up special units to redress the cause. I was bullied throughout secondary school by a particular individual. I did try to stand up for myself and get the better of the bully, however, I ended up being put on detention for defending myself.

This obviously sent the wrong message to the bully as he and a accomplice seriously assaulted me outside school hours with the result that I spent three days in hospital. If there are no special units set up to remove the bullies from their existing environment then the problem will only continue with the those who have been expelled lying in wait for their victims outside the school gates.
Andy, Scotland

Expulsions are definitely a good idea

Paul McNally, England
Expulsions are definitely a good idea and way, way overdue. However what it comes down to, is when you do something wrong as adults, we know the law will deal with the offender, as children the law deals with you differently, it is more like the rule of the jungle when you are a child, the same rules for us as adults do not apply.

Therefore there needs to be a very strong line drawn and strict disciplines and guidelines enforced, which should include physical punishment where necessary, so the teacher is not at the mercy of ringleaders and can actually control the classroom and the school.

To me this is just common sense and the brutal truth, if perhaps unpalatable for some liberals. Until this is done, schools will continue to struggle to attract people to teaching, no matter what new agenda the government decides to pursue, as a paste-over-the-cracks exercise. It will be a complete waste of time.
Paul McNally, England

With reference to JT's comments I went to one of the best UK public schools several of the girls from my year went to Oxbridge but I still suffered terrible mental bullying from people in my year so much so that at 25 I have no self esteem and weigh 20 stone from constant comfort eating the scars are very much still with me. So I think that his comments about his low performing school and about good public schools are not valid any school can have a bullying problem as often people in very privileged families are often spoilt and can be very nasty

I had the same experiences as Lisa, England. No pupils left my school to go to Oxbridge - few went to university at all. Substandard grades were a result, largely, of disruptive students that ran riot (including in one case, smashing a chair over a timid English teacher) and spoiled the chances of the few that aspired to achieve. The school's policy for disciplining the students was a mockery.

You almost had to steal the headmaster's car and drive it through the canteen to be expelled! It's no wonder that in such circumstances, the staff morale was so obviously low and many teachers would leave us to it. I am now studying for a PhD at Cambridge but envy so much my contemporaries that sailed through well-funded, sociable, supportive public schools without such distractions, and who and don't have to apologise for their A-level grades during job interviews.
JT, England

While there is a definite need to protect teachers and other pupils from risk of attack, there is an equal need to protect society from the long term implications of young people who do not "fit in" with accepted norms. To expel such young people without recourse to appropriate alternative provision does nothing to address the underlying issues.

The result is that the young person is more likely to go on to offend more often and more seriously in society. This in turn may make them unemployable and more likely to spend a lifetime reliant on state benefits or prison accommodation. At what cost to the taxpayer? Surely an appropriate response at an early stage that addresses these issues and diverts the young person from their damaging outcomes must make more long-term sense.

In effect, lets rehabilitate these young people rather than simply looking to have revenge upon them, bearing in mind they are often amongst our society's most vulnerable young people having suffered child abuse and/or mild to serious learning difficulties.
Howard Wilson, UK

Bullies are not confined to the disadvantaged, socially excluded classes

Jean, UK
Everyone is subject to the rule of law and schools should be able to use the law to punish offenders. There are many bullies in our society and they are allowed to get away with it unchallenged in all walks of life - because they have claimed power and use it to the detriment of those around them. There is no simple solution but expulsion from school so long as there is an alternative, is the only sensible way forward. The bully needs to confront his/her behaviour and needs to be able to be given an alternative strategy to enable themselves to regain their self-esteem for themselves but not at the expense of others.

As for the bullied; they aren't considered - they are made to feel guilty because they have been a victim. Pastoral support, counselling, mediation and group work all have their part to play but so does a change in ethos away from competition, targets and league tables. Let's examine the culture - more play and no formal education until seven, and then a structured programme for learning knowledge, skills and understanding, with additional support for all those who need it.

Parents too are responsible - too many are bullies themselves and expect to have it all their own way. Bullies are not confined to the disadvantaged, socially excluded classes but pervade every stratum of our society up to and including the aristocracy and the new parliamentary/Oxbridge meritocracy.
Jean, UK

There is a distinct lack of people trying to defend the behaviour of these children. Why is this? I'm 40 now and school for me had its good days and its bad days. However, it never crossed my mind to be disrespectful or to threaten any of the teachers. Weapons? Ridiculous. Soon we'll have to have station bouncers or guards on the school gates.

All we wanted to do was play football all day! Society has changed dramatically, but we as adults are ultimately responsible for the upbringing of our children. As a parent I feel it's my duty to try and instil a basic respect for all the adults my children come into contact with. I'm not getting on my high horse. We should all try harder. We also have to give the teachers back their right to discipline children how they see fit. Yes, some teachers overstepped the mark, but it must surely be better than the situation that we find ourselves in now.
Andrew, Leeds

I was just about to say "Bring back the birch!" when I saw someone else had said exactly that. It's so obvious! In fact I would advocate corporal punishment being extended to the whole justice system. Unfortunately the people with the loudest voices - the mamby pamby, p.c., goody two-shoes would say that corporal punishment is uncivilised and infringes the human rights of those to whom it is being dished out. What is uncivilised is the amount of violent crime that is committed and never addressed. And isn't it time we valued the human rights of the [potential] victims over those of the perpetrators? I don't believe those in line for expulsion would actually consider expulsion to be a punishment.
Ian Murdie, UK

The use of the strap and cane is not cruel, it is kind

Scott Myatt, New Braunfels, Texas, USA
Children should not be excluded from school for poor behaviour, it is both inadequate and immoral. They must be disciplined and taught to contribute to society, not destroy it. Each expulsion is a confession that we have failed those children and refuse to teach them how to live in society. In reality the misbehaviour is frequently a last cry for help from children that need intervention, not expulsion.

However, the troublemakers must be separated from their victims and educated in proper behaviour. Reintegration should be the goal and reward for these troubled teens, with strict codes of conduct that reward or punish, according to the pupil's progress. Children's "rights" are the largest obstacle to correcting unruly behaviour.

The use of the strap and cane is not cruel, it is kind. Giving up on our children is the worst cruelty, while any tears or bruises caused by discipline will be forgotten or even praised by the children that are saved from themselves.
Scott Myatt, New Braunfels, Texas, USA

Make them perform x hours of community service.
Bob, USA

Expulsion will only ease the problem if there are special units for these children to go to. My former school accepted many pupils who had been expelled from other schools and therefore had many disruptive pupils, without the special resources needed to cope with them. Wouldn't it also be a good idea (in many cases) to attempt to re-educate the parents at the same time. Otherwise anything achieved in a special unit will often be undone each evening when the child returns home.
Nicci, Germany (Ex-UK)

I think some children should be imprisoned, because their actions can permanently affect children's lives, and where there's a victim, there's a crime.
Ricky Martin, England

In the late 80's when I was at school, it was very rare for a child to be expelled from school. By expelling so many pupils these days, they are getting out of school, getting into crime and just thinking it's normal to carry on being thugs. They should be punished for what they do, but not by leaving them out of school, make them the victim by getting them to give something back, ie. community services. They should not just get away with it. Some victims of bullying are plagued with the insecurity, low self esteem for life. If my child was the victim of bullying, I would remove them from the school.
Rose, UK

Bullies are the victims here

Chye H. Chua, Malaysia
Expulsion is definitely not the answer, most bullies are nurtured and it is not a natural learned behaviour. It is easy for schools to just have expulsions but that is not the solution. In today's generation, the younger generation is faced with more challenges then their parents and what we should be doing is to understand the reality of the threats and work harder to find the solutions.

Most of the bullies are also a victim, unfortunately it is a vicious cycle, but schools should not defuse their responsibilities. How about counselling before expulsion. Sometimes we need to focus on the smaller picture rather then looking at the big picture and not looking at the whole picture. Bullies are the victims here. What is causing them to react the way they do. Help them too.
Chye H. Chua, Malaysia

This problem has been left unattended for too long. The primary objective has to be to protect the safety of all others in the school community and if expulsion is ultimately the only measure left, then it should be supported and appropriate provision made to support and help the "offenders" in an alternative environment.
Robert Crosby, Nottingham, UK

I may sound like a sue-happy American when I say this, but to the parents whose children are currently being bullied I say document every incident, every trip to the hospital, every meeting with the teachers and schools. If nothing is done to alleviate the bullying, sue the school and the parents of the bully.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, gets the attention of an apathetic parent or school system like a threat to the pocketbook. Maybe then, schools will start expelling these aggressive, violent students and parents will crack down on Junior and Princess at home. Instead of looking at education as the right of every child, it should be viewed more as a privilege that is earned. These hardened bullies give up that right the minute they attack a teacher or another student.
Faye, USA

Anything which interferes with teaching should be removed from the classroom. Especially bullies. He loses his right to an education when he attacks someone.
Leonardo F. Urbano, United States

The law favours the bully in this country

Vida, UK
The law favours the bully in this country. Even the parent's right is limited. I am a parent and sometimes it's okay to discipline your child when he goes wayward. The next minute Social Services are onto you. How do you straighten your child. I think the cane should be reintroduced and more powers given to parents and teachers. No wonder the country needs more teachers. I give full support to the proposed new law.
Vida, UK

On some American chat shows they use Boot Camps as a way of deterring unruly youngsters. They enforce the children (with parental permission) to attend a prison or boot camp for a week. There they get to speak with people who decided to make the wrong turns in their life and learn from them before they end up incarcerated. Such extreme measures work and should be practiced here, however with current youth prisons offering computer games and internet access etc, prison seems like a holiday camp.

The whole country needs to shape up and parents most of all. It is about time that responsible parenting meant that families realise their children are not the most special in the world and that kids need to learn to socialise and compromise. Parents who let their kids run riot going "what can we do" should have their kids removed from them.

Gang raping by youngsters, muggings and crime by those under 16 are at shocking levels and it is about time the law got tough and communities did too. Citizen arrests should be made and the police should have every access open to them to incarcerate offenders. However, with six years being the current going rate for murder (out in three on good behaviour) is it any wonder kids with no discipline view other people's lives as dispensable? Society needs to shape up and that means you as well as me.

Reformed bullies don't exist- they are a cowardly bunch, and should be punished for their evil crimes against influential children.
Rob, Mozambique

We have to examine why society has degenerated so markedly in the past 20 years or so. If we don't start meting out proper punishment now, God only knows how kids of the future are going to behave. Enough talk, let's have some real action from the authorities.
MI, Kenilworth, UK

Bullies get away with it because the system wants them too. When you as the victim of bullying defend yourself, teachers pick on you for being a troublemaker. The situation which is forced upon the victims of bullying is to bare their teeth and take the abuse. Is there a solution to this vicious circle?

Yes, close-circuit cameras in every classroom, corridor and playground, two security guards in every lesson, and a change in the law to make children culpable for their actions regardless of their age. Jail time for bullies who cause GBH or some form of affray, and fines and community service for those who verbally abuse others.

Evidence of abuse will be clearly visible from the close-circuit cameras video recordings. Finally, every pupil should have to wear a 24 hour recorded microphones just like they did on Big Brother. Then we shall soon see who the real bullies are. Let's discipline these bullies, and teach people from a young age what the right way to treat other human beings actually is.
Alex, UK

Expel the yobs and allow the regular students to learn. Why cater to those who are disruptive?
Richard Lewis, USA

Expelling disruptive children is not the answer

Anne, UK
Expelling disruptive children is not the answer, they are after all, our future workforce. In the secondary school I attended, the individuals causing disruption were sent to 'remove' - a special class room supervised by a teacher. In this way the children still got their education without disrupting anyone else's.
Anne, UK

Not only expulsion, but a close look at the pupil's family would do a world of good to see where the root of his/her ways might stem from.
Renato, UK

It is very easy for people to say 'expel those thugs', or to go into this heavy-handed, and it is also very easy to take the liberal view that these children can be re-educated into understanding that bullying is not a good thing. This leaves the government in a difficult situation - to please one group, or the other. Sadly this issue shouldn't have got this far - wise school children have known their 'rights' for a very long time, and the political correctness society seems always to try to hang on to, has damaged this part of social structure to the extent that kids know what they can get away with.

We need to start thinking of children as much more grown up than we used to, and deal with them in a better and more effective way, BEFORE they start to commit bullying. Expulsion alone is not a valid punishment for these acts, as it just moves the problems to somewhere else. Perhaps a boot-camp style rehabilitation to teach respect, combined with better care from the parents is the way to go.
Allaster, UK

It is not society's fault - I am not to blame and neither are the rest of the law-abiding people in society. Maybe those who keep making excuses for these children, and let them get way with their 'crimes,' are the true culprits in all this. Either way, remove the disruptive children from the schools, where they are doing a great deal of damage, and allow the rest to get the benefit of a trouble-free education.
Colin, UK

Spare the rod and spoil the child. This is the consequence of 30 years of listening to ne'er do well do-gooders spouting human rights and equality. Physical discipline works well in the animal kingdom, what makes man think he's above nature?
Pete, UK

I'm a natural born teacher - my ability has been commented on several times by those in the profession - and I have skills in a key teaching shortage area. It's a job I would love to do, but I won't - because I could not handle the violence and disruptive behaviour of uncontrolled and uncontrollable pupils.

Why is it that we accept the ultimate need to use force in all other aspects of life, except in the control of violent children? Why is it that we seem unable to tell the difference between reasonable restraint and child-abuse? In my experience, most children actually prefer having boundaries set and knowing what they are, as long as they enforced without fear or favour. Instead, we seem to have concentrated too much on the rights of the disruptive few, and not enough on the rights of the remaining children in the class to have a decent, undisturbed education.
Steve, UK

If schools aren't allowed to segregate, support and perhaps even punish violent children, then everyone suffers

Laura Watkins, UK
I'm 38 years old, and for the five years I attended secondary school I was bullied on a daily basis. This was in the form of violence from one particular group of girls, and verbal bullying from a group of 'hangers-on'. I still have problems resulting from this. Although I'm in a good job now, I have low personal self-esteem and find that if I'm not liked by everyone I meet, I obsess about it. I also have an eating disorder. I'm getting help for this, but it has had a major negative effect on my life.

The girls who did this weren't expelled, even after I was hit so hard that my jaw was dislocated. Instead, for the two weeks I had off school (one of those weeks in hospital), she was suspended. When I returned, so did she. Most teachers were too frightened of her violent behaviour to discipline her. If she had been sent to a school/unit that could cope with her problems, then my life could have been very different.

Schools need to be able to move these violent children out of the mainstream school and into somewhere else that can help. We put adults in jail or on probation if they assault someone, so we recognise that violence is unacceptable in adult life. It should be the same in school. If schools aren't allowed to segregate, support and perhaps even punish violent children, then everyone suffers.
Laura Watkins, UK

Parents are to blame if their children bully and run riot. Teachers are not there to teach children how to behave, that's a parent's job.
Jane, Wales, UK

Expelling kids for unruly behaviour is probably precisely what a lot of them are hoping will happen. Better to suspend them and shove them in a boot camp for a couple of months. Let them find out what it's like to be trapped on the receiving end and give them time to reflect on where it's got them. I think it's one situation where fighting fire with fire is justified.
Chris B, England

Bring back the birch!
Martin, England

Expel those thugs

As a child I was violently bullied for years. Teachers were unable to expel the boy due to the anti-expulsion system this country operates. After four years of being beaten, and once being sent to the hospital, I found he was eventually expelled for writing a swear word in foot high letters on the toilet wall. I say expel those thugs and let the ones who want a future live in peace.

I have recently left one of the top-performing schools in London. In the space of one year, Year 11 managed to scare off seven French teachers, because the main one was too busy teaching the A level classes. It scares me to think back to those riots, we were animals. The French dictionaries were ripped up and used as ammunition for pupils to throw at each other. No action was ever taken against ANY of us.
Craig B, London

This is fine as long as it punishes the right people. I was bullied to some extent at school, although unlike many I fought back. I can see one result of this is that someone who is bullied suffers at the hands of their tormentors but if they happen to fight back just as a teacher walks along, they are then kicked out of school. School yobs do enough damage without being able to potentially totally destroy the education and reputation of their victims as well.

I have to take issue with Craig B when he says that he and his colleagues were "like animals". Animals don't behave like that - yobbish behaviour and vandalism are purely human traits.
Phil Nendick, UK

My GCSEs, not so much my A-levels, were mainly self-taught. Teachers were too busy disciplining to spend time with those of us who wanted to learn. Those who deserve to be expelled should be. They ruin the education of others.
Lisa, England

The government is in danger of appearing to over-react to a very small problem. They are not actually suggesting that all bullies should be expelled, as some of the "spin" seems to suggest. Schools must have policies to manage and improve pupils' behaviour, not just offload them all. This is just new guidance to independent appeals, making sure they don't return pupils unreasonably. In fact most parents don't appeal to the panel anyway and 90% of panel decisions support the school's decision.

So the number of children returned is tiny. No-one is suggesting that extremely violent children should stay in school, but this should not be taken to mean that it will help anyone to push large numbers of kids with problems out of education and onto the streets or into grossly-under funded units for very part-time tuition. That won't help anyone or make communities safer. The children will still be there even if they are excluded!
Ben, UK

Cameras in the classroom, cameras in the playground, criminal prosecution for violent acts - this is not an internal matter for teachers to resolve.
David Paul Morgan, UK

The evil this minority does is huge: they disrupt the education for all the fellow pupils. This should not be allowed to happen, expulsion is the answer. The fact that at present there is nowhere to expel them to, should not allow them to ruin the education of the growing generation. Violence against the person is a crime and should be treated as such, or else we teach our pupils that really, the strongest has the right to beat those weaker than him or her. Everybody should be equal before the law; this should include bullies.
Adam S, UK

What happens to the child after he/she has been expelled?

Lucy, England
The question is: What happens to the child after he/she has been expelled? Who then takes on the responsibility for teaching these children to be responsible citizens? Do they get palmed off on another school or is the government really going to spend their money sensibly by opening more special units for dealing with disruptive children?

This type of child needs to be identified early on and referred to a special unit with an environment they can cope with, rather than being put in mainstream education where they obviously cannot cope. I talk from experience as an ex-teacher who identified children like this at primary level only to see them enter the secondary system and be expelled within the first year!
Lucy, England

When I went to school in the seventies, expulsion was extremely rare. This was because pupils generally had respect for themselves, other pupils, teachers and adults generally. Teachers had other effective tools for control and punishment. Twenty-plus years of libertarian policies have given school children all the power to do what they like. They have all been taught their rights but not that with rights come responsibility.

The teachers can be vilified, ignored, insulted and falsely accused at will and there is always some do-gooding social worker to back up the children and help them crucify a hard working teacher. In my time at school no pupil would ever go home and tell their parents that a teacher had punished them for fear of a parental punishment on top. Now we seem to have a generation of yobs bred by a generation of yobs who are only too ready to go to the school to assault and insult a teacher. Unfortunately expulsion is now the only means of control for schools so I suppose, yes, it must be made easier.
Gerry Anstey, England

I think its utterly ridiculous that we have to create regulations to cover this. Where are we going wrong if we have to regulate the fact that children should not be allowed to take KNIVES into school? Isn't it a bit abnormal to be taking weapons to school? There is no reason on earth this could be justified, so I think it's totally right to expel them. Zero tolerance. I think it's about time we stopped tiptoeing around kids (I'm only 25), and make them re-learn the value of respect for their peers, their teachers and parents and the world around them. Education seems to have changed a lot since I left it!
Liz Johns, UK

We need common sense here, not doctrine

John, UK
My eldest son has been the victim of (relatively minor) bullying. The school dealt with the situation without recourse to expulsion, and the problem is resolved. The other child involved has a pretty dreadful home life - expelling him would certainly not have addressed his violent behaviour - the actions taken by the school have. We need common sense here, not doctrine. Expulsion will be the right solution in many cases, but not all. We should definitely make it easier for Head Teachers to "do the right thing".
John, UK

We need to not only punish the child but also the parents as they are, after all, responsible for a child's upbringing. Whilst the law should protect children from harm it should also punish them for bringing harm.
Ian Thomas, England

I think this is an unfortunate consequence of the human right we pursued in the past. We should not apply this philosophy equally to everybody. Those who disregard the human right of others (i.e. bullies) should be punished in Victorian fashion. Other violent criminals should be treated according to their concept of 'human rights'. We need to adjust the grade of human rights according to their merit.
Johnnie, UK

The kind of pupil that is persistently involved in violence is the kind of pupil that probably doesn't give a care about school anyway so expelling them would be giving them what they want. These children need an education on how to live in society as well as a conventional curriculum. If the authorities had the guts they would set up special centres where such children can learn the value of discipline and respect for others. The rest will follow and another problem will have been solved.
Andrew Cover, UK

Every school in the UK will deny having a bullying problem. Unfortunately, every school in the UK has a bullying problem. Something has to be done. Aggressive children need to be removed from mainstream education. We should build special schools, not unlike military academies, where these children can channel their energy and aggression. They need to be taught discipline and respect. They still deserve to be educated, but special measures like this are needed.
Chris, UK

Bring back the cane

Douglas Cooper, UK
Bring back the cane! In my day it would have been three wallops with the birch and that would be the end of the matter!
Douglas Cooper, UK

I agree with Douglas Cooper. Reports appear to conclude that the instance of general bad behaviour in schools is a direct result of the demise of corporal punishment. And those who say that the behaviour of the child stems from parental influence, remember that the parents of today (who appear, rightly or wrongly, to have the most ill-disciplined children in the history of our times) are those who "benefited" from the ban on the cane.
Anne, England

I say expel them, no questions asked. My mother (a teacher) was attacked last year by a pupil, and it was her who got into trouble not the offender (she was criticised for moving his thumping fists away). Teachers and other pupils are in critical danger if these violent yobs are not expelled immediately.
Rachael, UK

There will need to be more resources put into specialist units for the pupils expelled, but yes, expulsion is the answer for those who are not fit for to be educated alongside the majority. If they can't manage in the mainstream (by which I mean they can't follow the rules and behave in even a semi-civilised way) they should be removed.
Peter Thompson, UK

It is laughable that we are having to change the rules to give teachers the power to expel the unruly elements. Stamping out bullying would go a long way to raising standards in education as well as making it easier to recruit sufficient numbers of teachers. The problem would then be just what to do with the offenders

. Personally speaking, something along the lines of a chain gang utilised in cleaning up graffiti and litter might be a good starting point, and would certainly provide an adequate deterrent- but of course no doubt that would bring hordes of wishy-washy do-gooders down on my head!
Shaun, Teignmouth UK

I think that bullying is all down to the parent's attitude towards bringing up their children. If they bring up their children in a houshold where the parents swear and endorse bullying other people then they will be socially rejected.
Tom H, England

If my son or daughter was threatened with a knife in school I would want criminal proceedings taken against the attacker

Gerry, Scotland
Because a teenager is within school grounds, they appear exempt from the law. Why? If my son or daughter was threatened with a knife in school I would want criminal proceedings taken against the attacker not just expulsion from school.
Gerry, Scotland

In today's society the younger generation is drawn to violence and the general act of 'Being Tough'. The blame is the society we live in, and in order to change this hard-man attitude society we must start teaching our children the right way, and this cannot be achieved by expulsion. I like to think of children like a piece of clay. They can be moulded into anything, depending on who is doing the moulding!
Aron King, England

This whole affair is the fault of statisticians and league tables. The government wanted better discipline in schools so unruly pupils were expelled. Then the government decided that too many pupils were being expelled and decided to do something about it. Unfortunately their bright solution was to just stop expellng unruly pupils and suddenly their statistics looked much better again.

It's all very well saying the home life of some of these kids is awful and that expelling them won't solve that. That's not the job of a school though, they're there to educate those who want to learn. Leave it to the social workers to sort out the home life of expelled pupils, that's their job, assuming there are any left not attending inquiries that is.
Bill, UK

Expulsion? Yes. But use a corporate model: If an adult attacks a co-worker at work, what happens? Do they merely lose their job or are suspended for a bit? No, they lose their job, get arrested and spend some time in jail. If someone or a group attacks someone on campus, being that it's more than simple adolescent rough housing, that is a crime, it should be treated as such.

If it's not treated as such, the kids will not learn any real lessons, and worse, they will continue to mock school authority and become even more aggressive later, knowing schools are de facto safe havens for ongoing violence. Engaging in expulsion without the application of the law only creates more violence for the expelled student, who has the freedom to prepare their next crime on campus, almost always a worse crime.
Stephen, USA

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See also:

16 Jan 02 | Education
Crackdown on violent pupils
07 Apr 00 | Scotland
Concern over knife-carrying pupils
16 Apr 01 | Education
Violent pupils 'must be expelled'
06 Sep 00 | Education
Warning signs for pupil violence
19 May 00 | Education
Violent pupils menace teachers
03 May 00 | Education
Teachers taught restraint techniques
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