When there is a fight between two students, the principal intervenes. One of the two, an eleven-year-old boy, causes her to fall. The headmistress is so seriously injured that she has to be taken to the hospital. The incident that occurred last April at a new middle school in Linz caused a stir. But it is by no means an isolated case: a total of 501 children and young people were suspended in Upper Austria this school year. That is almost three times as many as in the 2016/17 school year, as recently published figures from the Ministry of Education show.
“Imminent danger” from students
The background is a parliamentary question that the FPÖ put to Minister Martin Polaschek (VP). Accordingly, the number of suspensions has also increased enormously nationwide, with the last number being 1912. This means: one in four school exclusions was pronounced in Upper Austria in 2022/23. Only in Vienna were there more. There, 814 students – mostly male – were suspended.
The measure is taken if, in the opinion of the responsible school authority, there is “imminent danger”. If children and young people are repeatedly violent at school, they can be excluded from classes for up to four weeks. According to experts, the enormous increase in recent years has various causes. Violence in schools is still a minority phenomenon, but a growing one. “There used to be arguments at school, but now there are no limits,” says the highest teacher representative Paul Kimberger.
“Frustration tolerance noticeably decreased”
As an example, he cited a current case in Vienna where a girl seriously injured her classmate with a Stanley knife in the school bathroom. According to Kimberger, the influence of social media also plays a role. Due to intensive use, some young people can no longer distinguish between fiction and reality. For Upper Austria’s education director Alfred Klampfer, the increased suspensions can also be attributed to the “stresses caused by the corona pandemic”. In addition, the students’ tolerance for frustration has noticeably decreased.
Schools have become more sensitive
Not only have excesses of violence increased, but also sensitivity. That’s why the incidents are punished more quickly, says senior Viennese school psychologist Jürgen Bell. He emphasizes: “The increase in suspensions cannot be equated with an increase in violent incidents.” Expulsion from school is an immediate measure to protect the environment, says teacher representative Kimberger. “Most of the time, something has already happened before.” This also applied to the Linz student who caused the director to fall. According to the Education Directorate, the eleven-year-old Bulgarian had been suspended again.
In such cases, in addition to the existing prevention offerings from school psychologists, professional help outside of school is also needed. “There are always fates behind it,” says Kimberger, who advocates so-called “timeout classes”. Students who no longer have a place in the classroom should receive separate support there. You can read details about the teacher representatives’ demands here.
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