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Trouble in School

Law, Policy and the Dynamics of Everyday Life at School

Financed by The Swedish Research Council, 2010-2014

Uncovering why disputes are not settled locally

The purpose of this research is to uncover why disputes are not settled at the local level and why rights violations cannot be guaranteed or settled at a local level without mobilizing legal authorities and legal sanctions. A question answered in this research is if recourse to legal remedies help or hinder dispute settlements at the local level.

Suspicion towards the school’s ability to solve conflicts

A study of 717 ninth grade students in eight schools located in different socio-economic environments show that students have a low degree of trust in dispute settlement forms available at school. When involved in conflicts or degrading treatment at school they avoid turning to the school for help. Students give themselves a high score for following rules at school but give a much lower score to their classmates’ everyday behavior at school. Interviews with teachers and headmasters show a critical suspicion towards School Inspectorate’s ability to solve conflicts at school.


Changing schools as a solution

An analysis of 350 cases decided by the School Inspectorate/BEO shows that many parents solve a worrisome situation at school by changing schools for their child.  School administrators often solve a conflict by demanding a psychiatric evaluation of the child involved or by pointing to a need for more resources. School administrators in schools with many problems experience school inspections as annoying.


A loss of legitimacy

The study has shown that there is a strong and consequent picture of an on-going process within Swedish schools of loss of legitimacy and authority within the school system. Even though the concept of rights of the student has forced itself into the everyday life of school, the increase in recourse to legal processes beyond those available at school has produced unintended consequences.


Key words: Conflict resolution, Rights, Equality, Legal mobilization, Regulation, School security, Abusive behavior at school, Social control, Legal guidelines

Researchers on the project

Antoinette Hetzler, Principle Investigator