School violence study earns SSHRC award

Sep 19, 2002, vol. 25, no. 2



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A SFU doctoral candidate whose research on the legal implications of school violence is attracting public attention has also caught the eye of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

The research funding body has awarded Shaheen Shariff a doctoral fellowship to finish her dissertation, A System on Trial: The Legal Culpability of Canadian Schools in Handling Violence.

Last semester, Shariff, a doctoral candidate in the faculty of education, presented her research at conferences held by the B.C. Parent Advisory Council and the Canadian Society for Studies in Education. She also met with members of the B.C. Teachers Federation.

Shariff says her workshops with parents taught her that they are increasingly frustrated with what they see as ineffectual handling of classroom violence and bullying.

She says that more parents are launching legal action to have schools charged with failing to protect victims of bullying.

Two recent court decisions, one a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling and the other a U.S. Supreme Court decision, have found schools culpable for failing to protect students.

Generally, however, courts continue to defer to the expertise of school officials.

Shariff warns that school administrators still need to educate themselves about the mounting legal and ethical implications of their school violence policies. That's if they want to keep children safe and stay out of court.

Shariff, a research associate at SFU's centre for education, law and society, already has an assistant professorship awaiting her at McGill University commencing in January 2003, provided she has finished her dissertation.

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