Dramatic rise in school violence in Berlin
26 June 2007, Berlin (dpa) - Violence at schools in immigrant-dominated districts of Berlin has soared in recent months, with the opposition Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) accusing the city government of turning a blind eye to the violence at the city's educational facilities. The violence reached a peak recently when two masked youths burst into a classroom at the Dag Hammerskjoeld School in the city's Tempelhof district to attack a 58-year-old woman teacher. One beat the terrified teacher about t
26 June 2007
Berlin (dpa) - Violence at schools in immigrant-dominated districts of Berlin has soared in recent months, with the opposition Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) accusing the city government of turning a blind eye to the violence at the city's educational facilities.
The violence reached a peak recently when two masked youths burst into a classroom at the Dag Hammerskjoeld School in the city's Tempelhof district to attack a 58-year-old woman teacher.
One beat the terrified teacher about the head and body with a steel rod, while the other tried to make off with her handbag. Pupils intervened, driving the intruders from the classroom. Curiously, the teacher was discussing the great late Indian leader Mahatma Ghandi's political philosophy of "non-violence" at the time.
Later it transpired that a girl in the class, who had learned she was to be kept down a class, had urged the youths to carry out the attack.
In another act of violence, a 54-year-old male teacher at the Roentgen Secondary School in the city's Neukoelln district was beaten up by a 17-year-old Serbian-born youth who surfaced at the school, demanding to see his ex-girlfriend.
Ordered to leave the premises, the youngster went berserk, punching and kicking the teacher to the ground in the school yard, before fleeing, pursued by several school pupils.
Three other bouts of school violence have occurred in Berlin in the past few days, two of them at schools in the city's "problem" districts of Neukoelln and Wedding. A 10-year-old boy of Palestinian descent called Abdul, was set upon by a group of older pupils at the Kurt Tucholsky School.
Singled out for "mobbing" by older pupils on previous occasions according to witnesses, he was slapped and kicked as he lay on the ground while an 11-year-old boy filmed the events on a mobile phone camera, intending to show it on the internet.
The school's deputy director Gerd Combecher said the filmed sequences had since been studied by the police. Iris Pakulat, the school's headmistress, claimed those who had seized the boy in what started as a prank, but got wildly out of control, had now been identified.
The boy's mother says the incident was no surprise. "Our boy has been attacked by pupils in the past," she said, adding "there's no point in sending him to another school now because in the coming months we must return to Palestine."
Her husband said he'd visited the school several times to protest his son's treatment. "He (Abdul) is a very shy boy so perhaps he became an easy target," he said.
Despite his son's experiences in Berlin, Abdul's father said it would be difficult for the family going back to the Palestinian territories. "We will be strangers there, having lived in Berlin for 20 years, and Abdul being born here."
Two years ago a puerile "game" dubbed "Happy Slapping," which became popular in some English schools, spread to Germany. This involved older pupils grabbing a younger child for so-called "slapping" sessions - with the scenes captured in mobile camera phone sequences.
Reports of "mobbing" of teachers and pupils by students became widespread as a result, with bullying sequences appearing on the internet. In one film extract in England, a pupil was seen to approach a teacher from the rear, to yank down his trousers.
In subsequent sequences in England and Germany, teachers were made to look ridiculous by the antics of out-of-control students.
In another recent Berlin incident, a 19-year-old pupil at the Mildred Harnack Comprehensive School in Berlin-Lichtenberg, threatened a teacher who had repeatedly ordered him to put away his mobile phone by screaming, "you will be dead by this evening!"
Even Berlin's renowned Humboldt University has not escaped violence. A 34-year-old former student recently assaulted a 40-year- old woman professor and Harvard graduate, thrusting her to the ground and spitting in her face. He'd allegedly harboured a two-year grudge against the lecturer for her "low" assessment of his doctoral thesis.
In March last year the city's Ruetli School, dominated by Arab and Turkish youths in the tough Neukoelln district, made international headlines when a teacher published a letter claiming conditions at the school had become so bad that it should be closed down.
She felt teachers had lost all authority and were now so afraid that they only entered classrooms with a mobile phone so they could call for help in an emergency. As a result of her plea for help, city authorities installed a new rector who made sweeping changes.
School psychologists were called in "help" problem pupils, especially Arab male students, some of whom refused to respect the authority of women teachers. Today, the Ruetli School no longer makes negative headlines, with pupils evidently happy in the "new" environment.
Surprising progress has been made here," claims a member of the school staff. Berlin's education senator, Juergen Zoellner does not see a serious situation developing but concedes violence prevention programmes at city schools will have to be expanded.
CDU politicians, on the other hand, claim he is not doing enough to stem school violence. Whereas, in the year 2001 to 2002, there were 250 cases of school-related violence, the figure leapt to 1,500 in 2005 to 2006, they say.
City prosecutors confirm they have files on 342 youths, aged between 14 and 20, who have been involved in recent criminal activity. In ten cases, serious crimes were committed, such as robbery or causing serious bodily harm. Of those apprehended, 144 remain in youth custody.
Subject: German news