Education to achieve a sense of justice?
Unwanted actions in Swedish compulsory schools, such as violent and threatening behaviour, occur among children, and school-related reports to the police concerning children under the age of criminal responsibility have increased. There are no specific regulations stating that the police must be contacted when a child hits or threatens other children in school. However, school staff are obliged to report concerns about children’s well-being to social services. In Swedish compulsory schools, it is usually the school principal who decides whether an incident should be reported to the police. In this article seventeen interviews with principals about their attitudes to school-related reports to the police are analysed, focusing on children aged 7–14 who subject other children to violent and threatening acts in school. If children under the age of 15 are alleged to have committed crimes, they are diverted from the justice system to the welfare system, i.e. the social services. In most cases a report to the police of a child under 15 suspected of crime leads to a referral by the police to the social services with concern for a child at risk. Results demonstrate that principals differ considerably in assessing which acts are to be regarded as suspected crimes and at what minimum age a report should be made to the police. This suggests that the same unwanted action can be met with completely different reactions from the adult world in different schools. Some principals said that they report incidents among minors to highlight their concern about the welfare of the suspected child, having previously repeatedly expressed concerns to social services and sometimes to parents, without seeing any measures taken to prevent the child from continuing to commit unwanted actions in school.
2016. Vol. 23, no 2