Youthspeak:Using a data-driven approach to explore secondary school students' perspectives on school violence in Trinidad and Tobago - PhDData

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Youthspeak:Using a data-driven approach to explore secondary school students’ perspectives on school violence in Trinidad and Tobago

The thesis was published by Louis, Halcyon, in January 2021, University of Lancaster.


School violence challenges the ideal of school as a safe space for educating young persons (Bucher and Manning, 2005). In Trinidad and Tobago, significant media coverage and public outcry about increasing school violence led to its prioritisation for national-level intervention. Yet, students’ voices have been underrepresented in prevention efforts, in like manner to global trends (Brown and Winterton, 2010; Sundaram, 2016). This study has, therefore, explored students’ views about the causes and consequences of school violence in Trinidad and Tobago, and their recommendations for its reduction and prevention. To engage the students’ perspectives, my research was informed by grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss, 1967) and employed inclusive participatory methods (Bergold and Thomas, 2012; Nind, 2014). Using purposive sampling, I engaged 39 students (28 girls; 11 boys) from six secondary schools that were most at-risk for violence (JSC-SSPA, 2016). I conducted focus groups with three to five students in each school, and individual interviews with 25 students from across the research sample. For the students, school violence refers to physical and non-physical altercations that are primarily student-initiated, with differences in the manifestations of violence by gender groups. The students are equally concerned about structural violence, but classify its manifestations as inappropriate behaviours and not as violence. They also understand that school violence is caused by contextual factors at the school and wider societal levels. The students further recommend a collaborative approach to preventative interventions, with student-involvement. This study has contributed to knowledge by elucidating contextual school violence from young persons’ perspectives, and the effects of intersectional factors on emergent school violence. It has, thereby, highlighted causal factors and enabling conditions that have been overlooked within the school violence discourse. Further, it has provided practical tools for school-level application, to inform effective interventions based on a collaborative/whole-school approach (Cowie and Jennifer, 2007).

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