Heavy legacy of violence that nobody is dealing with

Heavy legacy of violence that nobody is dealing with

By Milica Srejić

The Belgrade Center for Security Policy analyzed the measures that were implemented after the tragedies that occurred on May 3 and 4 last year.

The analysis showed that the measures were motivated by political interests to appease the public and that they were not devised by public security, justice or education specialists. Therefore, some could not be implemented, while others are unsustainable.

Ten months have passed since the shootings at the Vladislav Ribnikar Elementary School and the villages of Dubona and Malo Orašje. However, incidents continued to happen as recently one student brought a knife to the Vladislav Ribnikar school, while a sixth-grade student brought an axe to the Heroj Janko Cmelik Elementary School in Stara Pazova.

In May of last year, immediately after the tragedies, measures were implemented to ensure better control of weapons and improve safety in schools and generally among young generations. A little later in the same year, before the beginning of the school year, various laws were passed to strengthen the role that schools and the educational system in the prevention and response to violence. Plus, the Law on the Basics of the Education System was also amended

So, what measures have been implemented so far, how effective are they, what’s the current state of the society and did we learn anything in the meantime?

The analysis conducted by the Belgrade Center for Security Policy concluded that as the measures were not devised by public security, justice or education specialists, some simply could not be implemented such as banning access to the Dark Web and short-term gun control. Other measures, on the other hand, are unsustainable for the system, namely having police stationed in schools and testing students for psychoactive substances.

The author of this analysis and associate at the Belgrade Center for Security Policy, Dušan Stanković, points out that the common problem for all measures is that they did not cause any effects in terms of reducing the number of armed incidents in Serbia and schools and reported violations.

“That’s still happening. There are no official data to quote, but we have certain parameters we can monitor which testify that these trends are constant, meaning they are not declining,” Stanković points out.

The analysis, which was published at the end of December last year, also states that most of the measures have not been implemented and that for some it is necessary to change the law, such as tightening the penalties for criminal acts involving weapons or reducing the age of criminal responsibility. However, the research and experience of other countries do not support the fact that a harsher penal policy would solve the problems of violence or carrying weapons.

This is questionable, the analysis states, and that is why there are currently no campaigns that would educate citizens on the topic of the dangers of weapons and how to dispose of them. Measures for the safety of young people were more declarative (harsher penal policy) or formal (establishment of councils and working groups). The only measure that was immediately implemented and visible to citizens was the presence of the police in schools.

After the May tragedies, the Interior Ministry (MUP) announced that police officers were deployed to 1,800 schools throughout Serbia.

Stanković explains that that measure was immediately implemented, but that it was never officially approved of by the Serbian government, that is, there is no act that regulates police presence in schools, but the police were only told that they must be there in some shape or form. “The problem with having police in schools is that we have no evidence that it is effective in terms of reducing the number of incidents in schools or improving safety. Various incidents continue to occur. Maybe certain students, school staff or parents feel safer. However, and saw this in other countries, having police in schools signals that something is wrong,” Stanković adds.

He thinks that the government’s intention was to react as soon as possible and appease the public who were upset after the May tragedies and to show that they are working on the problem.

He says that some measures such as ensuring tougher gun control within three months, as originally announced, were not implemented during the said period. “This is proof that those measures were not devised by experts”, Stanković adds.

Does anybody think about prevention?

Psychologist Ana Mirković reminds of promises that “as of September, education will be somewhat revolutionized and there will be more talk about right values, empathy and tolerance”.  

“As a mother of two schoolchildren, I can see that almost nothing was done in practice. It all boiled down to spending the two weeks (after the shooting) on filling out certain forms by educators who probably realized that that was non-sensical and went back to regular school procedures”, says Ana Mirković.

She goes on to explain that the wrong foundation cannot be remedied by a few workshops and adds that we need to re-evaluate all educational processes, they way our children are being brought up, parental support and the role of the media.

“First, a clear intention should be to define and then implement a clear plan as a roadmap to executing these changes. It seems to me that at this moment there is no will, no idea and no intention for something like that to happen”, Mirković points out.

Stanković says that, unfortunately, very little thought was given to measures which did work in terms of preventing potential incidents with the police in schools. However, there were no strategic activities on the prevention and prevention of violence and there were examples of some of the members of the working groups resigning from them because they didn’t do anything effectively to deal with causes of violence.

Stanković reminds that there is a National Platform for the Prevention of Violence called Čuvam Te which focuses on children as victims and perpetrators and it contains materials that are supposed to inform how to prevent violence. However, there isn’t much information about how this platform should be used.

“There is no strategic approach regarding the regulation of violence in the media.  There was a measure related to that, but as far as we know, it was not implemented at all. We need to have stricter penalties for media which publish or broadcast violent content”, Stanković concludes.

(Vreme, 13.03.2024)


This post is also available in: Italiano

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