Radicalization in British Columbia Secondary Schools: The Principals' Perspective
Keywords:youth radicalization, extremism, violent extremism, violence in schools
This essay summarizes a larger study into radicalization in secondary schools (Grades 8-12) in the Province of British Columbia, Canada, from the perspective of school principals and vice-principals (PVPs). In addition to determining the extent of radicalization, the study further explored the extent to which PVPs felt they were prepared to cope with radicalization in a school environment, and obtained their assessment of the training and resources available to help them deal with this phenomenon. Quantitative and qualitative data was acquired using a survey as well as interviews with PVPs. Research participants reported an unexpectedly low level of engagement by students in radical, extremist, or violent extremist behaviour during the 2014-2015 school year. Only 3% of PVPs surveyed believed that extremist or violent extremist behaviours had increased in their own schools during the previous three-year period, while 6.6% believed it had actually declined somewhat—or even substantially—during this timeframe. There was wide variance in the levels of confidence exhibited by PVPs in their capacity to deal with incidents of extreme or violently extreme behaviours, but most stated that they would welcome additional training on dealing with potential incidents. Only half of the interview participants claimed that the procedures and protocols in place to deal with incidents involving extremist behaviours were adequate. A consistently low level of radicalization was apparent in school environments where some factors that otherwise might trigger student radicalization were identified, explored, and resolved in a supportive and open minded manner by school staff.
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