Girls fighting

24th September 2004 at 01:00
Professor Raj Persaud is a consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley hospital and senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry in London

"Girls' arguments can go on and on; they can seem intractable and are often difficult to observe. Physical violence brings it out in the open, but the way of resolving it is the same for girls as for boys. You have to get them to step back, walk away from each other and cool off. Teachers should not underestimate how difficult this can be.

"In my profession we have training to deal with violence. We have medication and we deal with it in teams, but it can still be very tricky.

Teachers, unlike other professionals, seem prepared to shoulder this responsibility alone - and they do a remarkable job - but schools should develop policies and rehearse tackling violent incidents in teams. Any male teacher dealing with violence between girls is bound to feel incapacitated because, legitimately, he will worry about accusations of sexual assault.

"A debriefing session for all teachers who have dealt with violence is probably necessary. Any session with pupils must stress the importance of ignoring provocation, no matter how extreme. Walking away has to be the best option because if the person doing the provoking is getting no response, why bother? It's like engaging with a stalker, even if it's pleading with the person to go away. That's what the stalker wants - a reaction."

Raj Persaud will be live online at www.tes.co.uk on October 7 and November 3

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