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Uncovering the Similarities & Differences in School Violence between Brazil & the US and Understanding Why Their Responses Vary

by Joshua Brown
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Just 14 days after a man killed four kids at a school in Brazil, more than 300 adults and young people have been taken into custody all over the country for talking bad about others or encouraging violence at schools.

Lots of people don’t understand why Brazil is trying so hard to control attacks in schools. It’s because they use federal, state and local governments to work together and make sure that these don’t happen. This is opposite from the U.S., where lots of school attacks occur and are very dangerous, but the response has only been small changes in recent years.

Renan Theodoro, who works at the University of Sao Paulo’s Center for the Study of Violence, told Big Big News that Brazil is learning from what America has done right and wrong when it comes to responding to stuff.

He said, “We are looking at how successful and unsuccessful the United States has been with their actions, so we can do better.”

In Brazil, there have been 24 dangerous events in schools since 2000. This includes the attack on a daycare center that took place earlier this month (April 5).

The President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said it is no longer safe to assume that schools are always kept safe and secure. His government has asked scientists to help figure out what can be done to fix this problem and recently held a meeting with mayors, high court judges and top officials to talk about how they can work together to resolve this issue.

In the U.S., they have created hotlines, provided safety training to school administrators and teachers, plus gave extra money for mental health and security equipment. They also did a big search using around 3400 policemen to look for people who could be dangerous, as well as make changes in social media platforms.

The police recently arrested some people in Brazil to help make people less afraid. Luis Flávio Sapori from the Brazilian Forum for Public Security said that the most important thing is to reduce fear and panic. After a terrible shooting incident at a daycare, many students, parents, and teachers are worried about their safety. Vanusia Silva Lima, 42-year-old mom of a 5-year-old boy in Sao Paulo, was scared because of all the rumors going around on social media.

Lima said she and her friends at the salon were afraid to send their children to school. Some Brazilian states decided not to rely on the federal government, so Sao Paulo hired 550 psychologists and 1,000 security guards for its public schools.

When something bad like a shooting happens in America, politicians don’t agree on what to do about it. Most Democrats think gun control is important, while most Republicans believe that security measures are more necessary.

Brazil has made progress towards solving school bullying and attacks because their solutions didn’t have anything to do with taking away people’s access to guns. Instead, they focused on dealing with weapons like knives, which are used more than guns in these types of attacks in Brazil.

In the U.S., it’s not common for laws to be passed, but last year was an exception after there were several bad shootings in Texas. A bill got through which made stricter background checks and prevented people with a history of domestic violence from buying guns. It also put $1 billion towards helping students with mental health problems, as well as improving school security.

Since terrible tragedies happened in 1999 at Columbine High School and in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, things have been improving in a lot of schools. These days most states require all schools to have safety plans that include special drills for when there is an active shooter. Some school districts even set up hotlines so people can report any unsafe behaviors or incidents and some also use software to look out for threats on social media.

Different states in America have given schools extra money to secure their buildings, like installing metal detectors, security officers, special bulletproof doors and other protective measures. This has created some controversy because it changes how school behaves.

Eduardo Bolsonaro, the son of a former president from the far-right party, proposed a law which makes it compulsory for all schools to install these kind of safety devices. He was very curious about what was happening in certain U.S. states as an example.

Lula, the Brazilian president, has said his government will not have metal detectors or check student backpacks. Brazil is focusing more on mental health services and teaching people how to spot threats before they happen instead of just policing.

In Brazil, people know from experiences in the U.S. that just having security guards in schools will not stop attacks or make them safer. In fact, it just turns the school into a prison-like atmosphere. However, trying different solutions to this problem too quickly can lead to bad results due to the size of Brazil being the second most populated country in the Western hemisphere.

The police arrested 302 people over a two week period. Sadly, it is unclear how many of these 302 people were minors. The Justice Ministry also gave power to the National Consumer Agency to punish tech companies if they do not remove content related to school massacres, violence or threats.

At a meeting in the capital this week, many people showed their support for controlling social media platforms. They think that something that isn’t allowed in real life shouldn’t be allowed on the internet either.

Lula, who attended the meeting said, “We need to be brave enough to tell the difference between having freedom of speech and just doing stupid things”.

The Rights in Network Coalition, an organization with fifty members concerned about people’s digital rights, is worried that the government may be getting too much control over what we can post on social media. Recently, some social media companies which were previously not following orders to remove posts have now done so. In the last 10 days alone, they have taken down or blocked more than 750 profiles according to the Justice Minister Flávio Dino.

Last week, a man broke into a day care center in Santa Catarina and hurt four kids with an axe. When this happened, the state’s prosecutors asked news outlets to not post pictures or give out any information about the attacker because research has suggested that this could make other people want to do the same thing.

Grupo Globo, a big company dealing with media, said they will no longer tell anybody who committed crimes on their broadcasts or publications. O Estado de S. Paulo, a famous Brazilian newspaper, also made the same change. CNN Brasil and Band also changed how they handle crime news.

In the United States, there has been a big change in how media outlets handle stories about school shootings. They are now using shooters’ names less often and highlighting victims’ stories to honor those who have died, thanks to relatives stepping up to advocate for this. Plus, some news organizations have stopped writing up profiles of the shooters.

Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services from Ohio said that the work by Brazil to provide more safety in schools reminds him of when the USA started to give better support after the Columbine shooting. However, he added that since then it has become harder. He also asked if Brazil will be able to continue its good work even after people are no longer paying attention. In other words, he wanted to know if Brazilian efforts will be long-lasting.

___ Binkley reported from Washington, D.C. while Eléonore Hughes, Maurcio Savarese, and Carla Bridi sent information from the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Brasilia in Brazil.

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