Brazil’s BRASILIAAs part of its efforts to stop a spate of deadly school attacks, Brazil’s government announced plans on Tuesday to increase funding for school security and tighten down on violence incitement.
The range of actions was considered at a conference of ministers, governors, and mayors that President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called in the nation’s capital, Brasilia.
Following the murder of four children at a daycare facility in the southern state of Santa Catarina earlier this month, the government started strengthening school security. In the months of 2023 before this, three other events took place.
“This is a moment for us all to unite, independent of political, partisan or ideological issues,” All but one of Brazil’s 27 governors and scores of mayors were present for the event’s opening remarks, which Education Minister Camilo Santana delivered.
“What’s at stake is the lives of kids and adolescents in our country,” Santana said.
Santana proposed 3.12 billion reais ($625 million) for funds to improve school infrastructure and security and additional financing in the tens of millions of dollars for treating mental illness and educating teachers about prevention.
The government has also developed a task force for social media monitoring, hotlines to report suspicious behavior, and an online program to teach safety advice to school teachers and administrators.
The last activities in particular have prompted the justice ministry and state police forces to crack down on adults and children who are thought to be instigating violence in schools.
Justice Minister Flávio Dino reported that 225 persons had been detained or arrested during the last ten days and that during that time, his ministry’s website has received more than 7,000 reports.
The sheer number of arrests and detentions “allows us to see that these aren’t isolated cases,” demonstrating how criminals exploit online platforms to “recruit our youth for evil,” according to Dino.
In Brazil, incidents of school violence were formerly rare, but they have become more regular in recent years.
According to a paper from academics led by Daniel Cara, an education professor at the University of Sao Paulo, 16 violent incidents or attacks took place in schools between 2000 and 2022, with four occurring in the second half of last year.
“That’s why we are here: to cut off this dangerous ascent of violence, of hatred,” Dino said.
Social media regulation was frequently suggested at the discussion to stop such events, notably by holding platforms accountable for failing to remove violent content.
Dino pointed out that several businesses that refused to comply with removal requests have changed their minds and suspended or erased more than 750 profiles in the last 10 days.
The president of the electoral authority and a Supreme Court justice, Alexandre de Moraes, compared anti-democratic speeches that sparked an uprising in the capital on January 8 and supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro vandalizing government buildings to fake news during the 2016 presidential campaign.
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The boundaries of Brazil’s political divide were frequently followed by attempts to stifle antidemocratic discourse last year, which led to accusations of free speech repression.
According to De Moraes, regulation is required because social media is a “no-man’s land” where users can continue to engage in behaviors and forbidden words offline. Lula also spoke in favor of regulation.
“Either we have the courage to discuss the difference between freedom of expression and stupidity, or we won’t get very far,” Lula said, speaking last in the meeting after everyone else.
Since January, Lula’s administration has implemented measures to tighten gun control, reversing Bolsonaro’s efforts to make access easier.
However, neither Lula nor anyone else addressed the subject on Tuesday; possibly because it has become a political flashpoint or because attacks on Brazilian schools have increasingly involved knives.
Lula was also against using barriers, metal detectors, or school backpack checks. Instead, he emphasized the importance of better parental education and mental health resources.
“We are not going to transform our schools into a maximum security prison, which will not work. There is no money for that, and it is not politically correct, humanely correct or socially correct,” Lula said.
“If we try to do that, we are demonstrating that we aren’t very useful, because we don’t know how to resolve the real problem.”
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