The education ministry on Friday said a spate of recent reports about violence and sexual abuse in public schools were isolated incidents, which are a part of the wider community.

Violence that occurs in the school environment is a phenomenon found in wider society. The public school, through the measures it implements from pre-school age and at all levels of education, based on specific policies, empowers pupils to develop the appropriate attitudes so that they can avoid involvement in any incidents of violence and delinquency,” the ministry said.

It boiled down cases of violence and sexual abuse to “isolated incidents” which have not yet been investigated.

According to the ministry, reporting of isolated incidents “creates the wrong impression” about the situation in public schools in Cyprus and for the children and families that use them.

“The student population in public schools in Cyprus exceeds 110,000 and focusing on isolated incidents does not contribute to the rational management of the issue,” the ministry said.

It added that violent incidents at school are immediately dealt with by school services of the ministry.

Depending on the individual case, other state services are also activated, such as the local police station, the special investigation team of the police headquarters, the drug squad Ykan, the Social Welfare Services, The Children’s Home, the Mental Health Services and the justice ministry, the ministry said.

Reports that schools are out of control in dealing with violence are not verified by official data from the agencies involved nor do they reflect the true dimension of the issue.

According to the ministry, in recent years there has been an increase in the number of reports of child sexual abuse in the family and in the wider community.

“To a very large extent, these incidents do not take place in school,” the ministry said.

However, they added that based on official statistics, it is found that schools and teachers are the second largest group forwarding reports of incidents of sexual violence to the police.

The ministry said: “Youth violence and delinquency, a phenomenon that has unfortunately reached dangerous proportions in recent years, cannot be downplayed, or ignored. An effective response to the phenomenon requires the implementation of long-term planning based on scientific approaches and synergies. Under no circumstances should this important issue be subject to debate or exploited for petty political purposes.”

Earlier this week, the house education committee heard over 400 secondary school students were referred for drug treatment programmes over the past three years.