Children, classrooms and challenging behaviour: do the rights of the many outweigh the rights of the few?

Jenna K. Gillett-Swan*, Laura Lundy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Schools present a unique context for the generation and resolution of conflicts of human rights. While the conflicts that arise are many and various, a default response appears to be the prioritisation of the rights of the majority. Hence the rights of the many then trump the rights of the few. However, the intersection of multiple stakeholders, and multiple interests and rights, requires decision-makers to identify the rights at stake for all and address conflicts in ways that are both principled and transparent. Drawing on an established body of human rights theory, and using the example of children whose behaviour is causing disruption as a case, this paper offers a rights-informed approach to consider responses to some of the tensions and conflicts that can arise between students in schools. While acknowledging that (a) the resolution of these disputes will turn on individual facts and contexts and rarely be clear-cut and (b) that human rights theory and law on this issue is also complex and contested, we suggest that a rights-informed response should, and would usefully, be applied in situations when the interests of one child appear to conflict with the interests of others in the context of schools.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOxford Review of Education
Early online date23 Jun 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 23 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • decision-making
  • education rights
  • Human rights
  • rights conflict
  • school
  • student behaviour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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