This study aims to explore the discipline masters’ and school social workers' perception of delinquency in secondary schools in Hong Kong, in terms of its
prevalence and causation and the responses of the school system to it. Twelve secondary schools with a balanced mix of different bands, nature of governance,
location and sex composition were studied, using a multiple-case study method. The two key actors of each school, namely the discipline master and the school social worker, were interviewed to identify the landscape of delinquency in their schools, and their theorization and responses to it.
All the schools under study are found to be faced with the problem of delinquency, though in varying degrees and forms. They regarded anti-authority
behaviours directed at the teachers as most serious. Concerning the attribution of causes of delinquency however, the school authorities are not quite aware of the
school being a cause of, rather than a solution to, delinquency when it adopts labelling and oppressive measures. It is further found that all the schools emphasized
uniformity, standardization, hierarchical authority and discipline. The overuse of power against students, often disguised as the need for discipline, was prevalent
among most of them. Their students were often labelled, which in turn accentuated their delinquent behaviours. It is thus concluded that schools are more prone to
over-control rather than losing control in dealing with such behaviours.
This study shows the responses of the schools to delinquency vary. According to the school social workers interviewed, seven schools were described as non-punitive, four schools as punitive and one as permissive. Those schools, described as non-punitive exhibited more elements of collaboration, humanization, legitimization, restoration and education in their responses to delinquency. While these positive elements existed, they were not consistently and systematically applied, showing that these schools