Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Fighting In School

"The notion that you can somehow defeat violence by submitting to it is simply a flight from fact. As I have said, it is only possible to people who have money and guns between themselves and reality."
--attributed to George Orwell

Yesterday I was talking to a man who is pretty involved at my son's school. We were talking about the school principal and he relayed the following story.

He and she were talking about fighting, and he said that if his son were attacked, he'd expect the boy to defend himself. She replied that the boy would be suspended or perhaps expelled if he did; rather, he should curl up on the ground in a ball and hope someone else runs to get help.

I have no reason to doubt the veracity of this story.

Dear gawd, when did common sense leave our schools? In exactly what year did we decide that, in instances of fighting, we'd completely take leave of our senses and begin to perform internal inspections of our belly buttons?

I've had several conversations about fighting with one of my vice principals. He said that he does not want to get involved in making value judgements concerning fights because there's too much "he said, she said" involved. To him, both the initiator and the victim were fighting and they get the same punishment of a few days' worth of suspension. He acknowledges that if he were the victim, he'd defend himself and accept the suspension. Why anyone would "accept" an unjust punishment is far beyond me.

I think we hold our students in school to a higher standard than we do adults in public. Self defense is a legitimate and very real defense in the adult legal world. Yet, my son's principal expects students to curl up on the ground in a ball and my own school's administration expects students to just turn the other cheek (I thought religion had to be kept out of schools!) and walk away. Neither of those actions is realistic, and neither serves to prevent fighting. Both serve to treat a victim as a scofflaw.

I don't want to hear about lawsuits from parents who say their kid was treated worse because he supposedly started a fight when he really didn't. I'm tired of these lawsuits. Perhaps Orwell's quote above applies equally well to lawsuits. They aren't going to go away if you keep giving in to them. Stand up to a few and people will see how useless they are. And you'd have the added benefit that people would actually be able to respect the school's rules and the application of those rules, rather than the current situation of seeing stupid rules and having a school district try to defend those stupid rules.

Incidentally, this man also told me that a child who brought a small pair of nail clippers to school had them confiscated and his/her parents were called and asked to come retrieve the "weapon" immediately. Stupidity. Scissors and pencils, tools ubiquitous in our classrooms, are much more easily used as weapons than a pair of freakin' nail clippers. Again I ask, when did we take leave of our senses? "I'm going to fight you by poking you with these nail clippers! Take that!" Such a child shouldn't be suspended for fighting with a weapon, but for being too stupid to attend even the public schools.

But we have to treat everyone equally, victim and aggressor alike. Amazing.


Darren said...

Why should they be paid at all? Why should they be administrators?

David Foster said...

"Administrator" is an interesting term. Nobody uses the word "administrator" in business except in conjunction with certain fairly low-level positions (like "contract administrator") People who manage things are called managers.

I think the continued use of the word reveals a reality in public education: the role of administrators is not to run things and take responsibilty, but rather to follow procedures. Flesh-and-blood robots.

Darren said...

David, there's some truth to what you said.

Wulf said...

Our school hands out a 10 day suspension, no questions asked, for anybody involved in a fight. It doesn't matter who started it and who is defending himself.

One consequence of this rule is that kids who are defending themselves see no reason to refrain from beating the crap out of the other kid. Once you have been goaded into taking a swing, you are suspended anyway, so why not really let loose?

That's a great system, isn't it?

Anonymous said...


Remeber, someone went to get a graduate degree from a college to make policy like that...they is so intelligent!

FJBill said...

After seeing idiocy like this, one wonders why any rational, logical, parent capable of thinking and reasoning, who GIVES A DAMN ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN AND THEIR CHILDREN'S EDUCATION would ever let their child(ren) even set foot into a public school for purposes of education.

The only reason my children will ever need to even be on public school grounds is to vote after they turn 18, and that's only if their precinct polling location is a school.

Anonymous said...

By banning finger nail clippers, the administrators encourage long fingerrnails, which themselves make pretty good weapons. Maybe they are confusing them with fingernail files, which do make an effective weapon. When I was in highschool, in 1967, one girl stabbed another with one and got it between her ribs.

Darren said...

I don't know, I was told clippers. Still, pencils and scissors make pretty good weapons, too, and we don't ban them in schools. Yet.

Anonymous said...

I am a student at the school where Mr. Miller teaches. The rule regarding self defense is incongruous! A teenager's, or any person's natural instinct is to protect themselves. When an attacker takes that first swing, do the schools honestly think we say to ourselves, "I'll roll into a ball and hope this guy/girl doesn't kick the hell outta me"? Let's be real.
A perfect example of this: I have a friend who I will leave unknown, who was attacked in the locker room. The attacker swung and my friend instinctively grabbed the guy's arm, twisted it behind his back, and escorted him out of the aisle so he could walk out safely. The catch is the guy who attacked him was in possesion of marijuana! Despite my friend refraining from hitting the guy, he was still punished! Even though the attacker had WEED! My friend was suspended for a week, and put on social probation for a 6 weeks, thus missing homecoming, and the end of the sport he played!
Unless the school can give students a logical alternative to fighting in self-defense, something has to change.
Is what happened to my friend fair? That's for u to decide.