Sunday, December 23, 2007

Fighting At School

Instapundit has a link about a school fight and has this to say:

I'M KIND OF EMBARRASSED to see this happen in Tennessee: "According to the Williamson County School System, self defense is no defense when it comes to getting suspended for fighting. " In that case, I think she should sue the school system and principal for failing to protect her.

Amen, brother! It's the laziest kind of CYA policy that expects students to walk away after taking a hit. I've discussed this with my vice principals several times and they refuse to budge--take a swing, get suspended, even if you're defending yourself. Heck, adults can legally and legitimately exercise self-defense, but we expect children to show even more restraint than adults after taking a hit.

The principal at my own son's school expects--and I kid you not--that students will curl up on the ground into a fetal position and hope that someone else goes running for help. No way will I support that. Stupidity of the highest form.

Perhaps a lawsuit or two and administrators will wake up to this rabid injustice.

Update: Welcome fellow Instapundit readers! Please feel free to poke around the rest of my blog.

Update #2: Welcome fellow readers of Joanne Jacobs!


Unknown said...

Actually, unless I'm seriously misreading that article, she did walk away - twice, and both times were captured on the security camera.

One wonders what the school officials propose she should have done...

Anonymous said...

I was bullied in high school in the 70's, before this PC nonsense started. I was unable to fight back because I was a guy, 4'11" and 65 lbs, up against football players.

It ended when I got a sympathetic lawyer, and filed suit against a guy that had given me a black eye. The police wouldn't touch it, they thought it was a "boys will be boys" thing. But once we seriously threatened to take his family's house it all stopped.

My 4 year daughter old will enter Kindergarden next year. She's been in Karate for 2 years. If attacked, she will defend herself. In January I'm interviewing lawyers, to put one on retainer in case she ever has to.

Wince said...

If, as Instapundit suggest, a legislative solution is in order, I'd much prefer legislation aimed at enhancing students' due process rights against "zero tolerance policies," generally or in specific situations, rather than pass legisaltion aimed narrowly at changing premises liability rules with respect to self-defense.

The hybrid may be legislation creating a due process right to present a self-defense privilege in use of force situations.

Conversely, increasing the school systems' liability exposure by broadening the duty to protect seems like a needlessly indirect and expensive instrument to use to cure the problem.

Anonymous said...

I want it as expensive as possible for these government school myrmidons; put the suckers out of business.

Darren said...

I had to look up "myrmidon" :-)

Anonymous said...

I've got three daughters who went through a school system with zero-tolerance policies like this. I thought about it carefully when we sent them to school, and then we had a family talk. Oldest is two years older than the middle, and two more years older than our last child.

I told each of my daughters to walk away, even if they had to do it repeatedly. If, however, the other party decided to turn it into a fight I helped my daughters learn how to defend themselves, and told them I'd be on their side, as long as they'd tried to avoid the fight.

The inevitable happened one fine and frosty Thursday afternoon. My daughter took punches from three other girls who were steamed that she'd been able to find a job that paid well enough that she bought her own car. She ended up with a broken rib, and a chipped tooth.

Because she was fortunate enough to land a single punch agains the three attackers the district policy kicked in and she was suspended for five days.

My wife and I went to the principals office, and told him that we would accept the suspension, and that we were changing OUR zero-tolerance policy. We were taking our girls to martial arts classes beginning that week, and that our policy now was that anyone who put their hands on our girls in anger was to be pummeled into submission. It only seemed fair that if they were going to take a suspension for defending themselves that the opportunity should not be wasted to send a message to other thugs in that school that they were in danger from our girls if they started something.

Man you should have seen the bastard squirm in his chair. He threatened to call the cops, or to expel our girls on the spot.

The word got around and for the next five years no one bothered our girls in that high school.

I wish this fellow all the luck in the world in changing that ridiculous policy.

Anonymous said...

We used to live in Williamson County. When my eldest son was in 7th grade, he was very slight of build. One day, four high school kids jumped him and beat him badly. It didn't happen on school grounds, so the school system's idiotic policy didn't come into play. But I had the ringleader arrested hy the police. At the hearing (not a trial, since all concerned were minors) the other attorney tried to grill my son about why he didn't run away. The judge interrupted and stated very plainly that Tennessee law does not require retreat when attacked; it is a "stand and fight" state.

I wonder whether Rachel Davis might also sue the system for violating her civil rights, since it is punishing her for doing what state law entitles her to do.

Sorry for the anonymous commenting, but I don't want to drag my son's name into this forum, even though he grown now.

Wince said...


You make my point.

Unfortunately, the school officials aren't the ones who pay-out the fees and awards over the course of protracted litigation. The taxpayers do.

Evidently you favor the personal injury "myrmidons" over the public school "myrmidons".

DADvocate said...

Funny how self-defense is recognized in a court of law, even if you kill in self-defense, but not in a school. I would think there is, and should be, a terrible amount of liability for a school that denies one the right of self-defense.

Anonymous said...

I went through elementary in the 70s and junior high/high school in the early 80s.

The policy back then was: any fighting, even defensive, resulted in a suspension.

I had to deal with a variety of bullies over the years. Most came from broken homes and had a history of this behavior. Most eventually went on to have criminal careers and spent time in jail or prison.

Every time I got "caught" fighting it was always defending myself. Most were 3 day suspensions. My parents just went along with the system, despite my protests at how unfair it was.

It affected me in such a way that now, as an adult, I would stand behind my children if they were picked on and had to defend themselves but got suspended.

And, if need be, I would hire legal representation to strike back at the families of the bullies as well as the school district.

Screw 'em... defense is a fundamental right.

Anonymous said...

This policy is in place to protect administrators and principals from charges of RACISM. Black kids complained that they received stiffer penalties for fighting than white kids did when the administrators used their judgement when determining instigator, victim, fairness, punishments, et, et, so the bureacracy of public schooling came up with a policy to protect them......

...the administrator thems, not the students.

Anonymous said...

The problem with making it "as expensive as possible" is that individuals are never held responsible - the tax rates just go up.

Hube said...

and told him that we would accept the suspension, and that we were changing OUR zero-tolerance policy. We were taking our girls to martial arts classes beginning that week, and that our policy now was that anyone who put their hands on our girls in anger was to be pummeled into submission.

This is awesome. But, unfortunately, it is necessary b/c these zero tolerance "policies" are just too common. They make NO sense, enable the bullying cretins and belittle the victims.

Unknown said...

Actually, I got here from Joanne's site!

Anonymous said...

"nelson134 said...
I want it as expensive as possible for these government school myrmidons; put the suckers out of business."

Myrmidons...hey, I didn't know William F Buckley was in the blog! Darren, we got a real VIP here! :)

Anonymous said...

I still do not understand the leftist paradox of celebrating 'tolerance' but embracing so many idiotic 'zero tolerance' policies for anything THEY do not like.

As I recall 'zero tolerance' started with drugs. Hard for anyone to disagree there. But now it seems like 'zero tolerance' extends to anything a liberal does not like.

To paraphrase

First they came for the dopers, and I said nothing because I was not a junkie.

Then they came for those who used plastic utensiles for lunch, and I said nothing because I could skip lunch.

Then they came for those who would not stand and be pummeled by bullies - and I was suspended.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Miller

Congrats on the Instalanch...

Merry Christmas

Miller's Time

Anonymous said...

"The problem with making it "as expensive as possible" is that individuals are never held responsible - the tax rates just go up."

And who elects the school boards who appoint those administrators, Santa Claus?

Cincinnatus said...

If it was my hypothetical kid, I'd be distributing fliers to the schools parents explaining the whole story. With a color photo of the administrator. And promise to remind everyone right before the next levy vote. This is a bad idea, I just don't know why.

TM Lutas said...

The solution is easy and that is to threaten jobs. By no means should this be through lawsuits. Instead, I suggest professionally prepared campaign materials. "Zero-tolerance on fights = our administrators saying they're too stupid to ever figure out who started it" is the essence of what's needed. Who hires the administrators? Who's responsible for backing these zero-tolerance policies? It's the school board, time and again. Come up with a winning campaign against this stuff and distribute it to school board candidates nationwide. Give administrators a reasonable time to put better procedures in place or let their contracts expire and hire better administrators who will do better than everybody gets punished as well as staying away from the old problem of administrators "playing favorites".

Tom said...

Perhaps a lawsuit or two and administrators will wake up to this rabid injustice.

As I mentioned in JJ's blog, these sort of policies are enacted to prevent successful lawsuits. Specifically, lawsuits are a great deal more common (and more likely to succeed) when an individual exercises discretion. (If you think that clear video footage is sufficient to avoid a sizable adverse court judgment, you underestimate the effectiveness of lawyers.)

By not allowing the principal to exercise judgment, they removal the possibility that he might be found "wrong" in court, leaving the school board on the hook for an almost unlimited amount.

Such policies may not be just, but they are rational responses to a litigious environment where public institutions are seen as having very deep pockets.

Broadsword said...

Nonsense 'Zero tolerance' policies should be called zero common sense policies. This 'violence is always wrong, no matter what' crap is an enforced pacifism. I don't think anyone can morally enforce this viewpoint on someone else's nose. It is the most individual of choices, but, as Neibuhr said, such pacifism "connives with tyranny". also, the value placed on the negative reward, suspension, is valued differently by A-student versus the hats-on-sideways thug species. I disagree profoundly with Glenn Reynolds that "...we need legislation". The confusion between right and wrong, and legal-illegal is inverting the signal to noise relationship. Shall all behavior be judged only by legal or illegal? If so, the phrase, "No controlling legal authority", and a caught/not caught ethic will supercede the Golden Rule, and the right/wrong ethic. Shame and censure are far more powerful pressures to ensure and maintain civility than law. Law is just a tripwire to release the hounds of the police and the courts. What decent person needs laws to make him decent?

Anonymous said...

I was bullied in school (in Ontario, Canada) back in the 1970's. Finally got to the breaking point and began pounding the "you know what" out of the bully in the library one day. I then went to the vice-principal and 'fessed up. He was very irate - at the bully. Called him down and read him the riot act and that if he ever came close to me again the school would have him arrested. In the end we ended up being decent (but not good) friends. Bullies usually just need someone to stand up to them.

Another bully picked on one quiet kid. Turns out the "victim" was a black belt. Again, reached the breaking point - shortly before the bully's nose did. Happened off school grounds so not a school matter. But did hear that the teachers got a pretty good chuckle out of it.

While Canada has become pretty PC good to know that when I lived there some authority figures did have some common sense!

Ellen K said...

There's more than physical bullying going on in our schools. My daughter was ostracized and bullied throughout elementary and middle school by the "popular girls". They made fun of her clothes, her concern about grades and did some very mean things. I tried to get parents and teachers to intervene and nothing was done-the teachers basically intimated that she "deserved it for not fitting in." Strangely enough, she's the one graduating this year magna cum laude while many of the other girls ended up in rehab, in jail or in a wide range of other less than desireable activities. While I don't like fights, I have seen some instances where the kid either takes a swing or get pummeled. In one case, the younger brother of one of my favorite students was jumped by some of our wonderful Katrina kids on the stairs. His sister, then 18 and a star runner with a scholarship in the offing, ran to his aid and hit this huge kid to get him off of her brother. Since she was 18 and the attacker was 16-although HUGE, she was arrested, lost her scholarship and was expelled. She got another scholarship elsewhere, but that whole situation was just wrong. I don't know what the answer is, but at some point people have to step in before situations escalate. What would help that is having smaller high schools where teachers know the kids and kids know they are being supervised.

Queen Mama said...

My school in the early 90s supposedly had zero tolerance policies for fighting, but fortunately for me they weren't enforced the one time I hit another student! My parents probably wouldn't have supported me, but my fighting instinct kicked in.

When I was 11, a notorious bully in my class was calling my best friend filthy names and cussing at her because she wouldn’t “go out” with him. She was crying and trying to walk away from him, but he kept following her around the playground. I went up to him and told him, “Back off and leave her alone, NOW!” The little jerk responded by taking a swing at my face with his fist. I managed to deflect it with my left arm and clock him upside the head with my right fist—I meant to slap him, but didn’t open my hand in time! He instantly started crying and ran to the yard duty teaching whining about how I had hit him. I followed, but didn’t say a word to defend myself. The teacher looked at me, said she didn’t believe I would hit anyone, and told him to go play. When he left, glaring at me, she turned and asked, “You DID hit him, didn’t you?” “Yes,” was all I said, fearing I was now in big trouble. “Good!” she exclaimed, “Someone has needed to for a long time!” That kid never messed with me or my friend again.

Anonymous said...

Harnett Central High School (NC): My 14 yr-old son was assaulted at school on Friday-rocks and dog feces was thrown at him. Teacher was alerted and did nothing. At end of class, son was shoved down by bully and surrounded by 4 of the bully's friends. My son took his (metal) belt off and swung at bully in self-defense. Bully proceeded to beat my son in the head. School has suspended both my son and bully for 10 days. So the message is clear: you can be the bully or the good kid. Either way, you'll receive the same punishment!

We are considering suing the school system for failure to provide a safe environment that is conducive to learning for my child.

Darren said...

I hope you *do* sue, and win.

This foolishness must end. Now.

Anonymous said...

You know what, if this is in California, state law there does in fact say a kid on the playground DOES in fact have the right to self-defense. Just look up article 48900 of the Ca. Education Code. you'll find something there you wouldn't expect. Not everything about California is liberal.

Darren said...

I did not know about that section of Ed. Code. Thank you for pointing it out!