General Question

jca's avatar

Does it make sense to you that many schools have a policy where, if a child is attacked by another child, they cannot defend themself or else they are considered just as guilty as the attacker?

Asked by jca (28508 points ) February 16th, 2012

I have heard of this policy from many schools, from friends and on Fluther. Schools have a “No violence policy” or “No tolerance policy” where if one child is attacked by another child, and the victim defends themself, they are considered just as guilty as the attacker. Both children are disciplined.

Does it make sense to you that the victim is supposed to stand there and not try to defend himself/herself? The child is expected to stand there with hands by their side while the other child punches them in the face (or whatever)?

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55 Answers

CaptainHarley's avatar

I would immediately remove my children from such a school. They would NEVER go back.

TexasDude's avatar

I can’t stand that.

When I was in middle school, I was bullied mercilessly, violently, and continually. I told my teachers, who didn’t give a shit. I told the principal, who made the kids go to therapy with the guidance counselor which only made them bully me more. It all stopped one day when, after an entire day of being called homophobic slurs and grabbed and told I should kill myself, when I turned around, grabbed the main bully by the neck, and shoved him in a locker and told him I would destroy him if he and his friends didn’t stop fucking with me. They never bothered me again.

Sometimes therapy and hugs and sunshine and rainbows doesn’t work, and you need to speak in a language the bully understands.

YARNLADY's avatar

Zero tolerance schools expect the children to be under supervision at all times, and the child is supposed to tell a supervisor or yell for help. I abhor violence of any type.

Rock2's avatar

I’ve heard this before.

Bottom line, since the law makes you send your kid to school it is the responsibility of the school, in particular the principal, to protect the students. If someone gets hit it is the principal’s responsibility and he/she should be punished.

auhsojsa's avatar

It makes sense to me. Fighting back can lead to death. I would rather my kid put time and effort into finding an escape and running towards the nearest adult. I don’t believe in violence, and I don’t believe in killing.

Violence is violence. What if the attacker is 5’6 with a nasty mouth and temper and picks a fight with a 6’1 who knows karate. Let’s say the 5’6 kid instigates and punches the guy in the face, most likely the karate kid is going to know how to beat this other guys ass so hard. There is no “soft punching” or “soft kicking” with a meter on every student that shows all their intentions. Two wrongs don’t make a right in my opinion.

rooeytoo's avatar

The world is going nuts. You can go to jail for shooting someone who is breaking into your house. Now kids aren’t allowed to defend themselves either. It sounds crazy to me but it is probably true. Nobody is christian anymore but they are adopting the turn the other cheek theory to the extreme!

linguaphile's avatar

My son’s high school had that policy when he was there. The principal told him flat out, “If someone is hitting you, all you are allowed to do is hold your hands up and defend yourself.” 2 years later, a girl came after him, attacking him with her claws and he held his hands up to defend himself. He got scratched in the face and on his neck, did not hit or even push back, had witnesses vouch for him but still was suspended for 3 days.

She was suspended for 2 and got to come back sooner—her coup de grace? Telling everyone at the school that she was defending herself against a girl-beater. He still lives with the fallout from that lie.

Pandora's avatar

Yep, but I told my kids, if there is no adults to help them, than kick their ass and let me deal with the problem later.
I think you can appeal such a thing to the school board. Especially if the other child has a record of being a bully. Then you can protest the fact that the other child wasn’t expelled and is a potential threat to your child.

JLeslie's avatar

I think principals should have some leeway to evaluate the situation. If the student has already reported he is being harrassed by a particular kid, and then eventually they get in a fight, I think it should matter that the one being picked on has already put on record the bully is bothering him.

I guess zero tolerance is put there to discourage any form of violence, and also because it is difficult to rely on kids to know the difference between defending themselves and being aggressive or vengeful. For instance, my nephew once was involved in a situation when he was in high school, but not at the school, it was near his house, where this kid basically came up to him said some crap and hit him. All sorts of witnesses around. Anyway, the kid does this and then starts to run off when my nephew is going to come back at him. My nephew chases him down and punches him back, beats up on the kid. The police wind up showing up, so it kind of becomes a big deal. My SIL, his mom, as she tells the story says her son was defending himself. I said, “not really, the other kid was already running away.” Her reply was, “that’s what the cop said.” Sometimes children, and even their parents don’t understand the difference between mafia justice and getting justice through the criminal justice system. I know schoolyard bullying and fights are probably almost never addressed by the police, and there still is a good argument to beat the crap out of a kid who has beat on you.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Yes and no. I understand they are trying to maintain a no-tolerance policy on violence of any kind. However, the right to defend should be upheld when it is obvious that the violence on the part of one party was purely self defense. Problem is, how often will that be?

linguaphile's avatar

I didn’t say this, even though my earlier answer probably implied it: no, it doesn’t make any sense to me.

In the situations I’ve seen, it’s really hard to identify who is at fault in any fights, so they have that default blanket policy that anyone who swung is suspended, but I think schools sometimes over-enforce the rules even when witness testimonies and evidence points away from a student.

I think they see it as “erring on the side of caution,” without considering the impact it has on a student who is protecting himself or is truly, completely innocent.

Nullo's avatar

Seems downright criminal, if you ask me. What kind of message does that send to the kids?

@rooeytoo Actually, there are quite a lot Christians.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Nullo – I know that but it doesn’t seem like it on fluther!

Nullo's avatar

@rooeytoo Fluther is hardly a representative sample. Maybe loitering on Q&A sites is a liberal/agnostic predilection, and I’m here because I hang out with liberal/agnostic friends. Someone should do a study.

shrubbery's avatar

I understand it as a basic blanket rule, however things are never so black and white. If, like others have said, the bully is a known offender or suspected to be heading that way, then the punishments for each should be re-evaluated. I know that it is often hard to get the truth from school kids who play innocent and don’t want to get into trouble or bullied even more for dobbing, even the ones just watching, and so if there are witnesses they should be interviewed individually in confidence and a conclusion met based on histories and compiled accounts of events. Of course teachers are probably already pushed to their limit day to day and probably wouldn’t do all this and just resort to the default, unfortunately.

Sunnybunny's avatar

I told my son that if another kid attacks him and he can’t just get away to go ahead and defend himself. He might get in trouble at school, but he won’t get in trouble at home if that’s the case. He’s in grade school and earlier this year the school called because my son and his friend stopped another boy from hitting a younger kid at recess. All of the boys were sent to the principal, but only the one doing the hitting was disciplined. My son and the other boy were pushing the hitter away and then holding him back while yelling for someone to get a teacher. It seemed to me like the principal thought they handled it fine but had to go along with school policy to contact all of the parents.

mattbrowne's avatar

It makes sense many times, but not always. Labeling such a policy as criminal is absurd, though.

Children and adults alike should learn that the hitting back principle can lead to escalating violence. So in most cases saying something like ‘STOP IT’ loudly is the better option, especially when other people are nearby. If the aggressor doesn’t stop sometimes it’s possible to restrain him or her for example by gripping both wrists. This works well when others join to help.

A very good example is sports. In soccer all players have an obligation not to hit back. If they do, both the attacker and the counter attacker get the red card and have to leave the field.

I see one exception for children for this policy: no one is nearby, ‘stop it’ doesn’t work, grabbing the wrists doesn’t work and the attacks get out of hand. Then self defense is the only option and an excellent option at that. The law allows this and no policy can overrule this principle. But these cases are rare. Usually at school help is nearby.

jca's avatar

@mattbrowne: I am not sure what the laws are. I would think they would vary from place to place. I did not say they are criminal acts. My issue is with the school policy of disciplining each child as if they are both guilty.

mattbrowne's avatar

@jca – I think the laws of all Western democracies allow self defense as a last resort under restriction of commensurability. @Nullo said establishing the school policy is a criminal act. I disagree.

Disciplining both children makes sense when one was provoking and the other turned violent. In cases of bullying a child without provocation it makes absolutely no sense, and no school would do something like this.

Coloma's avatar

No it does not. I always told my daughter to do her best to never start anything, be kind, walk away if possible, but…if she had done everything in her power to be the peacekeeper and she was being physically assaulted, well…let ‘em have it! Never had an issue with bullying as far as I am aware, but if someone is being threatened with violence the only sane thing to do under extreme duress is to fight back any way you can.

jca's avatar

@mattbrowne: Think “that no school would do something like this” if you want, but that is the policy at many schools today. If one child assaults another child, both children are suspended under what they call a “No tolerance” or “no violence” policy.

missingbite's avatar

Zero tolerance policies work ZERO percent of the time. Almost EVERYTHING is a case by case situation. Shades of gray people, shades of gray.

cheebdragon's avatar

I’ve told my son that if another student hits him, he should hit them back. Maybe that makes me a bad parent, but i’ve seen too many kids end up with horrible nicknames and get bullied for years because they were too scared of getting in trouble to fight back and defend themselves.

JLeslie's avatar

Those of you who tell your kids to hit back, do you also tell your kids to tell you what happened? Would you follow up on it, or wait and see if the bully has ceased and desisted?

cheebdragon's avatar

He hasn’t had any real problems yet. He’s only in kindergarten.

JLeslie's avatar

@cheebdragon You said you told your son to hit back.

Nullo's avatar

@JLeslie I would imagine that open communication with one’s parents is often a given. I, for one, never bothered to hide school problems from my parents. They, in turn, backed me up when the faculty lit into me.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I got suspended in high school for fighting. The other girl approached me and I defended myself. We were each suspended for 3 days. The school was aware of the problems between us and we had already tried mediation with the school counselors. My mom was also already aware of the problem, as it had been going on for 2 and a half years when the fight occurred. We didn’t fight the suspension because I did hit back, but my parents did not punish me in any way because I did not start the fight. We were always taught not to start fights, but that we could finish them.

My husband and I have told our oldest son that if someone hits him, he can defend himself. We’ve discussed ways of defending himself, such as trying to block the attackers hits or even grabbing their arms (if possible), and then hitting back if nothing else works. I would never tell him to just stand there and take it. He’ll be 10 next week and we haven’t had any issues come up with fighting at this point. We’ve had issues with him being teased in the past, but they have always been resolved without escalating to physical violence.

JLeslie's avatar

I just realized I should mention that classes to teach people how to defend themselves, hold someone else, or get away from someone trying to hold you down are amazing. It is different than learning how to fight. When I worked at a psychiatric hospital we all take the class. The maneuvers usually do not cause harm to the other person, but leaves them unable, or less able to harm us. I think everyone, including children can benefit from the class whether for a bully at school or God forbid a bad stranger on the street.

mattbrowne's avatar

@jca – You can’t be serious. One cannot suspend victims of bullying at school. That’s like blaming raped women for rape.

missingbite's avatar

@mattbrowne, @jca is very serious and very correct. This has been going on for years and is a disgrace. ZERO tolerance means just that. If you don’t turn tail and run if attacked you will get suspended or expelled just like the attacker.

jca's avatar

@mattbrowne: Google it. Zero Tolerance policy in schools or something like that.

Nullo's avatar

@mattbrowne There is a lot of stuff wrong in the schools without even getting close to the curriculum.

cheebdragon's avatar

@JLeslie I told him that before he even started school. We also taught him how to throw a decent punch.

mattbrowne's avatar

Okay, I get it. The rules at German schools seem to be different then. My wife is a teacher. It seems absurd to punish true victims of bullies. How can one run, if a bully punches you hard, you fall to the ground and the bully keeps hitting? In many cases both are at fault, one starting with a verbal provocation for example. In those cases the policy makes sense. Same for not hitting back.

Nullo's avatar

@mattbrowne Why shouldn’t the kid hit back, though? Why punish self-defense?

JLeslie's avatar

@Nullo I think @mattbrowne is agreeing with what you are saying.

mattbrowne's avatar

Basically, yes. Hitting back is acceptable as a last resort. Which means the kid who got hit should first

- say ‘STOP IT’ in a very loud voice
– try to grab both wrists of the attacker
– check whether teachers or other students notice the situation
– let teachers or older students restrain the attacker

If all of this doesn’t help and no one is around, no one can deny the kid his or her right of self defense.

If there was an unprovoked attack of a bully plus witnesses I cannot imagine that any American school would punish the victim as well. As I said, such a principle is like blaming raped women for rape and punishing both the rapist and the victim of rape. If any school tries such nonsense I would call the Alan Shores and Denny Cranes of real life. There is something useful lawyers can do in cases like this. Punishing victims is not justice.

TexasDude's avatar

@mattbrowne If there was an unprovoked attack of a bully plus witnesses I cannot imagine that any American school would punish the victim as well.

They do.

Often.

jca's avatar

@mattbrowne: and to piggy back on what @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard said, hitting back is not acceptable in the USA, and the kids’ rights of self defense are definitely denied.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard – Any lawsuits challenging this dubious practice?

mattbrowne's avatar

@jca – Hitting back is not acceptable in Europe either, except as a last resort when all other measures failed as pointed out above.

philosopher's avatar

No.
I was attacked in school by a boy. I was fifteen. He stole change from my bag.
I confronted him and he hit me. He touched my body. I fought back. A classmate got the Teacher.
The Principal was a gutless moron. He advised me to stay home for a week so they could change my Official Class. This creep was not punished. I was asked not to press charges.
I took the creep to Family Court and the Judge ruled in my favor.
I always stood up to bullies. Failure to do so is what is wrong with American Society and most Democratic Societies.
I see our Politicians placate those who wish to undermine America. This never works in any part of life.
Bullies should be kicked out of school. Let them learn over the Internet or in a setting where they can not abuse others. Do not punish children for appropriate behavior.
My mother always said, never start a fight. If someone hits you hit back harder. I do verbally and if I must with my hands. Thankfully I never have to use my hands anymore.
It sounds like some of these book smart only fools are Teaching weakness. A weak nation will not survive.
I am not not young anymore but I learned this lesson years ago.

mattbrowne's avatar

@philosopher – What could be done to adjust such school policies? Has anyone raised this with his or her representative of the state? Who oversees the people creating school policies? In Germany it’s the department of education in every state. Schools cannot just create policies on their own. How does it work in the US?

cheebdragon's avatar

Zero tolerance leaves zero room for change.

jca's avatar

@mattbrowne: I believe each school district/Board of Ed creates their own policies. A “no violence” policy sounds good in theory, until you think about the part where the victim holds as much blame as the perpetrator.

philosopher's avatar

@jca @mattbrowne
I am not familiar with how they deal with it now. My son attended a private school.
I think children need to learn to defend themselves.
I think too many people in our Society have adopted a passive attitude. It is easier than having to figure things out by doing actual research.
I have never behaved like a Sheep. The Sheep are the same people that jeopardize American principals.
Children must learn core Values and be encouraged to stand up for themselves. They should be allowed to learn by experience. In school they should learn in an Environment that will not let bullies hurt them. Bullies should receive punishment. Not children who defend themselves.
I don’t care if this means putting a camera in every classroom.
I see too many young adults that never exam the documentation and vote according to party rhetoric. Based on what they grew up hearing.
I think a passive attitude or the path of least resistance is taught in some schools. This attitude does not promote hard work. It gives all the power to the Principals and; little to children and parents.
I think too much power in any one persons hands leads to corruption.
I went to NYC Public school. Despite that I worked hard and did well I still experienced attempts to bully me. As I described above. Teachers never thought I wood stand up for myself. I learned to stand up for myself at the Playground with my sister.
I here from friends on ASN that their autistic children are bullied in Public Schools.

JLeslie's avatar

@mattbrowne I don’t know if there have been lawsuits, but there is constant ongoing discussion about zero tolerance rules, many people do not agree with it. There was a case a couple years ago of a kid who turned in a knife when he realized he had it in his bag, he knew he was not allowed to have it on school property, and they arrested him. American schools have zero tolerance for many things, not just bullying.

mattbrowne's avatar

@philosopher – Learning to defend oneself is important but it does not necessarily have to lead to using physical violence. And dealing with bullies can be done in different ways too, for example by forming alliances. Of course there are extreme cases where we have to favor self defense. But in my opinion hitting back should not be the default, just because it looks good and feels good in movies.

mattbrowne's avatar

@JLeslie – Zero tolerance rules can make sense as shown by the dramatic reduction of crimes in New York City. But zero tolerance rules cannot go as far as punishing victims of rape or victims bullying.

missingbite's avatar

@mattbrowne Then it wouldn’t be Zero Tolerance. It would be a case by case basis as it should be. When I was a kid (I’m only 40 now) I brought a new shotgun to high school to show my shop teacher. (Unloaded of course) Teacher thought it was great. Today, if you are caught with a knife in a first aid kit in your car you get suspended. It’s crazy how far we have come.

philosopher's avatar

@mattbrowne
Bullies especially children that are bullies have difficulty understanding anything but force.
I hate violence. I was a sweet kind child. I was naive and I thought people would treat me as I treated them.
Life has taught me to let people know not to even attempt to take advantage of me.
When I was young I got teased in class for all kinds of dumb reasons. Only occasionally did anyone put their hands on me.
Many kids followed me from one grade to the next.
Once I let everyone know I would hit anyone back. No one ever dared attack me again.

cheebdragon's avatar

People are so worried about violence in schools, they don’t even realize that violence is only a tiny part of bullying. Boys can try to hurt you, but it’s easy to fix when you hit back. Girls are responsible for most of the bullying, it’s disgusting how easily a reputation can be ruined by just one little rumor. Even if you know who started it and could somehow prove it, schools don’t do jack shit about it.

Nullo's avatar

@cheebdragon I’m not really sure that there’s much that a school could do, at least post facto. Rumors are slippery little things.

mattbrowne's avatar

@missingbite – Zero tolerance can be applied to the scope of starting violence and escalating violence. Well, to me the first kit example is a sign how desperate officials are. Doing nothing about increased violence would also trigger anger in parents of school children. In my opinion parents should limit the exposure to violence on tv, computer games and the Internet. An average American child will see 200000 violent acts and 16000 murders on television by age 18.

Here’s how social psychologist Elliot Aronson created a method for dealing with school violence and bullying:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jigsaw_(teaching_technique)#History_of_Jigsaw

Perhaps we need more creative mind to come up with even better solutions.

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