Monday, March 4, 2013

Fighting in Schools

In my twelve years of teaching public school, I found that many teachers and administrators had very strong, unshakable philosophies of fighting, and many differed from each other. Now, none that I knew of encouraged it. While I have heard a news story here and there where a teacher wanted children to fight, for whatever psychological reason they had, I did not know anyone with that idea.  However, some stories recently in the news brought up some memories of discussions about fighting, and they just make me all the more glad I am homeschooling.


One principal at a school where I taught made the most sense from any other principal I've known.  She said that if a child is hit by another child, they get one "free punch" to protect themselves.  At that point, they need to leave the situation or they will be in trouble also.  Now, this sounds strange to many people, and I heard her defend her position to many, many parents and teachers who thought any child who punched another child was in the wrong, but she knew why she said it and she stood by this philosophy numerous times in my presence.  She said that a child has a right to defend him/herself.  I agree.  She said that if someone punched her son, she would want her son to stand up for himself.  Now, if he stayed and egged it on or continued punching, that was a different story.  I have to say that I agreed with her then, a little hesitantly, and I fully agree with her now.

Most schools, though, have what they call a "no tolerance" policy on fighting.  I hate any blind "policy" which ignores facts before the punishment is given.  I do not agree with fighting, I think there are many situations where it can be avoided, but there are times when another person is focused on a fight and there is only one way to get out of it - one good, solid punch, then run.

About 10 years ago, my husband (a black belt in Tae Kwon Do) had a friend who was either a 2nd or 3rd degree (I forget which) black belt in TKD.  He was also a teacher at a local high school, and he frequently was assigned detention duty.  One day, he said a teacher actually put two bullies in detention (most of the teachers were afraid of them so it did not happen often).  They came in and sat down with no problem, but they decided that it was time for them to leave about five minutes early.  Our friend, while an extremely tough fighter, is only about five foot six, so when these two six foot "plus" guys surrounded him on their way out the door, he had to look up to them to block their path.  He calmly told them they weren't going anywhere, to which they told him differently.  Knowing a fight was likely to happen and that most of the staff had already gone home, he immediately dismissed the rest of the detention students and distracted these guys as they left.  He said as the others left a little early, they continued arguing and he instinctively turned his body, automatically lining them up for one good, swift kick a piece, in weak points.  Then, he said, he planned on running out the door as fast as he could before they got up! Fortunately, these guys were a little smarter than they seemed and something in the teacher's stance told them that he had a plan and they would not be happy if they tried anything.   As the last students left the room, they sat down.  He kept them the remaining five minutes and another minute or two, then let them leave.  Our friend said he did not breathe a sigh of relief until he was in his undamaged car, driving away from the school. 

Other teachers, though, feel differently about bullies.  Teachers of the same philosophies tend to group together.  I have taught in schools, or just met teachers from schools, who refuse to stop a fight.  They say that they do not want to be hit, so they will call the office and wait, watching while the weaker student gets pummeled.  Unfortunately, I've talked to parents of those same schools (in events having nothing to do with education) who say they know the teachers are there to protect their children if needed.  Some teachers will - I did, and I know many others who have done it or who are perfectly willing to if needed - but many teachers will not. 

The last example I want to share is what started all of these thoughts this morning.  In the news last week was an incident on a school bus in Florida.  The event and the school's response completely and totally infuriates me to the point that I will just let the local news tell the story, as I can already feel my blood pressure rising and I'm not even telling the story!


While this real hero was punished, we also have these stories for school suspensions:

That 5 year old is a terrorist??!!

Then there was this 5th grader, suspended for her "dangerous weapon":

Oooohhhhh!!!  I can feel my blood boiling now, so I will stop, but I know that you know other news stories that would easily fit in this.

My daughter, who has special needs, was once threatened when she was in 1st grade at recess.  Another special needs boy (also in 1st grade) stood up for her and was pushed down for his trouble.  The bullies eventually left.  My daughter told me about it that night, so I called the teacher the next day to get the entire story.  The teacher had no idea what had happened and neither did the assistants.  A week later, we had a play date set with this family and I was able to talk to the boy's dad.  The dad (a single parent) still had no idea about the incident, but he knew his son (not as verbal as my daughter) had come home wanting to fight with everyone. that day and for a couple of days after that.  Even though I had told the teacher, she still had not told him about the incident.

These events were not the reason why we started homeschooling, but they are just more reinforcement that I'm glad that we are.

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