Monday, December 24, 2007

Self-Defense, Schools and Zero-Tolerance Policies on Violence

In general, zero-tolerance policies are generally pretty stupid as they establish a bright line rule that admits for no exceptions, even legally protected ones. Darren at Right on the Left Coast and the Instapundit have the story of a Nashville high school student, who when confronted with an attacker, walked away not once but twice and then, after being struck by an attacker struck back. The result--suspension from school.

One of the commenters on Darren's post said this:
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.
and another this:
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.
In most states, not all but most, if this attack on Rachel Davis had occurred anywhere else but on school grounds, Davis would have been more than justified in her actions, she countered an assault on her person with a response in kind. But the zero-tolerance rule put her on suspension and there will be a mark on her record for the incident, a mark she will have to explain when she applies to colleges, etc.

Now, admittedly fighting is not to be allowed, but when video tape evidence and the attackers own admission indicates that the student attempted and did indeed walk away, there needs to be some common sense applied.

I will counsel my daughters to walk away, until they can no longer do so effectively. They will be taught to stand their ground and if necessary disable an opponent without serious damage (a good hard stomp on the foot or a sharp kick to the shin works wonders followed by, if necessary hard kicks to the knees. To be honest, I don't want my kids to fight, but by the same token they cannot be punching bags either.

In many ways, a zero-tolerance policy disarms the victim. Aggressors obviously have no concern about suspension, if they did, they would not attack. So the victim, those who are concerned about the rule, and want to avoid a suspension think twice--to their detriment.

Related story here.

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