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July 29, 2013

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Greg Sergienko

A court could well differentiate between protection from criminal prosectuion and immunity from school discipline. There are lots of things that are protected ordinarily that schools can punish. Morse v. Frederick, 551 U.S. 393 (2007), the Bong Hits for Jesus case, showed that. I'm not saying I like the case, and a state court could certainly provide more protection under its statutes. And, it's certainly possible to argue that the immunity from criminal prosecution should imply immunity from school punishment.

Daniel Minardi

All they ordered was for the judge to be able to read a statute and apply it, and determine at trial if there were reasonable grounds for the student to believe his actions were necessary to prevent further injury to himself. What is so disturbing about that?

AR

A school's expectation that students can de-escalate a situation on their own is not reasonable. Adult supervision is one of several reasons these boys and girls are in school.

My own theory is that if schools took a stand - please excuse the pun - then bullying would be less of a problem. Instead by taking the untoward position that both parties are wrong, not only does the school legitimize the bullying by the victimizer but it legitimizes the feeling of victimization.

In fact, use of the stand your ground laws by bullying victims would be smart and innovative use of these laws.

sharia

My daughters attended schools where the policy was the opposite of "stand-your-ground": if a student defended herself from bullying, she was considered as guilty as the bully.

In my role as parent and guardian, I gave my daughters standing orders to ignore school policy. As individuals (and as women) they had the right and the responsibility to stand for themselves. No school district has the moral authority to undercut a student's right to self defense.

Derek Black

AR and Sharia:
Thanks for the comments. I certainly recall my feeling in school that it would be unfair for the school to punish me for defending myself. At the same time, it sent a clear message that my goal should be to avoid confrontations rather than engage them. In other words, often times one can avoid being in the position where one needs to stand your ground.

To send kids the opposite message about confrontation v. deescalation has the potential for a parade of horribles because kids, more so than adults, are prone to get into fights and feel justified about it. On top of that, it can be very difficult for schools to really sort out "who started it." What they do know is that two kids were fighting with each other. Many of us with more than one child can appreciate this difficulty.

None of this is to say that children should never defend themselves. If that is the only thing a child is doing, I am generally confident that most school administrators can tell the difference between two kids fighting and one kid defending while another attacks. I would add, however, that, as one of my colleagues recently told me, "anyone who has every been in a street fight or school yard fight knows that the only way to avoid injury is to strike first." If we couple this notion with stand your ground and students who are too immature to have good judgment, I think we can all expect to see our kids coming home with more bloody noses than less. So for me the question is not whether a child should defend himself but which message is the easiest to administer and likely to result in the fewest fights and injuries.

Hank Chambers

Schools prefer deescalation, as do I. However, when one party wants to fight and there is nowhere to go, the choices are: 1) get beaten up and bullied today and possibly tomorrow (at school or in the neighborhood) or 2) defend yourself and get disciplined. That is not a fair choice to force on schoolchildren. Disciplining everyone who is involved in an altercation may be easier for school administrators. However, it sends a terrible message to kids who get bullied.

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