This week the prompt for I must confess is ‘I don’t understand…’. I was going to link up an old post I had written about same sex marriage and the people who oppose it. However something else has been bumping around in my mind for a little while now. Then last week Near As Dammit’s post pushed it to the forefront. The thing that has me perplexed at the moment is the bubble that is school.Jessie’s post shared the story of her son and how he was punished for retaliating after being repeatedly punched by a much larger boy. The education department has stated that they have a zero tolerance policy to bullying, and that this includes physical violence. On the surface this seems like a good idea.
Of course we don’t want to hear from our child’s school that they have been involved in a physical altercation. However what this zero tolerance policy doesn’t take into account is a child who is retaliating or protecting themselves. The stance is that a child must remove themselves from the situation without using physical means. This is rather difficult though when the other child is restraining them.
Last year, several times, I picked Mr 6 up from school and discovered that he had been punched in the face by another student in his class. Thankfully I couldn’t fault the way that his teacher personally dealt with the situation, however she couldn’t be everywhere at once and the behaviour was continuing on the playground.
Paul and I were frustrated and our first advice to Mr 6 was that he should stay away from the other child, not something that is possible when the child follows him. We also didn’t want Mr 6 to feel restricted in where he could go while at school because of this child. Our last resort was to tell Mr 6 to fight back. It wasn’t something we wanted to do and have always told him that it’s not OK to hit another person, but something had to give.
Thankfully Mr 6 didn’t have to use that advice in this instance. The same can’t be said for many children around the nation though. Children who are being subjected to physical violence at the hands of their peers everyday and being punished if they dare to defend themselves.
Why is it that in a school playground our children are taught that defending themselves is wrong? Yet out here in the real world using reasonable physical force to defend yourself against a physical threat is considered a legitimate legal defense. Why are we fighting for the rights of victims of domestic violence, rape and assault but allowing this black and white policy to deny the rights of our school children?
Our lives are filled with a myriad of greys. The court system takes into account mitigating circumstances when deciding on a person’s guilt. Why are we creating a school social system that is so different from the adult world, a world that we expect our kids to be able to navigate? Zero tolerance is great in theory, but only if it doesn’t allow the victim to be punished alongside the bully.