Fla. School Board Member: Apply ‘Stand Your Ground’ Principle to Bullies
A Duval County, Florida school board member wants students to be able to defend themselves against an attacker, which is drawing comparisons to the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground law.
School board member Jason Fischer shrugged off the comparison when he told First Coast News that his proposal would simply change the student code of conduct to allow students to avoid becoming a victim by fighting back.
“You know, I think (Stand Your Ground) is a charged phrase. What I’d say is, it’s really about protecting the right to self-defense and making sure our children aren’t being punished for stopping their attacker,” Fischer told the news site.
“We have to, as a society, say we’re not going to let our kids be bullied, we’re not going to let them be attacked and violated, or further victimized by the criminal justice system or the discipline process,” he said.
The mere comparison to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, however, is making other school board members and the district superintendent nervous.
“For many, that law brings to mind the George Zimmerman second degree murder case, although it never actually figured into Zimmerman’s defense,” according to the news site.
According to Wikipedia, Stand Your Ground laws in the U.S. generally mean “that a person may justifiably use force in self-defense without an obligation to retreat first.”
In a sense, that’s exactly what Fischer is proposing for students in Duval County, although the concept is commonly associated with the use of firearms in self-defense.
“This has nothing to do with any kind of firearms or weapons,” Fischer told First Coast News.
Currently, students in the district, like most others, are punished equally for fighting, regardless of their motives.
Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the district’s student code of conduct needs an update, but “I feel uncomfortable, and certain board members felt uncomfortable, with the idea of no consequences at all” for students who defend themselves against bullies or attackers.
“Because if there is no consequence, you signal that violence is acceptable,” he said.
District officials shelved Fischer’s proposal for the time being, but he told First Coast News he plans to follow up on the issue again at the school board’s July 1 meeting.
While it’s understandable that school officials would have concerns with absolving some students from punishment for fighting back – especially since it’s undoubtedly difficult to determine the antagonizer in some circumstances – it’s also important to ensure those who are attacked can defend themselves, and are not further victimized by no-tolerance school policies.
By punishing all students the same – the attacker and the victim – school leaders are sending students the message that they have little recourse other than to run and hide, which only encourages bullies to continue their abusive behavior.