A nine-year-old, third grade student from Colorado Springs was recently suspended for fighting back against another student who had bullied him repeatedly The target had complained to school authorities, but they had not protected him. Both boys were suspended for fighting. The school defended its actions: "If a student is involved in a physical altercation on school property, they are automatically suspended. District 11 schools employ many anti-bullying teaching techniques … and none of these methods include violence or retaliation," the school said in a statement to KDVR.
- If he's in elementary school and is being bullied and the responsible teachers and principal do not stop bullying?
- How should he stop school bullies?
- Is the punishment fair?
The school officials are saying that even though they can't stop school bullying, even though they don’t stop negativity, harassment, abuse or physical, mental or emotional violence, even though there’s a pattern of bullying, the targets are not allowed to defend themselves by fighting back. According to the school officials, not using violence, even if it makes you helpless, is a more important value than protecting yourself. Being a victim is not as bad to them as fighting back. Process counts more than results.
Maybe the school principal should be suspended for not doing his job.
Protecting targets is more important than clinging to their ineffective techniques. In desperation, and unlike parents who sabotage their children by preaching non-violence, the target's parents had told their son that since the school officials weren't protecting him, he should fight back.
I go further. I've told our elementary school-aged grandchildren - in secret so their parents don't know:
- Try everything peaceful you can think of to stop bullying – be nice and friendly, ignore it, ask the bully to stop, tell the bully he'd better stop.
- If those techniques don't work, learn to use verbal come-backs and put-downs.
- If those techniques don't stop the bully, tell your favorite teacher and the principal. Get your parents involved. They'll talk with the principal and teachers.
- If they don’t stop the bullying, use your own power, beat up the bully. And I want them to learn how to really hurt the other kid, swiftly and effectively.
- Of course, they'll suspend you because teachers and principals who don't protect kids are do-nothing jerks and jerks do jerky things and they don’t wan to risk making a wise judgment about who the bully is. When you get suspended, act contrite. Say you're sorry, promise you won't fight again. When no one is looking, wink at the bully to let him know that you'll beat him up again, if necessary.
If you follow this plan, you'll get at least four wonderful things:
- The bully will leave you alone.
- You'll respect yourself and feel like you can succeed in the world.
- Other kids will respect you.
- While you're on suspension, I'll take you to Disney World for a big celebration. After all, winners of Super Bowls get to go; why not winners on the playground?
I also tell them that there are some caveats to my advice:
- If the bully is much bigger than you or if there is a gang of kids, we'll devise a different plan
- When you're old enough (maybe high school) that kids are carrying weapons, we'll devise a different plan.
But the take-home message is always to give the responsible authorities a chance, but if they don't do their jobs, solve the problem yourself. Don't be a victim waiting forever for other people to protect you. Use your own power. Say “That’s enough!” Say “No!” Stopping bullies is more important than never using violence.