Over the years I have had several ‘conversations’ with ‘school principals’ over the rights of a child to legally (and ethically) be able to defend themselves from physical assault …
Sure - I get it that schools have a ZERO FIGHTING/BULLYING POLICY - but there needs to be a clear distinction made between that and a ZERO SELF DEFENCE POLICY! The fact is that a ZERO SELF DEFENCE policy is a breach of human rights - as well as a policy that would stand clearly outside the scope of the law. The simple fact is that common law and legal defence trumps school policy.
If the assault was an emergent event, there is simply no time to go and call a teacher - if it was as easy as that, all assaults in the world could be prevented by just politely asking the criminal to wait, while we call the local police and solicit their assistance. The bottom line is this - we all have a legal and intrinsic human right to be able to ‘defend ourselves’ from physical violence.
The school policy of ‘zero tolerance for physical assault’ has already been breached when a child is assaulted by a bully - and that is where the civil right of being able to defend ourselves kicks in.
For those few school principles who do not understand this basic legal right, I ask the following: if they themselves were physically assaulted in their workplace, or in their own house, would they simply lay down and accept the assault or would they try to defend themselves? Any reasonable person already knows the answer to this question
The school has a duty of care to protect our children from physical assault on their premises. When they have neglected to take appropriate action, and students are forced to defend themselves, it raises certain legal questions? For this reason, it is good for parents of victims of bullying to keep records (written email to principles, etc) that show a history of what their child has had to deal with. This can be useful if it ever comes to charges being laid (against the school for example).
When a child does need to defend themselves against physical assault, the best possible strategies are grappling-based strategies. When the bully can be physically controlled without the need to resort to striking, this offers the best all-round solution. The two most salient reasons are these:
1. that the bully is less likely to want to physically assault the victim again after they have been physically controlled to the point of helplessness
2. through grappling and control-based strategies, the minimal amount of damage is inflicted upon the perpetrator (unlike striking-based strategies)
Simple questions for principles:
Are they saying it is against their policy for students to defend themselves?
Let’s be very very clear on this?
Because the answer might raise several legal arguments. All Australian citizens have a legal right to be able to defend themselves from physical assault.
Are they training all students in situational awareness to the point of providing the kind of capability that would allow students to report impending incidents? Because if they are not, how can they reasonably expect a student to report something that is ‘evolving’ so that a teacher can prevent the assault before it occurs?
The school might well have a zero tolerance for bullying policy, but so should each and every child. A clear distinction needs to be made between Zero Tolerance for Physical Assault - and Physical Strategies for Self Defence.
In my view, a principle who is incapable of making such a simple distinction , isn’t equipped to do his or her job.
John B Will
BJJ 6th Degree Black Belt
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