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Monday, September 3, 2012

Does Your Child Have the Right to Self-Protection and Self-Defense at School?

This book might go against Arne Duncan's on the Department of Defense's ideas on dealing with bullies. 

The Departments of Labor and Health & Human Services are sharing information and directing programs with the Department of Education.  The DOEd door is now open to the Department of Defense.    

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30, 2012 – The start of school is a good time to talk to children about the complicated and heartbreaking problem of bullying. Fortunately, there are at least two good websites devoted to the cause.

The Federal Partners for Bullying Prevention website, created by the Health Resources and Services Administration and its eight partner departments, is offering a video challenge to help prevent and end bullying in schools and communities across the nation.

The contest invites youth ages 13-18 to create a 30- to 60-second video to inform and motivate youth to prevent bullying. The videos should promote an environment of kindness and respect for others, and show how not to be a bystander to bullying, Education Secretary Arne Duncan says in a video on the site. Video entries must be submitted by Oct. 14.

The Department of Defense Education Activity has joined in the federal partnership and has its own Web page on bullying preventionhttp://www.dodea.edu/StopBullying/ that gives advice to parents and kids about how to deal with bullies and prevent it.

For parents, the DODEA site advises:

-- If your child is being bullied, talk to his or her teacher instead of confronting the bully's parents. If no action is taken, talk to the principal;
-- Teach your child nonviolent ways to deal with bullies, like walking away or talking it out;
-- Role-play bullying scenarios with your child and help your child act with self-confidence;
-- Practice walking upright, looking people in the eye, and speaking clearly;
-- Don't encourage your child to fight -- he or she could get hurt, get in trouble or start more serious problems with the bully; and
-- Involve your children in activities outside of school so they know they can make friends in a different social circle.

The site offers these tips for children:

-- If you are bullied at school, tell your teacher, school counselor, or principal. Telling is not tattling;
-- Tell your parents or other trusted adults. They can help stop the bullying;
-- Don't fight back. Don't try to bully those who bully you;
-- Try not to show anger or fear. Students who bully like to see that they can upset you; and
-- Try not to be alone in places where bullying is likely to happen, such as bathrooms or locker rooms.

The list of suggestions say nothing about practicing self-defense except to alert adults and stay out of a bully's way.  In fact, self-defense is frowned upon.  I've highlighted those sentences in each list.  For both the parents and students, it emphasizes telling the school teacher or administrator as the best mode of action.  

While I'm not advocating creating unprovoked physical fights, I am a mother who told her children if they were attacked, they had every right to defend themselves.  Isn't this the underlying belief on self-defense classes for women?  Here are some thoughts about self-protection and self-defense for women that could be applied to bullying situations as well, especially when they escalate to physical actions:

Self defense and self protection are an important priority for women. The most common crime to happen to a woman is rape, but it is more about a feeling of dominance from one person over another rather than actual sex. According to statistics, the majority of rapes are perpetrated by men who women know. Assault on women is also a common crime because assailants assume women will be more passive and not fight back; this has to do with stereotypes of women. The best way for women to fight back against crime is to prevent it from happening by avoiding being alone or being in badly lit areas. However, getting into such situations is sometimes inevitable.

The majority of rapes occur in the victim’s home. According to the Bureau of Justice, almost 40 percent of all rapes take place in the female victim’s home. In the event that rape prevention fails—such as by avoiding problem areas or making sure a woman is never alone—the best chance for survival is to fight back. Fighting back is not just necessary, but it is a moral right because protecting one’s self is paramount. 

...Women should always rely on their brains for self defense, particularly when it comes to forming the right staying-alive attitude. Using the brain for self defense is intimately tied to prevention. In order to use prevention methods to lower the risks of becoming crime statistics, women have to first use their brains to come up with the right precautions. If prevention falls short, then women will have to rely on their brains anyway in order to implement the physical actions necessary to protect themselves.

Why isn't this "moral right" included in these videos and statements from the DOD?  When did protecting one's self involve running to tell an adult to stop bullying?  Fighting is not appropriate in all bullying situations.  But if a child is being physically attacked and there is no adult around, shouldn't a child understand he/she is not impotent and learn how to protect him/herself?  The DOD lists propagate an attitude of students not being able/allowed to defend themselves and that the only way to deal with bullies is to tell an adult. 

This article, "Teaching your Child to Fight Back Against Bullies" makes the DOD's suggestions to parents and students on dealing with bullying look tame:

Talk to your child to find out who the bully is and what he or she has been doing to your child. This may be difficult, because most kids are ashamed to let their parents know what awful things have been done to them. You must press on and find out all the details. Either the same day you find out, or early the next morning go to the school and talk to the highest-ranked person there (probably the principal) and scream bloody murder.

Once again, over-react. If you are gentle in your approach with the school, little if anything will be done. 

Demand that the bully be taken out of that class, or expelled from the school. Threaten law suits against the school and against the parents of the bully if there is even the slightest bullying against your child. If you don't get results go to the school board, pursue legal action. 

Make life a living hell for the bully that attacked your child. Your son or daughter will probably hate all the attention you are putting on the situation, but for sure they will thank you for it later, and it is your primary job as a parent to protect your child from harm. Follow up after your complaint to the school. Ask your child if the bullying has stopped, go back to the school over and over again until you get what you want. No one messes with your child. 

One Alabama school district is using a different tactic than what the DOD espouses.  It is teaching students and district employees to defend themselves against violent intruders.  It is tailored toward a Columbine situation rather than an everyday bullying encounter, but the lesson on the extreme version of bullying (terrorizing a large group of people) is important: 

Police Lt. A.B. Green, who is overseeing the training, said hiding from intruders is sometimes not enough. 

 "We can train teachers and students to a certain degree. At a certain level, though, we have to train the students to use their last resource, which is to defend themselves," he said. "We want to remind them that they can also fight for themselves using whatever they can use. It's more like, if all else has been exhausted, you fight for your life."

The city school system's current lockdown procedure has city school employees locking doors and hiding from intruders who come into a school. Now, employees are being told to flee from the intruder, and if necessary, fight. Students will soon receive the same training.

"What the training really encourages is more than simply stopping and hiding," said Green. "That's really what we've been teaching nationwide is everybody stopping, locking the doors and hiding where you are. Those concepts work, but they're not an absolute."

...Running and throwing things at an intruder are the main lessons Payne-Giles said the training taught her, but she also learned what to do if an intruder gets into physical combat with her or anyone else at the school.

"If they get too close, they teach us how to restrain them," she said. "One smaller woman can't restrain a large man, but what about three or four of them? That's why the training is not about doing it by yourself. It's about attacking en masse."

How do you as a parent instruct your child on bullying?  How would you as a parent deal with a bullying situation to school administrators? 




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