Dealing With Fighting in Schools: Are we Helping Our Kids?

Many parents tell their kids they have a right to fight in self-defense. Is this notion of “I’m defending myself” really worth them getting killed over? Let’s go beyond our animal urges and look at the psychology of what we tell our kids.


Walking home from school or playing on the playground as a kid, were you bullied? Flip that around now: were YOU the bully? As a public school teacher in an inner-city demographic, I deal with the issue of kids fighting M-F (not Sa-Su thank goodness). I can attest that it is a real issue for parents and teachers. I am a big proponent of teaching things outside academics that are so necessary as life skills like teaching music and conflict resolution for example. Unfortunately, even the democrats have become polarized on language and math only so it may be a few years.

So if that is true, why is it I hear nearly all parents of kids involved in fights say they give their child permission to fight? (especially us dads) Of course, we invoke the “self-defense” clause of all that’s common sense about humanity … I would never argue with that. But, there is something they don’t know … something they don’t see. You might refer to it as “the fallen nature” if you are a Christian. Or, you might call it the law of the jungle if you’re an atheist. However you label the data, it’s there and it is kids beating the crud out of each other daily and blaming it on dear old mom and dad.

Last week there was a kid in my summer school class who pummeled another kid right in front of me. (incidentally, if you want to read a hilarious story about a similar student I had my first year, click here) This kid doing the pummeling was about 80 pounds give or take and the kid he was hitting was maybe 40, 45 tops I’d say. After going through all the steps and paperwork that we teachers must to in order to avoid being sued, I met with his dad and his dad said these exact words:

“I tell my son to defend himself because the school don’t do nothing.”

Poetry to this teachers’ ears (not). This isn’t an isolated case. I have even seen kids aggravate smaller kids until the small ones take a swing … then they move in fast for the, well in keeping with the idiom … the kill.

So what’s my point? I’d like parents to clear their minds of needless fears in much the same way you would get a Orovo detox or something physical like that. My school strives to be safe. It’s in the worst part of the High Desert. If any of you out there know Adelanto, it’s in “Old Adelanto.” I doubt many will see a picture in their head. It’s way off any tourist path. Still we keep it safe, and I know many other schools where they strive to do the same. Counsel your kids to NOT punch or hit, even in self-defense. Most the time, to avoid one parent suing the school, if any blows are thrown for any reason, both kids get suspended. There is a fine line between defending oneself and opening a can of whoop-ass. I wish more parents would have that discussion at the dinner table every night until their kids’ are 18. Let’s go beyond our animal urges and look at the psychology of what we tell our kids.

Author: Damien Riley

Having been a public school teacher since 1997, I've gained valuable classroom experience. Sometimes a great tool is a dynamite lesson plan. These posts are from a real teaching journey. I hope they inspire you. Thanks for reading!

9 thoughts on “Dealing With Fighting in Schools: Are we Helping Our Kids?”

  1. Wouldn’t it be better if we can help kids learn to distinguish self defense and being a bully? I wouldn’t want any kid to take up beating and be defenseless. Equally true, I wouldn’t want a kid to be a bully.

  2. Hi Avani: Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I think you have hit the nail 100% on the head:

    We need to educate kids about the difference.

    The trouble is, the state and local administrators don’t put minutes into our day to teach that stuff. There are ways around that limitation by integrating it into math and language lessons but I think if this were the 70’s the powers-that-be would have given it a full day if it needed it.

    Hope to see you around.

    Damiens last blog post..Fighting in Schools: Are we Helping Our Kids?

  3. I agree with Avani-Mehta. Kids need to know self defense is getting away from the attacker to help. I also think we need to have chronic bullies arrested for assault and gone out of school. We are sacrificing the majority of good kids to the disturbed kids.

    I was beaten and threatened with graphic descriptions of rape from K – 5. It stopped only after my uncles (aprox 18, 20, 21) approached my Father (who they had met about 4 – 5 times) and told him what they thought the bully was doing.

    When we got back home from Canada, I was taken to a therapist who confirmed the extent of the abuse. We got back days before school started, and my parents started looking into legal action and having me moved.

    During the 1st few weeks of school, bully kicked me in the throat. Lawyers and cops were involved. My parents threaten criminal charges against staff (failure to protect, child neglect), as well as a civil suit.

    Suddenly the “boys will be boys” attitude plus the “well if she doesn’t like getting beaten up she shouldn’t make him mad” attitude stopped. I was not threatened or hit again.

    Still I don’t think any of the adults took the threat of rape seriously. “He doesn’t know what he is talking about” was the response to that. Until 6th grade – during a self defense part of PE the girls were taken to a room and what rape is was explained. One of my elementary classmates piped up “that is what Bully always says he is going to do”.

    The teacher asked “What do you mean?” and stories poured from all the girls who had gone to my elementary school. Graphic descriptions of rape with objects we had been subjected to for 6 years.

    The other girls from other schools shrunk back in horror. The teacher locked the door and asked what class “bully” was in. One of the girls explained that “Kimberly’s parents got a bigger named lawyer and scared them out of school he goes to private school now.”

    The other girls had to go see a councilor about what they described (My parents sent a note from my therapist asking that her treatment not be interfered with, so I didn’t go).

    I know we would like to say that we are better educated and would handle it differently. Except there are 2 boys, on my campus who regularly threaten to break into people’s homes and make you or your mother do (list of sex acts).

    We write them up and nothing happens because they have IEP’s and BIPs. We are supposed to have sympathy because they were abused. Fine but that doesn’t mean ignore the fact they are abusing other children by their threats.

    My bully grew up to become a vicious rapist. I am pretty sure 1 of the 2 boys on my campus will rape someone if he hasn’t already. The other has pretty severe physical disabilities. I don’t know if he could overpower someone.

  4. @Kimberly: Thanks for that imagery. It is important to remember the bad things kids can do to other kids. This should compel us teachers to find more ways of protecting students.

  5. what do u do when the other kids parent threatens to put ur kid in jail? My daughter is 12 and is a good girl, yes she has attitude but what pre teen dosent? this girl has been calling her names and even brushing my daughter in the halls to start shit. my baby just looks and walks away because the principle has told her if she does anything she will be kicked out, and for what all she would be doing is defending herself.

  6. I feel for you. Sounds similar to stuff we deal with at my school every day. Sometimes it is up to the teacher to do something and advise the parents to help the program run its course. Other times parents have no interest in what I have to say and in that case I have learned to step back and respect the way the parent wants to raise their child. I have a feeling you and the Principal are not seeing eye to eye on this. In that case, if you were to come to me and ask me my opinion in a real life situation (as a teacher) I would advise you to work with the Principal’s program. Having said that, they are human and don’t always make the best programs. If it were my kid, I would advise them that bosses and professors and high school teachers they will encounter through life will often have rules they won’t like. This could be a lesson preparing them for that. I would keep “respect for authority” as the banner through all this. In life, if you fight with someone in a mall or in court or even at Wal Mart you can be put in jail, whether you agree with the law or not. I have a feeling that is not the advice you are looking for and you should know my wife has disagreed with me on things like this in the past. Nonethless, you asked for my opinion. I hope your daughter stays safe and gets through the year okay. If there’s anything else you’d like to comment on, please feel free.

Leave a Reply