Tennessee Bill Would Allow Self-Defense In School Fights
by Emily Luxen
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - As concerns about bullying in Tennessee schools continue, now a proposed bill could allow students to fight back if they're attacked, without facing punishment.
The Student Self-Defense bill, or House Bill 860, would amend existing zero-tolerance policies for fighting in schools that say all parties involved should be punished equally. The bill states, in an instance of a physical attack on a student on school property or at a school activity, a student may not be disciplined if it is determined they acted in self-defense.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Terry Lynn Weaver, believes it gives students the right to defend themselves, and school officials the chance to evaluate every situation individually.
"I think it's positive, and I'm getting great feedback on it," said Rep. Weaver. "It's a common sense piece of legislation."
But, some believe the bill isn't complete, and it won't help control the problem.
"It only talks about physical aggression, not verbal bullying," said Rodger Dinwiddie, the CEO of Students Taking A Right Stand or STARS Nashville. "Most bullying isn't physical, most bullying is psychological. This doesn't address that."
Dinwiddie added that he believes supporters view the bill as a quick fix, when in reality, educational programs in school would be a better long term solution.
"There are so many proactive things that schools can do that don't cost a lot of money," said Dinwiddie. "It just takes time, energy and commitment."
Rep. Weaver maintains the bill will help students and administrators fight back against bullying.
"There are so many cases where kids are bullied and end up suspended and it's not fair," said Rep. Weaver. "This will empower principals to handle fights at schools fairly."
House Bill 860 is scheduled to go before a House Subcommittee next week. Rep. Weaver said she believes it has enough support to pass.