Is the school’s self-defense/fighting policy fair

Kris Long, Junior News Editor

The current school policy on fighting is a zero-tolerance-of-violence policy, meaning anyone involved in a fight is automatically suspended out of school for one day. Is this really a fair policy? Is it fair that students can get punished for self-defense? What should students do if they end up in a fight to avoid getting in trouble, while also avoiding harm?

It is the agreement of The Junior Mentor Editorial Board that if a person is not the one who started the fight or partakes in the fight for any reason other than self-defense, they should not be punished under most circumstances.

Individual school districts set standards around fighting. In Junction City High School the rules state that verbally instigating a fight is considered to be against the rules, whereas in Washburn Rural the rules are much less strict and self-defense is allowed.

Manhattan High falls in the middle of these examples. Discipline only extends to physical violence so far as fighting, but students are not entitled to defend themselves and are instead instructed to leave the situation or do nothing. The problem with this policy is rather obvious — it is not always possible to vacate the situation, especially when a person is being attacked, and if students do nothing they risk serious injury.

Self-defense is something that everyone should have the right to exercise. The right to self-defense is the right of a student to avoid harm, which should be the school’s first priority. The school’s policy of no self-defense-allowed is irresponsibly optimistic in assuming that there will be a swift intervention, which is not always the case. This can culminate in the injury of students who are forced to choose whether to be beaten up or to have a suspension on their record. Students should never be forced to make this choice; that is why the policy needs to be changed.

It should be noted that in a conflict there are almost always multiple guilty parties, so, when possible, it is better for students to prevent a conflict rather than being forced to defend themselves. It is important that students should have the ability to protect themselves from harm, but this should be done with as little violence as possible.

The school’s policy also should consider conflict on a case by case basis. Security cameras are situated all over the school. A combination of watching footage of the event and interviewing witnesses for background information should allow a fair judgment of fault and punishment can be dealt with accordingly. If this was the standard procedure then self-defense could be clearly identified and there would be no need to have such broad rules that aren’t appropriate for all situations.

The school’s policy should be changed to a self-defense policy and should be more focused on case-by-case situations. This is important to protect students and to provide fair punishment to all that attend MHS.