A bill proposed by state Representative Terri Lynn Weaver would allow Tennessee students to fight back against bullying in schools without fear of punishment.
The Student Self-Defense bill would amend current zero-tolerance policies for fighting in schools that generally punishes any student involved in a fight no matter who initiated the confrontation. The rule calls for all parties involved in a fight to be punished equally.
(PLAY VIDEO BELOW OF STATE REPRESENTATIVE TERRI LYNN WEAVER AND STATE SENATOR MAE BEAVERS IN INTERVIEW WITH WJLE AFTER TOWN HALL MEETING FRIDAY IN SMITHVILLE)
During her "Coffee and Conversations" town hall meeting Friday, Weaver said the bill will give principals more discretion, rather than having to suspend all parties involved. "Throughout the state, not necessarily in District 40, but there has been numerous cases where a child is being beat to heck by a bully and he will not defend himself because he's either a football player or he is in some event in school and doesn't want to be suspended. Some of these cases are pretty brutal. In one case, there was this (fight) going on in a hallway (between two students) and a third (student) was standing by the locker. One of the kids in the fight wouldn't defend himself so the third student went over and started defending this kid. All three of them got suspended. I don't see justice in that," said Weaver. The current law states there is zero tolerance in our schools for this kind of activity," said Weaver.
Weaver said her bill doesn't promote violence but rather allows students to stand up for themselves without retribution. Sometimes bullies are enabled by zero-tolerance policies knowing the punishment will be the same for victims she said. "Am I promoting fighting? No. I just want the principals to be empowered to make a common sense decision because most of these principals know who these agitators are. This bill would allow principals to suspend that kid or that troublemaker and not suspend the kid who didn't want to do anything. Some of these kids have walked away (from a fight) and they are still being beat up," said Weaver.