Bill stops students from being punished for self-defense

Proposed bill stops students from being punished for self-defense

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"I just feel there needs to be more work done, more preventative action, more conflict classes being taught," Wanda Russell said. "I just feel there needs to be more work done, more preventative action, more conflict classes being taught," Wanda Russell said.
"I hit him in the mouth and, not purposely, I broke his tooth," John Glidewell said of a bullying incident he was involved in. "I hit him in the mouth and, not purposely, I broke his tooth," John Glidewell said of a bullying incident he was involved in.

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A proposed bill in Tennessee would stop students from being punished by school administrators if it's found that the student did not start the physical fight, but instead was acting in self-defense. 

Some parents and bullying victims said the bill has been needed for years.

Maryville resident John Glidewell attended Halls Middle School in 1973 but said the bullying problem then is just as serious as it is today.

Glidewell said that when he was 13 years old; another student had been bullying him for years and even physically attacked him until one day he finally fought back.

"The bullying needs to stop," Glidewell said. "I hit him in the mouth and, not purposely, I broke his tooth."

As a result, Glidewell said he was suspended even though it was the other boy who started the fight.

The proposed bill would protect students in similar situations from facing any penalties with the school if it was in fact self-defense.

The bill applies to students who feel they are in imminent danger and don't take the first swing.

Glidewell now has two young daughters and said he doesn't want them to face the same problem.

"It needs to be addressed to the person who's doing it, not the victim," Glidewell said.

The bill does not address disputes when students are verbally attacked, only physical ones.

Knoxville resident Wanda Russell's grandson, who is in her custody, was suspended from Central High School about two years ago after getting into a fight with another student.

Russell said she felt his side was never fairly heard.

She said while the bill is a step in the right direction, she wants to see more done to prevent bullying before it gets to the point where a student needs to turn to violence as the only means of defense.

"I just feel there needs to be more work done, more preventative action, more conflict classes being taught," Russell said.

The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Terri Weaver, who said the issue was addressed to her by the Professional Educators of Tennessee.

Weaver said the goal is to incorporate common sense into school practices and for principals to use their own judgment when punishing students involved in fights.

"As adults, when we're outside of the school our natural instinct is to defend ourselves and protect ourselves and I don't believe it should be any different inside a school," Weaver said.

Knox County Schools' policy for fighting on school grounds is that the punishment is determined by the principal who considers the circumstances surrounding the incident when deciding on disciplinary actions.

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