Local parents, educators weigh in on "student self-defense bill" - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Local parents, educators weigh in on "student self-defense bill"

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - A recently introduced bill in Tennessee is creating a lot of buzz among parents and educators concerned about bullying in our schools.

The proposal aims to loosen those tough no-fighting polices. It's would give students the option to fight back without punishment if school officials determine it was in self-defense.

Under current, wide-spread "Zero Tolerance" fighting policies, those who attack others and those who defend themselves are punished equally.

"It's very hard, for the simple reason, that's my baby," Hamilton County parent, Daniel Pope says.

It's a topic that hits close to home for a Hamilton County father of five. He says his nine-year-old daughter was bullied. They notified teachers, but it escalated, and she ended up exchanging blows once it turned physical.

"She didn't want to do that. It was a self-defense thing," Pope says.

He says he's pleased with how school officials handled the situation, but thinks a student self-defense law is needed for all the other kids going through what his daughter did.

"I'm not pro-voting that you go and fight, but I am pro-voting that there comes a time when you need to take a stand," Pope says.

Tennessee House Bill 860/Senate Bill 113 allows students to fight back if they honestly believe they're "facing the threat of imminent danger, death or serious bodily injury." If school officials investigate and determine it was self-defense, the victim may not face punishment.

"Wasn't sure if it would promote more fighting in the schools. That's the thing we would be worried about, but the language in the bill would be taking care of that with the principal's discretion," Marion County Director of Schools Mark Griffith says.

Many educators say determining if it's self-defense is the hardest part.

"We get different interpretations from students. You don't know if they're friends with the individuals that were fighting and different things like that, so just a very thorough investigation is key," Griffith says.

Viewers on Channel 3's Facebook page, like Faye Brown argue, "Violence on violence is not the answer."

While many like Steve Cummings say, "About time. It's stupid to be punished for defending yourself."

Others are just glad lawmakers are taking it on period.

"I'm glad Tennessee is being proactive in an issue that's been plaguing our education system," Hamilton County parent, Malcolm Freeman says.

The "student self-defense" bill also includes students coming to the defense of others.

The Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teachers' association, is publicly supporting it.

If it passes, it would go into effect in July.

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