TN lawmakers propose 'student self-defense bill'
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) -- Bullying in our schools continues to be a top concern among parents. Now a proposed bill in Tennessee is aimed at allowing students to fight back if they're attacked, without facing punishment.
The proposal is to amend wide-spread "Zero Tolerance" policies for fighting in schools. As most are now, those who attack others and those who defend themselves are punished equally.
The Professional Educators of Tennessee argues those policies enable predators and is supporting this newest bill.
"My kid is supposed to be safe when he goes to school," Hamilton County parent, Theresa Higdon says. "You know, he's not supposed to come home with knots on his head."
To Theresa Higdon, bullying is a very serious and real issue in our schools. This week, she's moving her six-year-old son to a new school, after she claims he was bullied.
"Very sad," Higdon says. "The saddest thing I've ever had to deal with in my entire life."
She says she supports any bills that would help students like her son.
"I really think they need to crack down on it somehow," she says. "I don't know how."
Tennessee House Bill 860 was recently introduced, to give students the option to fight back if they feel they're "facing the threat of imminent danger, death or serious bodily injury."
It basically says, if school officials investigate and determine it was self-defense, they won't face punishment.
"We take them extremely seriously," says Marion County Schools director Mark Griffith.
Griffith says all bully claims are investigated, but they still have to follow their "zero tolerance" fighting policy and punish anybody exchanging blows.
He thinks this self-defense bill could be beneficial.
"If it indeed becomes law, I could probably see my school board passing a policy to deal with that," says Griffith.
He's says there's only one possible downside.
"Wasn't sure if it would promote more fighting in the schools, that's the thing I would be worried about," Griffith says. "But the language in the bill would be taking care of that with the principal's discretion."
One local dad says he'd feel better knowing his daughter would be able to defend herself, if needed without fearing punishment.
"I'm really on board with it and in support of it," says Malcolm Freeman.
Senator Reginald Tate and Representative Terri Lynn Weaver introduced House Bill 860.
If it's passed into law, individual school boards would still have to re-write their policies and vote on it.