Do children have the same right of self defense that adults do? At West Elementary School in Colorado Springs, the answer to that question is a resounding "no."
Nine-year-old Nathan Pemberton was suspended from his elementary school classroom this week following a physical altercation with a bully who had been harassing Nathan for weeks. In accordance with the school’s policy on fighting, both the bully and victim were punished.
The Pembertons were outraged by the school’s decision. Nathan himself recounted the events leading up the fight to Fox 31 News, “One kid kicked me in the back then punched me in the face. Then I punched him in the face, and then I got in trouble.”
The Pembertons stand by their son’s decision to defend himself and fight back. They claim that Nathan would come home from school weekly with horrific accounts of bullying at the hands of some the same children that initiated the fight. They even have pictures that show Nathan covered in bruises and welts: evidence, they claim, of the relentless schoolyard torment.
Nathan’s mother, Deborah, says she told him to do what he needed to protect himself.
The only response from West Elementary School was a statement reiterating the school’s zero-tolerance policy for fighting: “If a student is involved in a physical altercation on school property, they are automatically suspended.”
Does this sound right? Should schools provide exceptions for students defending themselves against violent bullying? Adults aren’t expected to stand down and get battered. Why should children be expected to?