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Petitioning Montgomery County Public Schools

Recognize Self Defense as a Student Right.

Zero-tolerance policies have been in place in schools for over 15 years. A zero-tolerance policy is a policy of punishing any infraction of a rule, regardless of accidental mistakes, ignorance, or extenuating circumstances. These policies are promoted as preventing drug abuse and violence in schools. However, these zero-tolerance policies have occasionally resulted in punishments which have been criticized as egregiously unfair against students, especially in schools with poorly written policies. These zero-tolerance policies are referred to often as “zero-intelligence” policies. This petition is about overthrowing zero-tolerance policies in MCPS schools so that students can maintain the natural right to self defense in schools.

Currently, MCPS allows schools to apply a zero-tolerance policy to violence. MCPS also fails to recognize self defense as a student right. This means that if someone is assaulted, the charge for defense is equal to the charge for assault; however, the assaulting party is clearly to blame. These rules should be revised to include our basic protection rights.

In the words of John Locke, a mason of the fundamentals of this nation stated, “Despotical power is an absolute, arbitrary power one man has over another, to take away his life whenever he pleases.” This states that a tyrannical power is the ability to deny rights when pleased. When the school system has the ability to freely take away rights, it becomes a totalitarian environment.

More than two millennia ago, the Roman orator Cicero explained that logic, necessity, tradition, and “nature itself,” all teach that there is a right to use force against an attacker. The criminal system was designed to punish wrongful intent, but a person acting in self defense has no wrongful intent because legitimate acts of self-defense are not criminal, not deserving of punishment.

A 2000 study by Russell J. Skiba stated that there is no credible evidence the zero-tolerance polices reduce violence. In 2006, the American Bar Association discovered that minority children are the most likely to suffer the negative consequences of zero tolerance. Even the American Psychological Association concluded that available evidence does not support the use of zero tolerance policies, and that the policies create a number of unintended negative consequences, including making schools "less safe".

There have been a number of cases where students have been unfairly punished due to zero-tolerance policies. For example, an 11-year-old child named Jerry Preece, a 6th grade honor student of River Road Middle School, was one day enduring taunts, punches, and being shoved to the ground by a bully. Jerry socked the bully in self defense. River Road Middle School suspended Jerry and the Potter County Sheriff’s Office gave him criminal citations for disorderly conduct and fighting in a public place. For exercising his natural rights, Jerry was made a criminal. Ironically, if Jerry was an adult, his actions would not have been considered criminal. Jerry had no wrongful intent, and he was not deserving of punishment, but he was punished due to the unfairness of zero tolerance policies towards violence. There are also many one sided confrontations, yet both parties are punished because authorities’ verdicts are based off of old clichés.

The point of this petition is not to encourage or increase violence. It’s to give students the right to defend themselves during the threat of imminent danger. Maryland State Law states that a person has a right to self defense as long as that person has a reasonable belief of danger of bodily harm and that person uses a reasonable amount of force. This right should apply in school. However, the defense of others clause will only apply in extreme cases where another student is at the risk of death, the defense of habitation clause does not apply in school, and the defense of property clause only applies when the property is necessary to report the crime (i.e.  A disabled person’s wheelchair is stolen).

As you can see, not only do zero-tolerance policies contradict our country’s philosophy, but there also is no scientific evidence that zero-tolerance policies have a net benefit. They are known as “zero-intelligence” policies for a reason. Please join in this important fight against MCPS for students’ right to self defense.

 

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  • Montgomery County Public Schools


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