Self-Defense and Georgia School Discipline

Submitted by Tim Schwarz on Sun, 09/17/2017 - 07:57 PM

Many school districts in Georgia took the position that student behavior must be beyond question, no matter how trying the circumstances. For example, when one student punches another student, most school discipline codes expect the injured student to retreat or find a teacher to address the problem, not strike back. Typically, discipline rules do not allow a student to defend themselves, no matter how much danger they face. Defending oneself violates rules against fighting in school. There is zero tolerance.  

In S.G. v Henry County School District, the Supreme Court of Georgia rejected this position and held that students who are defending themselves do not violate school rules and thus may not be disciplined. Further, students are not required to wait to be hit to defend themselves if they reasonably believe that the force was necessary to protect themselves.  

Before this decision, it was essentially impossible to raise relevant defenses to school discipline at the tribunal hearing because even proving them would not prevent a ruling against the student. Now, the unduly harsh zero-tolerance policies of many school districts are sharply limited. This is a step forward for justice, because school discipline, like everything else in the education system, should shape student behavior towards what we expect from the adults that students will become.  

In other news, the winner of the Dyslexia Education Scholarship has been selected. The winner is Dr. Dara Delancy! Thank you to all the entrants. Due to the recent hurricanes, the early bird registration deadline has been extended to September 20, 2017.

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