School Yard Bullies! What Can Be Done?

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: Self-defense
19 Jan 2008


I think most kids at some time or another have been bullied. I was a military brat that moved every couple of years. I remember at one school in the 5th grade a kid who always pushed me around. I did not know what to do so I tried to walk away. That seemed to give the bully courage and he would yell at me. He started using me as his punching bag. My dad freshly back from Viet Nam, told me that I had to stick up for myself. He told me that if a kid hit me, I should hit him back. Here is one video filmed by kids that talk about the problem of bullying at school.


[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


Bulling can range from kids stealing lunch money (by intimidation) to beatings on the way home from school (no supervision so way easier for bullies). I remember after I came out of my shell (meaning I would fight back), a couple of brothers picked a fight with me on the way home, and each grabbed one of my arms. You can imagine my fear as they started running me at a lamp post. I kept my wits about me and jumped in front of them and tripped them into the lamp post!


I had to deal with their older brother when the mom, having just witnessed her sons smashing into the lamp post, sent the older brother to beat me up! Luckily he had a sense of fairness and when he caught me behind the dempsty dumpster, told me to scream as he pretended to hurt me.


I think the best advice tell the kids is that they have the right to self defense. Secondly if someone tries to attack them - they should fight back and then report the incident. Let them know they should always try and be fair - meaning no matter what happens to them, don't think it is ok to do the same to another.  Kids need to know that bullies thrive on picking on kids who won't stand up for themselves.


You may be wondering how I handled the first kid that used to bully me at school. I remember this surreal scene where the teacher had stepped out of the class and all of the kids were surrounding us. The bully had just pushed me again and I finally had had enough! I told him that if he did not stop I was going to smack him! He said, "Do it zipper, I dare you!" I punched him in the eye and knocked him down! He slowly got up, holding his eye, saying, "You hit me!" He was in shock because he thought I would never do anything back at him.


We were sent to the principals office and I explained how the kid had been bullying me for the past few months and how my dad had told me that if anyone hit me, to hit them back. The principal told me that my dad was right when he was growing up, as the schools used to let kids fight out their differences but I should have reported the problem.


The kid came back to school in a couple of days with a black eye. He said he ran into a door knob. He never messed with me again. I think the principal was wrong. If a kid messes with you, you have to defend yourself. By the way even when schools have a zero tolerance policy to violence, state law trumps school regulations. If the school suspends a student for fighting when he or she was just defending themselves - the school would probably loose a lawsuit if the parents filed. I don't really care about the short-term consequences but I think the kids safety is more important.


Most kids who are hassled tell their mothers, who tell the fathers, who show the kids a think or two about fighting (I learned the old one - two). This is usually the first time many mothers like their kid learning how to fight. If a parent does not know how to fight (like when my dad was overseas), one good option is to sign the kid up for self-defense or karate lessons. There is no harder thing in the world then seeing your kid going through a bullying experience but if they can either get the teachers to take control or stand up to the bully, this is actually a good lesson to learn. The world is not always a fair place but one does have to stand up for themselves at times.


If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

6 Responses to “School Yard Bullies! What Can Be Done?”

  1. Mary Says:

    I agree that kids should be able to stand up to a bully but unfortunately, at the school my child attends, if you defend yourself, you are punished in the same way as the bully…..and to make matters worse, this is done in front of the bully aswell.

  2. M.E. Says:

    I agree with Mary. My child is fairly tall for his age. He is 10 and he towers over most kids in his year level and is probably the height of an average 14 year old. He is an outgoing kid, has a great sense of humour and is quite mature for his age. He was being harassed by a kid half his height for more than 3 years. Initially, he reported any incidents that took place to his teachers. They did very little if anything to stop it….as I said it went on for 3 years. We kept telling him not to fight this kid and to just walk away. Unfortunately, this kid started to use my son as a punching bag because he worked out my son was not going to hit back. I went to the school, spoke to his teacher, who assured me he would put an end to it. It continued. In the last term of that year, I gave my son advice that was totally opposite to anything I told him before and that was that he was allowed to defend himself. If the child hit him, he could defend himself but not to hit to the head , go for the arms. My son did this and was hauled into the deputies office. I went in there and basically told them that I would not accept my child being punished for defending himself. They told me he handled it the wrong way and he should have reported the issue to his teacher. I then went on to tell them that he had been reporting it to the school and nothing was done so he had lost faith in the school and teachers. I also told them that knowing the history between the 2 kids, they put them in the same class 3 years running. My son was not punished in the end. He is very clear though on when to use physical force and he is not a fighter by nature but it just goes to show, bullies don’t always target someone smaller and I wish now I had told him to defend himself from the start because then he would not have to have endured the humiliation he did for so long.

  3. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Mary,

    Yes school districts often times think of themselves as little fiefdoms and make rules contrary to the laws of a state but in most nations that I know of – folks (including kids) have a right to self-defense!

    The way to deal with school administrators is to make every attempt to work through whatever process they have but draw the line if your kid is attacked… A kid has to try to mitigate damage – this is most easily accomplished my making an attacker pay (bloody-noses and such) a price for the attack!

    Think about it… bullies don’t like to hassle kids that fight back and if the bully gets brave – they may end up permanently injuring your child… I’d much rather have to pay a lawyer to fight a school district that is not aware of the laws of the land, rather than paying a doctor to try and save my kid.

    If they actually let the bully know it is ok to pick on a kid – the school district is going to have deep pockets in a law suit… but I’d rather protect the kid before that happens!

    Good Luck!

    John W. Zimmer

  4. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi M.E.,

    I think you did the right thing for the reasons I stated in my previous comment. After all, if the parent is not going to stick up for the kid – who is.

    Great assessment of the situation and terrific follow through!


    John W. Zimmer

  5. Michele Says:

    You make a good point regarding the right to self-defense. My daughter attends a small Catholic school. In third grade, she stopped wanting to go to school and was home sick a lot with stomach pain. We took her to see a doctor. The doctor sent us home with a note to the school that her stomach ache was a direct result of the treatment by other kids. We had a meeting with the principal the following day. We showed him the note from the doctor and an email from the second grade teacher acknowledging the bullying. We informed the school that we (both parents karate instructors) taught her self-defense (the school was not happy about this).

    The very next day the entire third grade was in an anti-bullying assembly. My daughter’s classroom teacher pulled us aside to inform us that they found the bullying in her grade to be far reaching. Things at school got slightly better.

    In fourth grade, some girls have been giving her trouble. I recently wrote a post regarding relational aggression among girls. The comments on this post were interesting.

  6. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Michele,
    It sounds like you and your husband are on the right track. I like that the school took immediate action. That with your sage advice and self-defense lessons, should lessen the impact of bullies (I hope).
    I enjoyed your post and comments. I could not resist throwing in my 2 cents :)
    The link about relational aggression is very informative. The nuances of how girls are mean to each other are normally missed by me.