In school, I was tall, thin, had braces, loved Star Trek, (need I say more). Since kindergarten, I was the one who got bullied and did not fight back. Not because I couldn't, but I somehow knew it wasn't right. On three occasions between first and fifth grade, I hit the point of having taken enough. I had so much built up rage that I ended each episode with a single punch to the bully's lip. And, of course, I was the one getting in trouble each time. The final time, in fifth grade, the principal came around the corner just as I landed the punch. But each time, the bullying stopped for a while.
Years later (I never really planned it) I found myself as a school principal. I worked for private schools, but I still had to follow their procedures. I frequently had office visits from the victims who were caught fighting back. I would start by telling them that, yes, they are still "in trouble" for fighting, but then I'd ask, "Was it worth it?" The automatic, knee-jerk response was to tell me, the principal, "No, I won't do it again." Then I clarified, "No, I mean it. Was it worth it? Do you think he'll stop bullying you now?" The student would then get an uncontrollable smile and then would really consider the question.
I took the extra time to explain that fighting is still breaking the rules, but that there comes a time when a person has to make a decision. Life is not always fair. Don't make me a promise you can't keep. You may need to break the rules again. Consider both the consequences of action and of inaction. When you reach the point that the consequences of action aren't' much worse than your current situation, action becomes worth it. So make it count. (Of course, I'm only talking about fist fights without weapons.)
Decades later, I now own the private school (grades 6-12), and I keep it small so there is no bullying at all. The worst rules offences usually have to do with cell phones. There has never been a real fight. I provide secret scholarship funds to help parents of bullied kids to join us here to experience what school really should be. There is zero tolerance for it.
Now I am the one in charge. Watch out bullies!
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