Standing up to a school bully

G’day. I have a teenage son who was bullied in school for a month. One day, he challenged this other boy to a fight after school (he trained in boxing) and he ended up breaking this bully’s nose. I was called up to the principal’s office along with the boy’s parents and both of them got suspended. I ended paying for that boy’s fractured nose. I didn’t scold my son (in fact I felt proud) about that incident and was I quietly applauding him for standing up for himself. Since then, he was left alone and no one bothered him since then. Was I right in condoning his behaviour? When I was growing up in grade school and high school, school bullying was something that happened in the shadows and which the school authorities refused to acknowledge. It was only when young kids started taking their lives (due to being bullied - even online) did education authorities had a wake-up call.

Did your son to to the school before he challenged his bully?

The Church is not pacifist, but does believe all options of peace should be explored before engaging in conflict.

Good for your son in learning to protect himself, but he should be aware that even with his training, it only takes a random swing he fails to block to lose a fight. Therefore, fighting should only be a last resort, both morally and because getting knocked out is no fun.

That being said I had a similar experience in school to your son. Word gets around. Bully should avoid him for a while.

I’d support your son defending himself but remind him that he should exhaust his peaceful options first. Fighting should only be a last resort.

Going to the school authorities would only serve to make his situation worse, Feminine influence takes on a “non-violent” tone in trying to mold child behavior.

In reality, this story is a rite of passage to manhood. The son needed to take a stand and teenage boys express this in a physical way. Rarely does anyone get seriously hurt and the son now is no longer bullied.

I do object to the way the school handles this. There is no recognition of the bullying. The son was simply acting in self defense and thus the two “crimes” are not the same.

Speaking as a mom…good job to your son!!!

I live in a small town, about 120 kids in our graduating class. Last year a boy in a neighboring town took his own life because he was bullied. This type of story makes the news far to often these days. I’ve taught my kids to use their words first but when options are exhausted its time to stand up for yourself.

I think you handled your end very well by paying for the broken nose. Great job to both of you:)

I do not agree non violence is feminine. Every self defense system (I study judo) advocates using your non violent methods first. Nowhere did I say the OPs self defense was a crime.

Another good reason to go to the school first is it creates a paper trail. If the OPs son really injures the bully, and the bullies parents press charges, forcing the school officials to testify helps the OP prove her son was acting in self defense.

It depends on what the bully was doing. The Church doesn’t teach that “all peaceful options be exhausted” before resorting to violence. The Church does teach that the violence used to defend oneself be proportionate to the threat you are under. If the bully was calling your son names, breaking his nose isn’t exactly proportionate. If the bully was physically threatening your son (or even constantly harassing him over a long period of time), then fighting back is morally licit and commendable. Going to a teacher first is not requisite, although some might find it preferable.

While I dont think most bullying requires a broken nose to stop, I don’t think it necessarily wrong to defend oneself using such force ONLY IF it is necessary as a last resort.

Diplomacy is key, though. How do you know that your son’s isn’t now considered the bully by the “receiving” party and his/her friends and family? Violence, though necessary at times, generally leads to more violence.

Despite a less than stellar curbing of bullying in decades past, I find that just about everything today is labelled bullying. We’ve become hyper-sensitve to it. Is this possible in this case?

That said, what does it matter to the atheist worldview of if the attack was justified or not? If self-preservation is important, why does the means by which this is achieved important? Does concensus matter in determining right or wrong? And who gets to determine the means that are justified or not?

When my son was in grade school, he was bullied also. One day the bully started in on my son, our priest happened to be on the playing field. He said to my son (who happened to be on the ground under the bully) “what do you want to do?” My son said “punch him” the priest said “go ahead” … my son did, the bully never bothered him again.

Yes, you do need to stand up for yourself. It’s most definitely a learning experience.

Bravo to your son. :thumbsup:

Overall, I think there’s some good lessons here.

Let me first say when I was picked on in school, a friend told me to fight back, and if I got in trouble to tell school administration that they aren’t going to be there for me once I graduate.

There is something to be said about school administration in the West and their lack of skills to determine who started what and what leads to this kind of nonsense----and why we have successful school shootings.

But I have to say in your situation is that if this had been in the real world, your son may not have gotten off scot-free. He challenged the fight and did damage. Strictly speaking, that is assault. In the adult world, he’s be in more trouble than the bully.

In Catholic teaching, self-defense is acceptable but it’s a very gray area to say the least because your son issued the challenge.

Yes, it’s going to make you feel good and all that, but in reality, that kind of thing does have legal consequences. You may not win a lawsuit over bullying, but you will win (or lose) one if there is evidence and documented damage. The judge may even agree with your reasons, but in my experience courts like this will follow the law even if it doesn’t seem like the fair thing.

I would suggest going through proper channels before resorting to violence. I understand completely where you are coming from, but your son is probably going to encounter a lot of people like this bully and you have to learn to deal with it. It doesn’t mean your son needs to put up with it, but fighting like this will not solve problems.

Life is hard sometimes.

I went through a similar situation as a young teen. A girl I’d been close friends with decided she didn’t like me any more (she’d found a new friend and as immature kids will do she couldn’t be friends with both of us–goodness only knows why). So, she started bullying me. Then she threatened me saying she was going to beat me up after school. What she didn’t know is that my grandfather had taught me the basics of boxing. He’d been a lightweight boxer in his youth. So, she and I duly met after school. She went for me. I landed a right cross on her chin and down she went on her fanny. I never saw her again. I think she avoided me whenever she caught sight of me after that. Am I sorry? Not a bit of it. She started the whole thing and if I hadn’t stood up for myself she’d have continued bullying me, and maybe others, as well. I hope she learned some valuable lessons about the dangers of bullying and why it is wrong.

If it was after school and off of school grounds, why would you be called to the school? In fact, why is the school even involved?

I totally agree that anyone should be able to defend themselves. :thumbsup: But I have a problem with your child “challenging” the bully to a fight.

Agreed - having past training in hand-to-hand combat and challenging the bully to a fight are not really factors I’d think of in “self-defense from bullying”. In the moment of bullying, shoving back or taking a swing is more understandable, but the fact that your son broke his nose is not something I would applaud. Perhaps the congratulations will make him feel it is acceptable to continue doing so, and then he becomes the bully himself.

It is a tough line to teach standing up for yourself and being the aggressor. Would you want your son to think that the only options are persecution or physical altercation?

This whole thing would depend on what was meant by bullying. It is a catch all term these days. If the “bully” was violent and the child was in immediate danger or physical harm then yes, your child did right. If the bully was calling names, no matter how offensive then it is your child who is the “bully”

The school should be notified and take care of the situation. Encouraging children to hit each other to the point of breaking bones should be a failure on all fronts, the school, the parents and the children.

No one should be proud in this situation.

It is an example of failure.

I am sure this lad tried to reason with his bullies. He finally resorted to a punch in the nose because the bullies would not listen. What I object to is the response from the authorities.

Since women have a greater role in establishing policies, there is clearly a more feminine tone to issues regarding everything including expectations pertaining to child behavior. I’m not saying a feminine slant is always a bad thing, but I think boys often struggle with it.

No one should be offended by these observations. If we expect boys to become the men that young ladies will one day marry, then we have to let them be boys.

In Ephesians 5, Paul exhorts men to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. Can’t do that teaching them to be wimps.

Since women have a greater role in establishing policies, there is clearly a more feminine tone to issues regarding everything including expectations pertaining to child behavior.

Elaborate on this please.

  1. You are 100% right.

  2. Many, many people will be offended. We do live in the age of feminism, an age which cannot tolerate the natural differences between men and women, male and female. Sadly, any suggestion that the majority of educators being women would possibly be a factor in the policies they develop will offend people.

  3. No one would have been offended by anything you wrote, in any culture, at any time in human history before the last 50 years in the West.

I would agree that the culture is a “feminine” one. However, many times it is feminized men who make the policies.

The poster alluded to women being allowed to make the policies. I don’t understand that at all.:shrug:

But we need to realize that being male, or having a masculine culture does not mean “violence” should be more prevalent. You are giving my gender a bad name if you take this issue and turn it into a masculine feminine one. Jesus was the manliest man in the world and I believe he spoke directly to this issue. Men, believe it or not, can be mentally competent to handle things without breaking someone’s nose.

There is another point to the OP.
I notice that you are in Australia. So I have no idea how it is over there but if you are following western trends then you should be aware that in the US it would be quite unwise to have a child do this and express pride in it. If you take morality and theology out of it and just look at it legally. It is a bad option. In the US you could be sued by the parents of the BULLY! They could take your house, they could take earnings from your family and they could potentially label you and your kid for life as criminals.
We can argue all day about this machismo of encouraging a person to break the body of another to get their way but the reality of our society is one where you might want to think twice before raising a little rocky. It probably does not end with a scholarship to Yale, but it might end up with him being the toughest guy in the factory.

  1. I’m giving your “gender” a bad name by suggesting that men and women handle things differently? That policies, especially around something like fighting, shaped by a group of men would be different from those shaped by a group of women?

  2. Jesus, and the Church He founded and continues to teach through, was no pacifist, “if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” (Lk 22:36)

  3. No one ever suggested men can’t be “mentally competent” without “breaking someone’s nose”. I certainly never did and flatter myself as “mentally competent” even though I’ve never broken anyone’s nose.

  1. Yes men and women are different.
  2. I am not a pacifist. Violence can be a moral imperative.:thumbsup:
  3. ok:shrug:

These threads come up occasionally and I am SHOCKED at the "catholic’ responses from parents that are “great job” you did the right thing by encouraging your kid to use violence!
“Teach him to be a man!”
It is sickening. And it is irresponsible parenting. We are to teach our children how to be saints. How to achieve heaven. Not how to stand up to a “bully” but here we have a problem. Everyone is assuming that the kid had exhausted all moral and diplomatic options, that the kid had a right to protect himself physically. Would it change your mind if you knew that the “bully” was a name caller but not violent? If he called him a vile name, maybe even a slur, would it be ok to use violence? How about if the bully was at his locker and the kid sucker punched him? Would that change your mind? Before we pretend that punching a bully in the face is some kind of rite of passage into being a “man” we ought to look at how we could stop this from happening. Bare knuckle hitting someone in the face can be lethal.
I am trained in firearms use. I can tell you that not only legally but morally it is a failure of all parties when a firearm is used.
This mentality of physical violence being masculine needs to stop. Because a parent who encourages a boxer to use his fists to break the face of another human outside of competition is not being a successful parent, Catholic or otherwise.

It is dangerous, irresponsible, and stupid.

That being said, bullies need to be stopped and I for one do not think the schools are doing a good enough job of it. However I do notice that it does not really occur in the business world. At least physically. Though there have been some directors of business I have worked with that I thin could use a good broken nose.:wink:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit