JACKSONVILLE, FL (FirstCoastNews.com) – A Duval County School Board member today brought one of the most controversial concepts in Florida's criminal justice system to the local school district.
School Board Member Jason Fischer's proposal would change the student Code of Conduct allow victims to fight back – and meet force with force -- if attacked.
"We have to, as a society, say we're not going to let our kids be bullied, we're not going to let them be attacked and violated, or further victimized by the criminal justice system or the discipline process."
The idea quickly drew comparisons to Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law. For many, that law brings to mind the George Zimmerman second degree murder case, although it never actually figured into Zimmerman's defense. Closer to Jacksonville, Marissa Alexander, who was convicted of firing a gun at her abusive husband, tried and failed to employ a Stand Your Ground defense in a case that will be retried in December.
Fisher says he would prefer to avoid such comparisons.
"You know, I think that's a charged phrase. What I'd say is, it's really about protecting the right of self-defense and making sure our children aren't being punished for stopping their attacker."
But Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says the proposal sends the wrong message. He agrees the Code of Conduct needs to change to reflect different motives when fights occur – right now kids who fight are labeled "mutual combatants" and punished equally -- but he doesn't want to absolve anyone for fighting.
"I feel uncomfortable, and certain board members felt uncomfortable, with the idea of no consequence at all," he told First Coast News. "Because if there is no consequence, you signal that violence is acceptable."
Fisher acknowledged that his plan drew "measured concerns" from other board members, but says he will bring in up again at the full July 1 board meeting.
"This has nothing to do with any kind of firearms or weapons," he told First Coast News. "I would say in reasonable self-defense, if you use force to stop them but you continue on and become an attacker, you are no longer defending yourself you are no longer the victim."