Stand Your Ground: Stun Gun at School
Today’s edition of The Indianapolis Star included a story about an Indianapolis teenager who was mercilessly teased at school because he is gay (flamboyantly so, apparently). Eventually, when the school administration was either helpless or unwilling to really help this young man (they blamed him for the bullying that he was subjected to noting that his manner of dress and the accessories he wore essentially invited torment) his mother sent him to school with a stun gun. When confronted by a group of bullies, the young man shot the stun gun into the air and the bullies backed off.
I’m sure you can guess where this is going, right?
Yep. The boy is now subject to a disciplinary hearing and may be expelled for bringing a weapon to school. He may also be subject to prosecution because it is illegal to have a stun gun if you’re under 18. He didn’t hurt anyone and he did manage to defend himself from the bullies. But he may be expelled from school and subject to prosecution while those who made is life intolerable — not to mention school officials who did little or nothing to help — may suffer no adverse consequences.
But here’s the really, really sad thing. Had this boy taken with him, not a stun gun, but an actual handgun, and had he not shot into the air, but rather, into the body of a bully threatening violence, then Indiana’s “stand your ground” law might have protected him from any sort of legal consequences. In fact, this was almost precisely the scenario that I outlined in my post Stand Your Ground: A Further Analysis, published just over a month ago. To repeat what I noted then, Indiana’s “stand your ground” states:
(1) is justified in using deadly force; and
(2) does not have a duty to retreat;
if the person reasonably believes that that force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to the person or a third person or the commission of a forcible felony. No person in this state shall be placed in legal jeopardy of any kind whatsoever for protecting the person or a third person by reasonable means necessary.
And I said this:
Once again, I’m not advocating violence. I don’t want the [gay teens] of the world to take guns to school or to resort to violence to respond to the epidemic of bullying that adults and schools seem impotent (or unwilling) to check. But when we think about the stories we hear over and over again about gay teens (and other teens, not just gays) who have been bullied to the point that they feel that they have no option other than suicide, shouldn’t we worry?
One other thing that I wanted to mention. According to the article:
[The mother] said she called the school about students following [her son] home from the bus stop, but school officials said they could not do anything since the students were not on school property.
Hmm. Interesting. Because unless I’m mistaken, we’ve seen schools all across Indiana and the country taking action against students for conduct on social media even when not on school property. See my discussion in Schools, Free Speech, and Social Media. But when a child is physically bullied, suddenly the fact that the bullying is “not on school property” becomes relevant and a defense for the school not to act? If anything, I’d think it would be the opposite. That is, a school shouldn’t be involved in conduct unrelated to school (such as social media done from home) but should be involved in conduct closely tied to school (such as walking to and from the school bus).