I'm happy to report that my 12-year-old had the charges against her dismissed today in court. She was ticketed for "affraying" back in March or April when an ungainly girl in her gym class bumped her in the chest, called her a name and declared that she'd been wanting to kick my baby's ass for a long time. Now, my girl is no trouble maker, but there is only so much a person can take and the chest bump was it. It soon escalated into punching, kicking, hair-pulling and writhing on the gym floor. Both girls were hauled to the office and ticketed by the school district's police officer.
It didn't take much research to learn that in the State of Texas, self-defense is no defense when it comes to affraying - an extension of the schools' tough zero-tolerance policies enacted in the wake of Columbine and similar tragedies. We were lucky in that this was her first offense and she had options to get the case dismissed. She could choose between performing community service and taking a "Social Skills" class through an approved provider. Though I am tempted to gripe about what a rip-off the class was ($45 for a 3-hour, Saturday morning session on how to make better decisions) I honestly can't complain. My kid didn't start the fight but she certainly participated.
We did not punish her at home because you can't let people walk all over you. We figured the justice system would work better than grounding. I'm hoping the experience of going to court and the class provided her just enough of a glimpse of what could happen to keep her out of trouble for the long haul. Judge Yeoman certainly doesn't pull any punches but he also allows the kids (and parents) a little bit of dignity if they are truly trying to do the right thing. Bad things happen to good people all the time....what's important is how they handle it.