Young People Ask . . .
‘Can I Go to School Without Getting Beat Up?’
‘YOU TAKE your life in your hands when you come to school.’ So complain students and teachers alike. School, according to the authors of School Vandalism, “had traditionally been viewed as a haven from the disorders of everyday life.” But what has happened? “Clearly, things have changed. For many school systems . . . violence and vandalism are issues of major concern.”
In some places you encounter danger just riding to school! One school-bus driver told Awake!: “I do my best to control the kids, but you know how it is. Sometimes the big kids have ‘shakedowns’; that is, they make the little ones give them their money. And what can I do? Years ago someone complained that the bus seats were dangerous, so they replaced them with these high-backed seats. The kids hide behind them and you can’t even see what’s going on.”
The odds are that you have either witnessed or been a victim of school violence. If so, you need no statistics to convince you of the extent of the problem. Says a teenage youth named Mike: “The hardest thing for me is getting out of bed. It’s not that I’m tired, but it’s that I can’t stand the atmosphere I’ll have to step into as soon as I leave my house.”
No Hiding Place
Is there a way you can escape school violence? Quitting school or cutting classes is how some youths avoid it. But this simply trades one set of problems for another. Nor would a new school necessarily be a sanctuary from violence. The authors of School Vandalism point out that “urban and suburban schools experience about the same amount of vandalism.” Even moving to another country might not make much of a difference. Countries such as Great Britain, Japan and Canada all report similar breakdowns in classroom discipline and order.
Many youths therefore feel that the only sensible thing to do is to arm themselves. “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t carry a knife,” claims 15-year-old Steve. “A few have guns.” But is carrying a weapon really practical? Not according to Jesus Christ. When one of his apostles, Peter, resorted to using a weapon, Jesus sternly warned him: “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) Jesus knew that violence begets violence. A person carrying a weapon is, in effect, inviting trouble. And as the proverb says, “As for the one searching for bad, it will come upon him.”—Proverbs 11:27.
This does not mean, however, that you are defenseless. Jesus warned his disciples: “Look! I am sending you forth as sheep amidst wolves; therefore prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) Likewise today, in a different setting, this defense—caution—is needed even more in these “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) In many parts of the world, caution is needed not only in school but almost everywhere you go.
Nevertheless, to dodge danger effectively, you will need more than mere caution.
KNOW AND AVOID DANGER SPOTS:
“The hallways, bathrooms, stairwells, locker rooms and cafeteria—those are the real trouble spots,” a group of youths explained to Awake! So notorious are some schools’ bathrooms as gathering places for fights, drug usage and profanity that many prefer to suffer discomfort rather than use these facilities. “We wait till we get home to use the bathroom,” these youths further explained. Cafeterias, too, often are the scene of “food fights”—riotous affairs where students fling their lunches at one another. While it may be possible to traverse safely danger spots like stairwells and hallways by being alert and cautious, what can you do about a place like the cafeteria? Here your next “survival” technique will help.
WATCH YOUR ASSOCIATION:
The Bible’s counsel at 1 Corinthians 15:33 is well known to Christian youths: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” Often a youth finds himself smack in the middle of a fight simply because he associates with the wrong crowd.—See Proverbs 22:24, 25.
Of course, it’s natural to want to be liked and have friends. And guarding your association does not mean giving the cold shoulder to your schoolmates; this could alienate them and make them hostile toward you. A Christian woman named Doris, though, tells how she maintained a delicate balance in dealing with others: “During my high school years I basically kept to myself; I didn’t get involved socially with the kids in school. I let them know that I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and during lunchtime they could often see me reading my Bible publications. Nevertheless, I tried to be warm, friendly and polite toward the kids in school. I wasn’t aloof. As a result, the kids liked and respected me. And for the most part they didn’t bother me.”
WALK AWAY FROM FIGHTS:
The Bible advises us to avoid “forcing one another to a showdown.” (Galatians 5:26, footnote of 1963 large-print edition of NW) True, after being called names or being provocatively shoved, it’s hard not to strike back. But remember: Violence begets violence. Even if you come off the victor in a violent showdown, your opponent may simply bide his or her time for a rematch. So first try talking your way out of a fight. “An answer, when mild, turns away rage,” says the Bible. (Proverbs 15:1) If talking doesn’t work, walk—or even run—away from violent confrontations. As a last resort, you can take whatever reasonable means are necessary to protect yourself.—Romans 12:18.
Now it may hurt your pride to walk or run away from a fight. Ray, for example, recalls the time he refused to fight a boy much smaller than he was. “They called me all kinds of names like ‘chicken.’ And even my own brother made fun of me. But my dad commended me for doing the right thing.” Refusing to give in to violent impulses not only is the right thing to do but can also spare you physical harm. Reminds Solomon: “A live dog is better off than a dead lion.”—Ecclesiastes 9:4.
TALK TO YOUR PARENTS:
The author of The Loneliness of Children observes that youths “seldom report their school terrors to their parents, for fear the parents will think them cowardly or chide them for not standing up to the bullies.” Do not make this mistake! Your parents are no doubt deeply concerned for your welfare and can often help you handle a bad situation.
Laura was the victim of molestation by boys in her school and was afraid to do anything about it. Finally, though, she found the courage to tell her father, who saw to it that the boys let her alone. While perhaps a bit embarrassed that her father intervened in this way, she admits, “I guess I should have told my father in the first place.”
The Best Protection
While the suggestions given here may prove helpful, some exposure to violence today is unavoidable. But if you have cultivated a real friendship with God, you will have no reason to be overwhelmed by fear. “Jehovah is the stronghold of my life,” said the psalmist. “Of whom shall I be in dread?”—Psalm 27:1.
A young Christian girl named Faye demonstrated such faith. Some fellow students hated her for openly sharing her religious convictions. So on the last day of school, three girls cornered her in the bathroom and began calling her names (Miss Goodie-Goodie). One girl then grabbed her hair and put a knife to her throat. Frightened? Yes. But Faye had a friendship with God, to whom she now began praying out loud! This confounded her attackers. And when they heard the sound of footsteps, they quickly left. “I am convinced that Jehovah helped me and that we can depend upon him in time of distress,” was Faye’s reaction.
True, God does not guarantee that his servants will necessarily be spared from physical harm. But he can give you the courage to face even violent confrontations. Why not make Jehovah your stronghold?
[Blurb on page 18]
“Incidents of students beating up teachers, disrupting classes and ceremonies and defacing school property in recent years have shocked Japanese society.”—Asahi Evening News
[Picture on page 17]
Preparing to meet violence with violence is dangerous and impractical