Fights at School, School Fights

What To Do When… Your School Age Kid Gets Into a Fight at School.

What To Do When Legal Chat Podcast... As Seen on the News from Critzer Cardani PC

What To Do When… Child Safety. Your Children’s Issues Take Center Stage.

What To Do When… Intro 00:01
Welcome to What To Do When… A podcast from real lawyers with real perspective, where we explore a variety of legal issues and scenarios. Each week we focus on a new topic and discuss what to do when and if any of these legal scenarios ever happened to you or a loved one. With over 40 years of combined legal experience, our hosts offer their unique perspectives and insights on a range of real life legal situations.

Jackie Critzer 0:28

Hi, and welcome back to what to do when a podcast here at Critzer Cardani. In Richmond, Virginia.

Scott Cardani 0:33

What’s on the docket for today, Jackie?

Jackie Critzer 0:37
So today on the docket we have what to do when your school aged child gets in a fight at school.

Scott Cardani 0:45
That’s happening more and more, isn’t it?

Jackie Critzer 0:47
I mean, hasn’t it sort of always happened? What’s the movie A Christmas Story? Yeah, right. You see it all the time, whether it’s a cartoon, these kids are punching it out, no big deal, at least, maybe didn’t used to be a big deal.

Scott Cardani 1:00
Exactly. In that it really is. As we move into our current culture, these things are being more and more pushed to the court system, which is never good. Always problematic. And you find yourself in a situation where when you were a kid, and when I was a kid, maybe John and I were in a beef, we had it out, we fought in the backyard or we find somebody else’s yard and that fight was over, we usually shook hands and it was over and you know, you moved on in life. But now it’s become quite simply a crazy event. There’s protective orders that come out of it and all kinds of things.

Jackie Critzer 1:00
Well, okay, so are we talking about elementary school or lower school, middle school, high school? What are we? What are we? Is there an age limit? In other words for a fight to become a court battle?

Scott Cardani 1:52
Yeah, I mean, usually, you’re not gonna get a kid before 11 Getting in the court system, unless it’s really, really bad. And usually you’re talking later junior high into high school, but high school is where it really starts to tick up. And you see a lot more kids getting charged. And you know, it’s tends to be more boys than girls tend to be part of the pecking order. We’re growing up, you get mad at somebody, you haven’t learned to channel your emotions as an adult yet. And you know, before things happen, you’re in a in fisticuffs with somebody that, you know, maybe cooler heads 10 years later, would have prevailed if you just would have bought the guy a drink and moved on. But that’s where we are.

Jackie Critzer 2:33
So does it matter? Really, the injury that sustain? I mean, does it matter what the punishment is at school? It? Can you think so? For example, let’s start start with one bloody nose versus busted orbital bone. I mean, you know, we were talking about?

Scott Cardani 2:50
It does matter. But really, it used to be only the busted normal bone, you know, would go to the courts would go to the court, or the school would handle it. They’d give somebody you know, three days out of school. And as you know, now, in some schools are finally moving away from it. But one of the worst things, I don’t care, I’m gonna offend people. But the zero tolerance was one of the stupidest things ever come down the school pipe. And it’s dumb, because if Jackie came up and hit me, and I hit her back, we both be at a school for the same amount of time. And it just doesn’t make any sense. I mean, it’s different if I was provoking Jackie, for 45 minutes, you know, that makes a difference. But this whole zero tolerance things. And I think that’s what led to this court system uptick, where all these cases are getting pushed off the circuit court because they are juvenile court, because now they’re a big deal. And remember, yes, it’s juvenile court. Yes, it’s probably not going to be part of your long term record. And if it’s your first time, and maybe your last…

Jackie Critzer 3:50
Unless your a politician, then it’ll probably come up.

Scott Cardani 3:52
Yeah, exactly. But you know, if it’s your first time and maybe your last time, normally the courts is the juvenile court, their job is to try to bring a resolution to it not to convict you and make you a criminal. And for the most part, the courts I work with are really good about that, you know, if your frequent flyer, as we say, that gets a little more dicey and a little more problematic. But, you know, it goes back to all we’ve talked about before, things are changing. And, you know, like, I grew up, you know, if somebody hit you, you hit him back, that’s just, you know, that was kind of like the standard. And now, if you hit me and I hit you harder, and I knock you out, I’m the bad guy, and I’m looking at charges. I’m looking at all those things. And it’s our we’ve really flipped the script on this and it’s one of my really big pet peeves if you don’t hear my passion in this because to me, it’s kind of like the soft skill argument. And I realized there’s law out there. For those who listen to me and knows the law. I realized that’s what the law says about you know, there can be too much of a response.

Jackie Critzer 4:54
Well you take your your victim if you will, as you find them. Right?

Scott Cardani 4:58
Also take the person you Punch as you find them. And that’s my argument. I mean, if you decide to release there, well, I mean, trust me if you decide to punch some guy who you don’t have a clue what he knows, or what he doesn’t know, or how strong he is, or anything like that, because as you and I both know, the picture doesn’t always paint the story. And he clobbers you. Hi, I’m sorry. You should have never, I mean, remember, the Constitution was built on the fact of self restraint, self reliant. Being that person who, you know, life, liberty and the pursuit of property, but it’s under the guise that you own your own behavior, because it doesn’t work.

Jackie Critzer 5:35
We’re having this conversation. Interestingly, maybe last night at dinner. And one of our children who goes to middle school indicated that there had been a fight at school. And the one one child was supposedly expelled from school, but you know how it goes, it’s a middle school. So is that right? But here’s the story. Story is the kid who got expelled was the aggressor. He came up in either slapped and then punched the other kid who then somehow hit him back, put him in a chokehold threw him to the ground, whatever it was, but it was in my thought it was a far more aggressive response of what some might call self defense than the initial act. And so we were there, whether it was a slap and a punch, and then he she said he threw him to the ground and then had him in a chokehold when they came up, I don’t know, maybe he’s a wrestler, I don’t know. But the kid who responded, I think, suffered some sort of punishment, but not expulsion. From the school. The next statement was really funny. She said, Well, he now is gonna be held back because they got expelled. No, that’s not how that that works there other alternatives. And because you have to go to school. It’s compulsory, it’s not optional. You can’t just take the year off of school. I mean, imagine how many kids would just never ever graduate because they were expelled. But so that’s, so I bring that up, because we’ve got an aggressor. And we’ve got some self defense. And, you know, like, you’re saying some schools, it’s zero tolerance… doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter who did what, first, you’re both gone. And then you’ve got this school where it sounds like only one kid really received the heavier punishment, and it was the more aggressive child. But how do you know when to raise the issue of self defense? How do you teach? When what do we do as parents in this society where maybe you don’t know which kind of school you go to? Or maybe you do, and you still want your kid to be able to say, you can’t get away with this, you can’t just walk up and hit me.

Scott Cardani 7:38
It’s like, I honestly believe we’re in a crazy time in our society like never before, excuse me. And I really believe that, and I’m very concerned for our children. I’ve never been more concerned for our children than I am right now because of what’s going on. And people see it out there as these great things. But we see it on the other side of the results of these great policies like zero tolerance seems like, of course, that’s a good idea. But when kids who aren’t doing wrong are being punished, what is that message that sender that kid accents? No matter what I do, I’m going to be punished. So by gosh, I’m going to do it right? Or what’s the point of telling on anybody because I want to be in trouble. You know, all those things have been taken out all the shore self restraint pieces have been taken out, because it’s zero politics, who cares? I mean, and I hear it, I have kids, and I hear these kids talking and their friends over and you go, yeah, I get that. And so you know, then what we didn’t even bring up. Okay, so the school punishes them, they’ve heard out to assault and battery to the juvenile court. And then the the parents of that kid, who may have been the aggressor, is now asking for a protective order against that kid, which kicks in we you’ve watched one of our prior podcast, protective orders are really messy. And then on top of that, you have a juvenile who’s not an adult, trying to figure out this protective order what he can do when he can’t do it. I know, it seems pretty straightforward. But when you’re a kid, it doesn’t always fit your brain, right.

Jackie Critzer 9:05
I mean, have you seen where two juveniles have protective orders against or one against another? My gosh, I feel like, I mean, imagine. So just to lay out what you were talking about, you’ve got the kid who threw the first punch, you got the responding kid, who maybe is a little more aggressive to tell, stop doing this. You can’t do I’m not going to be thrown in the trashcan every day, right? If we’re going to really talk. And then now the original aggressor may be seeking a protective order against the kid who was operating in maybe self defense.

Scott Cardani 9:40
And that’s because nobody sees self defense anymore. And that’s a huge thing. And I know a lot of people out there think I’m crazy on this soapbox, but it really comes down to for me. We can’t operate right in a society where somebody is able to do whatever they want to you. And your response is what we criminalize or But we punish it doesn’t make any sense. So, again, I guess we’re saying what to do when what I’m saying is, we have to train our children not to respond, which is crazy talk. And I don’t believe is right for our society, I don’t believe it’s right for anybody. So basically, the underlying lesson is just take it.

Jackie Critzer 10:21
That is not, that’s not my position. But But what you and your student may be facing is, is that right? And then you come into, oh, gosh, then there’s the Oh, but there was a text message, or there was an email or there was a photograph, or there were all these other things. And that’s why we’re in this fight. Well, now you’re going to open the door to get one of our other podcasts about sharing pictures and doing other things that teenagers ought not do. So take a look in our juvenile criminal defense section of our podcasts and take it take a listen to that. But these doors just keep opening. And it is causing more problems in the school outside of school. Let me ask you this.

Scott Cardani 10:59
I ask you want to this is really important thing. People – protective orders. I want to explain this to you as a kid. So I got a protective order. Jackie has protective order with me. I can’t contact Jackie. Alright. Tuesday night comes and there’s a party at Billy’s, and everybody’s in a group text, including Jackie Guess what? did I violate the protective order? Jackie?

Jackie Critzer 11:21
If you text if you send a text to that group, you did,

Scott Cardani 11:24
Yes, crazy talk. And kids do this stuff all the time. They’re on these big group, my, my kids, I hear that sometimes in the room BBB. Like what is going on, there is a group chat. You know, so right, you know, kids can there can be 100 kids in that group chat. But if Jackie’s in it, and I text into it, the inference is because there’s no communication, even through a third party protective order. And then you got the other problem, they might be in the same school when they run a niche. I mean, there’s it’s just the litter, literal problems are so extreme and so problematic. Because remember what happens in a violation protect them, it’s an automatic day in jail or juvenile court, you start getting on the next protected, word gets continued for extended and all this stuff. I mean, it is like the argument. And quite frankly, sometimes kids, I’m not saying kids don’t need to be punished. I’m not saying anything like that. But most of the time the court is going to first offense is going to try to work it out with Kid maybe take an anger management class teach matter, work on some stuff. And that’s all good. But what we’re saying is, as a parent, as we instruct our kids, you know, and a lot of parents, like my parents said, you know, if someone hits you, you have my permission, hit him back, and, and I’m okay with that position. But you also got to know how the courts and how the school and how everybody else is viewing that, and they’re not like me, necessarily, and they’re gonna be all of a sudden, your kid’s gonna be down the road. And you’re gonna need to call us, you know, and that’s okay. But you got to, we have to educate people. And I’ll say this too, this is very, very important. We say every podcast every place, you have no obligation to talk to the school. If you are in a fight. Right, the best thing you can do at that point, they’re probably going to expel you or do whatever they’re going to do anyway. So just be quiet. They’re gonna say you have to write a statement, guess what, you don’t have to write a statement. You have a constitutional right not to incriminate yourself. So don’t say anything, cetera. And I’ll say anything. Thank you very much. Well, you have to know I don’t, you know, because of this, because of the next steps. It’s so important used to be that you could make a statement at school, the school was handled, I mean, they gave you three days out of school and whatever. And it worked out. And you know, you had an administrator who was willing to listen to the facts, weigh what was going on and make a decision based on those facts, but was zero tolerance. By Jackie, by Scott, see you later, we’ll see in 10 710, three, whatever the days are. And it doesn’t create justice. It doesn’t create fairness, it creates more tension it, it ruins the school environment, all those things. So, you know, I know I’m being passionate. And I understand that, obviously, this touches my heart because I just find it. So I’ve been doing this for a long time I handled the number of assault batteries I’ve handled my life is too many to count. And I really mean that. And it always amazes me that we have a very little concept about the context. And all you want to know is that Jackie hit me. And that’s enough. And life’s not like that life has context to it. And we have to be able to teach our kids. There’s context to things but also teach our kids to stand up for themselves because that’s so important. We don’t I know we don’t want our kids to be doormats. We don’t want our kids to be walking through life feeling like they have no place because that’s really what the end result of zero tolerance is be a doormat.

Jackie Critzer 14:38
Well, and so, on the flip side of this whole thing, is there a time when when a family should seek a protective order when a family should say hey, wait a minute, this happened. And maybe maybe your kid was the initial aggressor and the other person came back and just pummeled him and really did some damage or whatever the case may be. But the point is, is there a point in time? Do you think we’re where they should go seek a protective order, or they should try to get criminal charges brought against someone? And I think the answer is well, sure. So we’re really not talking about that sort of situation. This is the schoolyard or school bus, fighting, you know, the pop in the face, the black eye, maybe buddy knows that maybe wrestling, whatever that is.

Scott Cardani 15:29
And you gotta realize most fights in school are pretty minimal. Very rarely do two kids square off and just duke it out for 45 minutes. It’s hair, pulling and kicking in wrestling and all these things. But again, I know they’re serious ones. And again, we always get kind of criticized on these, like, You guys aren’t protecting people. And we hear that a lot. But that’s not what we’re trying to do here. What we’re trying to do, we understand that if you’re a victim of somebody bullying you, or punching you, or you’re scared to go to school, yes, get a protective order, I’ll represent you. No problem. I mean, I’ve done it, I’ve gotten protective orders for people. And there are times when it’s legitimate. There’s time when it’s a legitimate thing to take out charges. What I’m saying though, is, most people don’t understand where we are in society, and the risk, all this stuff plays in and how it can go south. And how when it does, you’re the person who they’re coming after, how important it is to one. Know why you did what you did, to come and see us because you need a lawyer and you don’t need to talk to anybody, which was three, do not talk about it. Because it’s it’s going to end up snowballing into a bad situation. And don’t text the kid and Snapchat him and say, got you, whatever, you know, and that’s the other thing or.

Jackie Critzer 16:48
Leave a voicemail, or call somebody or get on Discord and tell the whole group chat about it.

Scott Cardani 16:52
Video didn’t they sent it to you and you sent him… it’s stupid. I mean, we’ve got to get off this life of social media because it’s killing our kids. But more importantly, it’s that whole thing of there’s evidence everywhere.

Jackie Critzer 17:08
Well, since we have to deal with it, we and well wait a minute, the cameras on the buses. It’s not just the wheels on the bus anymore. Now it’s just cameras to and from what my middle schooler would tell you is that the bus driver is focused on driving. And I mean, it could be World War Three in the back and start was not doing much about it. And even though there’s a recording of these bus rides, not much is happening. I mean, my my child will tell you that she has watched these incidents occur over and over day after day. And it’s nobody’s getting bloodied or anything like that. But it’s, you know, water in the face. It’s a smack it’s a it’s awful, awful, colorful language. And they’re not doing anything about it. Right?

Scott Cardani 17:56
It’s we have and like she said, I don’t blame the bus drivers because they have to drive that bus and they’re looking for their, somebody’s crossing across the front of my car is not paying attention driving, as they’re texting, driving past all these things that happened we see every day. So I get it. But there’s also just a real world element of growing up that these things are going to these rubs sometimes are going to happen. And we got to prepare kids to know the consequences of their action. And then when they choose a consequence, or they choose an action, they know where it’s going to lead. And at least they’re doing it. I have so many kids that said I never knew this, I would be here. I never understood this. And my thing is we need to we need to more than ever arm our kids with truth. And the reality because people aren’t living in reality anymore. I don’t think in certain areas and they just think, well, you know, it’s okay. Just go ahead and punch him back as hard as you can knock, knock them out.

Jackie Critzer 18:56
Oh, maybe but but you may suffer a consequence you didn’t anticipate and then you’re going to call us.

Scott Cardani 19:02
And that’s okay. Again, we’re not advocating you become a doormat, we’re advocating if somebody is doing something you stand up, say that’s not okay. And if you kiss on, you get the help you need. I mean, all those things are important,

Jackie Critzer 19:12
I’m not advocating excessive force either. And, you know, the main part of self defense is the last best chance to get away, right. But that’s a whole nother podcast. So it’s really important when your child is in trouble at school, because they’ve gotten in a fight at school. Number one, you maybe need to assess whether this is a bullying situation, because that’s really going to carry that entire conversation into a different place. But also you need to know I mean, who was the aggressor what happened and be prepared that even if your child was not the aggressor, they may be suspended, expelled, which by the way is a whole nother process that needs to be addressed if your child was not the aggressor and was in receiving excessive punishment from the school because of it. I mean, there’s just so many pieces there. We can fall out from this call get some help with, with navigating some of this don’t, I wouldn’t say just take an expulsion. And if you’ve got a protective order or need a protective order because of how extreme this was, or if they’re, if your child is facing juvenile assault and battery, or your child needs to maybe consider pressing charges against another child, for juveniles. These are all things that you really need, I would say, Attorney advice about you really need to talk to people who know what the law is, and then explain to you what the ramifications on both sides of that coin will be.

Scott Cardani 20:34
Yeah, and I want to say one more thing, because it’s really important. And I hear it all the time from parents who watch our podcasts ago, I’ve still totally stopped doing what I used to do, which is if you get in trouble at school, you go tell them the truth. And again, I don’t advocate for you to lie – ever. It’s not about lying. It’s not about hiding. It’s not I’m not saying avoid the law. What I’m saying is, there’s a process that needs to be followed. And that process is you have the right not to self incriminate yourself. And you shouldn’t do that. Because a lot of times you’re saying things that you have no idea what you’re saying. And they’re only hurting you when you can still be guilty, but handled in a way that is right for the situation. And bring forth the information that’s necessary through an attorney or through whatever process but you’re going on and blabbing and trying to weasel your way out of it. And all those kinds of things doubt it just doesn’t work. You know, maybe your friends a good talker, and he got out of one, but you’re probably not. So I say that with all due delay due respect, man, just trust us. We see this all the time. So number one, if you’ve been in a fight, or some kind of situation and the school’s addressed it, you might expect charges to come even if you don’t if you got expelled, you don’t feel you’re righteously done, or you’re the you’re the person being bullied or hurt. Come talk to somebody, we’re we’ve been doing juvenile law for a long time. So we want to help. But don’t just think you parents don’t think you can you know the answers just because you’ve been around a long time because quite frankly, if I wasn’t a lawyer, I don’t think I’d know the answers. Because I’m always amazed when I go into court and what somehow things are changed and you’re like, Whoa, we’re really going down a slippery slope. So please don’t talk until you’ve talked to somebody who can give you good advice,

Jackie Critzer 22:22
Right? Good legal advice not not Dr. Google legal advice. So we appreciate you checking us out. Look for our other podcasts on our website at And look for additional podcasts as they’re coming out. Most of the time. It’s weekly, sometimes a little more often than that, but we look forward to checking out any comments that you have or maybe even addressing topics that you’d like to hear about. But like and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.

Scott Cardani 22:49
Thank you have a good day.

What To Do When… Outro 19:37
We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of What To Do When… For more episodes, be sure to subscribe to our podcast and we encourage you to check archives to listen to previous topics. Tune in next week for a new episode and some fresh perspective from Critzer Cardani.

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