Self Defense curriculum’s success opens doors for further improvement

Every 60 seconds, 20 people in America alone have been physically abused by a partner. According to, it only takes this short amount of time for someone to have a terrifying, life-altering experience.

The rate of all types of assault is astounding and scary. It can happen anywhere to anyone. A major factor in preventing the risk of assault is having the skills to fight off the perpetrators attempting to assault you. Given this prevalence, South dedicates a portion of gym class time, which is mandatory for underclassmen, to self defense training and understanding. South also offers an optional self defense gym course for juniors and seniors.

The Oracle Editorial Board applauds the dedication of our teachers and administrators to keep students safe and give them the preparation they need to fight off danger through the self defense course and unit. The Editorial Board specifically supports the teaching of situational awareness and onslaught response. But we believe that additional action should be taken to improve upon what is already in place and further prepare students.

Despite 47 percent of students believing that South prepared them to be aware of and knowledgeable on the risks of sexual assault or harassment in and outside of school, 27 percent of 315 students questioned in a non-scientific Oracle conducted survey did not feel prepared. An additional 21 percent answered “maybe/ I’m not sure” and the final five percent marked “other.” Although the majority of people considered the program successful in terms of preparation, the doubts of other students, regardless of numbers, displays an uncertainty that can potentially be dangerous. As a community, we should aim for all students to feel prepared.

The Oracle Editorial Board suggests that the Physical Education Department considers furthering emphasis on the possibility of sexual assault specifically in the male gym classes. This would create an awareness that sexual assault is prevalent with men as well and not simply a problem women face. According to (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence), one in four men have been victims of physical assault by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Steve Stanicek, Physical Education Instructional Supervisor, wants to conduct further research into male sexual assault cases. Overall though, he displayed interest in speaking with another faculty about implementing this idea more heavily in the program.

Additionally, we suggest having a male teacher work with the female self defense classes and vice versa for at least one class block in order to help create awareness and understanding. Including a man when teaching self defense to underclassmen women can better show the potential height, stature and strength of an attacker.

Similarly, if a female physical education teacher was able to speak to male students to describe any past experiences with assault, the male students would be given a greater perspective into a different side surrounding assault and potentially feel more comfortable opening up about past assault experiences or questions they might have. This recommendation was one that was even applauded by Stanicek, who believes this suggestion could open doors in terms of better self defense preparation in the unit.     

Implementing these changes would heighten students’ knowledge of all types of assault, which creates a reality where students can be even better prepared than they are now. The grim truth of assault in the world today is that it is on the rise, especially on college campuses. According to, women are twice as likely to be assaulted than they are to be robbed while at school. It is more important than ever for students to feel capable of protecting themselves.

However, responsibility is not only on the Physical Education Department. It is just as important for students to take initiative of their self defense education. As stated above, South offers a more in-depth, coed self defense course for juniors and seniors. This course has decreased in popularity recently, dropping from two blocks of enrollment to only one block. Thus, if students do not feel prepared, they should speak with their physical education teacher or even consider enrolling in the self defense class.

According to Dr. Lara Cummings, asst. principal for student services, counselors do not recommend courses to students. Rather, after hearing some of the students’ interests, they suggest potential ideas of courses for them. Thus, if a student proposed the idea of taking the self defense course, counselors would do their best to accommodate that request. Therefore, it is also the student’s responsibility to make sure that they feel comfortable with their knowledge of self defense by the time they graduate.

The Oracle Editorial Board acknowledges the Physical Education Department’s immeasurable efforts to give students all the tools necessary to protect themselves in cases of potential attack. We are grateful for all they do to keep us safe in and outside of school, and we greatly appreciate Stanicek’s open-mindedness to the Editorial Board’s ideas and look forward to seeing what thoughtful additions the PE staff make in the future. Heightened preparation is a two-way street involving both teachers and students. It is important that everyone has open communication in order to create the best program and have as many students feeling as prepared as possible.

It is vital that all students feel sure of their ability to fight off attackers and although the program in place is a great resource, it is critical that improvements be made and discussed moving forward in order to continue to protect students now and in the future. The responsibility is ours to make our future safe.