In an effort to prevent their children from being bullied, many Palm Beach County parents are signing their kids up for martial arts classes. Instructors say the self-defense tactics taught are only to be used as a last resort.
The parents who brought their children to Vallari's Martial Arts of Boca Raton say bullying was a major factor in their decision.
"You don't want to ever have to go there," said Jodi Billington of Boca Raton. She wishes she did not even have to worry about bullying. "It is very scary."
Billington signed up her five year old son for karate, hoping to give him the mental and physical training to be able to stand up for himself when she cannot be there to protect him. "I wanted him to see how to defend himself," she said.
Meredith Rogovin of Boca Raton recently signed up two of her kids as well. "As a child, I unfortunately experienced it myself, so I would hate for my own children to go through that," said Rogovin.
Learning the tactics, she said, will help her children help themselves. "If a child does put my child up against a corner, he knows that he can defend himself," she said.
Mark Pearson, Master Instructor at Villari's Martial Arts, is tasked with teaching the kids. "We don't want to turn the kids into little fighters where every problem is solved by a punch," said Pearson.
He teaches the children how not to be an instigator, how to walk away from a bully and, yes, how to defend themselves as a last resort.
"The kids in here learn how to protect themselves and they learn that this is self-defense only," he said.
The Palm Beach County School District reported the highest number of bullying incidents in all of Florida between 2007 and 2010.
The district reported more than 5,600 incidents during the three year span. District authorities say the numbers have improved since that time, but admit bullying is still a big concern everywhere.