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School CP - June 1996
Bermuda Sun, 14 June 1996
Spare the rod, urges children's advocateBy Meredith Ebbin
AN American paediatrician yesterday said that the "four strokes of the cane or strap" that will be allowed under Bermuda's new education code of conduct is "antiquated", "cruel" and "hurtful to the child."
Dr. Vincent Fontana, a American child abuse expert and frequent visitor to Bermuda, said the "spare the rod, spoil the child" approach may have worked 20 years ago. But it is not effective today, because young people have avenues -- gangs for instance -- that allow them to survive outside the home.
Neither were the children of earlier generations exposed, as today's children are, to "environmental poisons" such as "drug-infested neighbourhoods" and unwholesome television programmes.
And while children will not be harmed by a "couple of spanks in times of extreme emergency", he said the consistent use of corporal punishment is not the way to enforce discipline among children of today.
He said "loving discipline" is the way to teach children, but said it has to start when they are young -- not when they are pre-teens or teenagers.
Dr. Fontana this week criticized government for dragging its heels on coming up with solutions to tackle child abuse. He was asked by the Sun for his views on corporal punishment, one day after the Education Ministry released a new code of conduct for schools.
The code, which sets out policies for dealing with student behavioural and discipline problems, will continue to allow corporal punishment.
The student may only receive corporal punishment from a teacher of the same sex, it must be witnessed by another teacher and documented.
Education Minister Jerome Dill could not be reached to explain why his ministry opted to retain corporal punishment.
But reasons could be the strong community support for corporal punishment in Bermuda and the division even within the educational community on its effectiveness.
Senator Milton Scott, general secretary for the Bermuda Union of Teachers, said the union has not taken a position on corporal punishment because opinion among teachers is divided. "Some teachers are from the old school and others have a much more liberal approach," he said.
Livingston Tuzo, head of the Association of School Principals, said corporal punishment is not used very much. He predicted that it will ultimately be phased out.
Does it work?
He questioned the effectiveness of corporal punishment, but feels it should be left on the books "as a deterrent".
One educator, who declined to be named, predicted that Bermuda's Supreme Court could get a challenge from a parent opposed to the use of corporal punishment.
Lawyer Ian Kawaley said a legal challenge would be easy to do in Bermuda although it remained to be seen how the court would rule.
He said: "There is Commonwealth authority for the proposition that corporal punishment in government schools is cruel and degrading treatment, which is prohibited by commonwealth constitutions, including Bermuda's."
Dr. Fontana, who supports the work of children's advocate Sheelagh Cooper, said while the U.S. Supreme Court has not outlawed corporal punishment, its use in schools is being abolished all over the U.S. And it must be administered when a third party is in the room.
He said: "Corporal punishment is not the way to discipline children. Loving discipline is the way to teach children."
Asked how he would deal with a child was disruptive in school, he said: "Problems in schools stem from the home." He added: " Many parents are not aware of what proper parenting is all about." What is needed, is said, is parent-teacher alliances so that problems of parenting can be discussed.
Bermuda Sun, 21 June 1996
Earlier school report urged end to corporal punishmentBy Meredith Ebbin
THE headmistress of private school Mount St. Agnes Academy yesterday said she is disappointed at the education ministry's decision to retain corporal punishment in government schools.
Sister Judith Rollo said she is opposed to the use of corporal punishment, which hasn't been used at Mount St. Agnes for at least 25 years.
Sister Judith conceded there are many social problems today, and public school teachers have to deal with more children with problems than teachers in private schools.
But she questioned the effectiveness of corporal punishment, saying: "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."
The education ministry, in a new code of discipline released two weeks ago, has opted to retain it as form of punishment.
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