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School CP - July 2004
Toledo Blade, Ohio, 11 July 2004
To spank, or not to spank?
Views on corporal punishment differ
By ANN WEBER
Rare is the workplace where the boss could get away with smacking an employee who's out of line.
But when the boss is a parent and it's their young child who acts up, a swat to the backside is perfectly legal. Some would say it's advisable.
Times are changing, though. In Sweden, Germany, Israel, and 10 other nations, parents who spank their child could get slapped themselves - with assault charges. British lawmakers decided last week not to join those nations, voting down a ban on parents spanking their children but making it easier to prosecute those who abuse their children by spanking.
Nor is the United States among those nations that outlaw corporal punishment of children in the home as well as at school, but attitudes and laws have changed significantly since "Spare the rod and spoil the child" was a widely accepted view.
"In the 1960s and '70s when I was raising my children, over 90 percent of Americans thought that corporal punishment was appropriate. Now it usually averages around 50 percent or less of people who still support it," said Nadine Block, director of the Center for Effective Discipline, Inc., in Columbus, which is working to end spanking.
"The more you spank children, the more they will be harmed," Ms. Block said, adding that spanking has been associated with increased aggression in children and other types of negative behavior. Parents have nonphysical alternatives that work as well or better, she asserted.
On the other side of the issue are some researchers and parenting authorities who say that "nonabusive" spanking has a role in disciplining children, especially when it's used along with reasoning and consequences such as timeouts and taking away privileges or toys.
And in between the people in the "never" and "sometimes" camps are loving parents who may believe spanking isn't right but find themselves doing it anyway, acting out of anger or frustration, or believing it is warranted for the most serious types of misbehavior.
Ohio state law "doesn't address the issue of spanking," said Dean Sparks, executive director of Lucas County Children Services. "The law says that you may not injure a child."
Mr. Sparks added that, "Child abuse is defined as any injury that is inflicted by other than accidental means, except that a child evidencing corporal punishment is not an abused child unless that injury results in serious bodily harm."
He said people who do choose to spank their children should never use an object - a belt, for example. Secondly, "don't spank kids when you're angry, because that's when abuse is more likely to occur."
On a personal level, Mr. Sparks - a father and grandfather - said he thinks it's never OK to spank a child. "Short-term, it will change an immediate behavior, but in terms of internalizing the controls that we're looking for people to have, spanking isn't effective," he explained.
"I think it also teaches children that violence is an answer to the problems that we face," Mr. Sparks said.
Corporal punishment of school children is banned in 28 states, including Michigan. Ohio has a partial ban: local school boards can approve it following a series of required procedures.
The Center for Effective Discipline reported this spring that 28 of Ohio's 612 school districts paddled a total of 481 students in the 2002-2003 school year, the most recent statistics available. Most of the districts listed in the center's report are in the southern and eastern part of the state; none were in northwest Ohio. The number of students who were paddled that year was up slightly from the previous three years, but down dramatically compared with more than 7,000 a decade earlier, and more than 68,000 paddled in Ohio public schools in 1983-84.
Spanking opponents say that while the rest of the world is becoming more enlightened about the practice, Ohio is heading in the opposite direction. They cite a bill approved in May by the House granting schools immunity from civil lawsuits for injuries to students caused by physical discipline. The measure now goes to the Ohio Senate for action.
Among those who conditionally support spanking is Robert E. Larzelere, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. He has studied parenting for 20 years, doing both original research and reviews of other researchers' findings.
"Under some circumstances, spanking can be effective," he said in a telephone interview, emphasizing that he is not endorsing "what some parents might do in the name of discipline to abuse their children."
Mr. Larzelere said his research found that spanking gets results when it's used to back up milder disciplinary tactics that aren't working. He looked specifically at children ages 2 to 6 who didn't cooperate, or reacted defiantly, when parents initially tried to correct their behavior by reasoning with them or imposing less severe penalties - for example, a child who refuses to sit for a timeout.
The escalation approach - from reasoning to nonphysical discipline to nonabusive physical punishment - works better than reasoning or punishment alone, and makes it more likely that the child will cooperate the next time around without parents having to resort to spanking, according to Mr. Larzelere.
Michele Knox, Ph.D., disagrees, declaring that spanking is never acceptable. "Physical punishment of children is probably the most frequent precursor to the abuse of children. When we talk to abusers, usually they tell us it started with spanking or physical punishment of some kind, where they really went into it to teach their child some kind of lesson." They end up hitting more, and harder, than they intended, she said.
The clinical child psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Medical College of Ohio is on the front lines of the spanking issue: as the mother of two young children, community coordinator for ACT (Adults and Children Together) Against Violence, and author of a free pamphlet for parents titled "They're Driving Me Crazy!"
"Part of the reason why I got into this topic professionally is because I became a parent and I realized, these kids are very frustrating. I love them dearly; it's a very rewarding thing to be a parent, but to be a parent of young children is a very hard thing to do. It takes an immense amount of frustration tolerance that I think most of us don't have," she said. "Parents are allowing themselves to vent on little people, and I think that's why spanking continues."
Children need discipline, structure, and consequences, she went on. "But they don't need to be hit. We do not have to be violent to make our point."
People need to question and change their belief that spanking is effective, said Seattle-based parent educator and author Elizabeth Crary. "It's actually never more effective than other tools," she asserted.
Among more than 30 books she has written for parents and children is Without Spanking or Spoiling: A Practical Approach to Toddler and Preschool Guidance (Parenting Press, 1979). It has sold more than 160,000 copies.
Not every child who is spanked will suffer long-term psychological or emotional damage, just as not every smoker will get lung cancer, Ms. Crary said. But the child who is raised without being physically punished develops what she called "a fuller toolbox" for dealing with problems.
That requires effort on the parents' part.
"It's much easier to hit than to be thoughtful. But it's much more effective in the long run to be thoughtful," she said.
© 2004 The Blade.
WMC-TV5 on line, Memphis, Tennessee, 22 July 2004
City schools to ask parents about spanking
Memphis schools officials plan a telephone survey of parents' feelings toward paddling.
It will likely begin after school starts next month.
More than 200 people spoke out at a forum last month, some passionately objecting to paddling -- others strongly defending it.
At that meeting, 55 percent of those attending wanted an end to corporal punishment in the schools.
Data from the schools show nearly 98 percent of the almost 14-thousand paddlings last school year were administered to black students.
Nearly three-quarters of students paddled were boys. More than half were in middle school. The same data reveals more than 18-hundred kids were paddled for cutting classes and violating dress codes -- infractions for which schools policy doesn't allow corporal punishment.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2004 WorldNow and WMCTV, a Raycom
Media station. All Rights Reserved.
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2004 WorldNow and WMCTV, a Raycom Media station. All Rights Reserved.
Vero Beach Press-Journal, Florida, 23 July 2004
Students' input hard to find in code
By Kurt Ludke
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- Indian River County Schools students gave their input on revisions to the district's code of student conduct in May, but the final version has few of the changes they asked for.
One notable change in the recently approved code is the omission of any reference to paddling. Members of the Superintendent's Student Advisory Council wanted a ban on corporal punishment, particularly for middle- and high-school students.
Although the new code has no mention of paddling, it is still in the district's arsenal of possible punishments, said Melinda Gielow, the district's director of health and student services.
Gielow noted there are strict procedures the School Board must follow if a child is to be spanked.
There have been very few reports of paddling in Indian River County in recent years, but it is still allowed under state law. In 2001, St. Peter's Academy Dean Dale Dawkins served probation and attended an anger-management course after pleading no contest to a battery charge involving an 8-year-old student at the charter school.
The other major issue students had with the code of conduct dealt with the dress code, which they said is enforced inconsistently.
The School Board made no changes to the enforcement of dress-code violations, Gielow said.
"There's a fine line" between strict enforcement the dress code and making children miss class time, she said.
Gielow noted the dress code varies from school to school, but said that "shouldn't be an issue."
"You follow the rules of the school you're attending," she said.
The district's three magnet schools require uniforms, but the rest do not.
Copyright 2004, TCPalm. All Rights Reserved.
Bogalusa Daily News, Louisiana, 23 July 2004
School paddlings are option
By Marcelle Hanemann
BOGALUSA -- The Bogalusa City School District is working to refine and update its policy book. And corporal punishment and hazing are two issues that have drawn some of the additional ink.
The district has reportedly had a policy that allows corporal punishment for decades although the punishment, which involves paddling students, had fallen out of favor. Now the district wants to remind parents that the punishment is an option. And the committee that is reworking the policy book has asked school board approval to add an opt-out clause for parents.
The additional language says that parents who do not want corporal punishment used on their children must go to the child's school and sign a statement to that effect. Raymond Mims suggested that in order to make sure all parents are aware of the policy, it should instead require parents who would allow the punishment to sign a statement.
But Stephanie Hoppen, supervisor of child welfare who presented the proposed revision, said that could present problems because of the large number of parents it would involve. of students in grades four through 12 are reportedly already required by law to sign that they have read and will comply with their child's school policy. Dee Dee McCullough asked that local policy also include parents of students in grades pre-K through third.
Hoppen agreed. And the board approved the inclusion of the opt-out procedure.
Another addition to the Bogalusa policy book involves language on hazing, which has just been required by state law.
Hoppen said the committee added hazing to the existing policy on bullying, intimidation and harassment. The board approved the addition.
Dallas Morning News, 24 July 2004
Age-old controversy: Is paddling right, how much?
District within law to paddle, but family says it went too far
By Mira Oberman
GROVETON, Texas -- Three solid whacks with a wooden paddle.
That's all it took to make a little boy's bottom bleed.
His mother said it was a beating.
His doctor said the bruises were "consistent with traumatic injury."
His school trustees said it was a matter of policy. And they would do it again.
Area district's policies
Dallas: Corporal punishment allowed only if parents sign a permission slip
Highland Park: Prohibited
Richardson: Only with parents' permission
Plano: Allowed, but doesn't use it
DeSoto: Only with parents' permission
Duncanville: Only with parents' permission
Lancaster: Allowed, but only principals can administer punishment with parental permission
Irving: Allowed for minor infractions
Grand Prairie: Allowed with parental consent, but some campuses have stopped using it
Despite a decades-long grassroots effort to ban corporal punishment in schools, many districts -- including some in the Dallas area -- allow teachers or administrators to paddle students to keep discipline in the classroom.
The district attorney in East Texas' Trinity County is preparing to ask a grand jury this month to decide whether the injuries 11-year-old Justin Causby suffered were serious enough to charge his gym teacher with felony injury to a child. Justin's parents say they plan to sue the district in federal court for violating his civil rights.
"You send your kids to school for an education," Lynn Causby said. "My son was wearing green boxer shorts. You could see blood through his underwear."
The Causby family has received letters and phone calls of support from across the country.
But state laws aren't on their side. According to the Texas Penal Code, the use of nondeadly force against a child by a teacher or administrator is justified to "further the purpose of education or to maintain discipline in a group." While educators are not permitted to use "excessive" force, they are granted immunity by the state from liability and disciplinary action when they follow district guidelines.
In Justin's case, the Groveton Independent School District determined that his gym teacher did not use excessive force despite evidence of a bruised, red and swollen bottom.
"It was investigated thoroughly and seriously, and we found that he did not violate any policy, so nothing was done," said Superintendent Joe Driskell.
State supports district
The district's findings were supported by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which determined that the incident did not meet the statutory definition of abuse or neglect.
"Corporal punishment is allowed," said department spokesman Geoff Wool. "If it's done in a measured, nonviolent way, it's not considered abuse."
Mrs. Causby disagrees.
"What he did to my son is wrong," she said. "It has been going on in that school too long. There's a problem over there."
Mrs. Causby said Justin had never been in trouble. But on the fourth day of fifth grade, he couldn't keep up with the other children running laps. When he explained to his gym teacher that his asthma was acting up and he couldn't breathe, the teacher told Justin to pick up stray sticks in the schoolyard, break them in half and put them in a pile. Mrs. Causby said another student heard her son mutter "he sucks" under his breath and told on him.
The Causby family has gotten support from a network of advocates, academics and associations pushing for an end to corporal punishment in U.S. schools.
"When you look at national statistics, school districts that use corporal punishment tend to have lower education levels, higher truancy rates and higher measures of violence and vandalism," said Nadine Block, a retired school psychologist and director of the Center for Effective Discipline, a nonprofit group based in Columbus, Ohio.
Corporal punishment in schools has been banned in 28 states and more than 100 countries, Ms. Block said. But it is widespread in Texas, she said.
Texas ranks seventh in the nation for the percentage of students who are physically disciplined. Because of the size of the state, that's 22 percent of all students who are paddled in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
The practice perpetuates a cycle of violence, Ms. Block said.
"The more kids are hit, the more likely they are to hit their spouses and children" she said. "It has to end somewhere, and it should end in the school district."
Matters of student discipline in Texas fall under the jurisdiction of the state's 1,037 school boards. About 50 districts in Texas have banned corporal punishment while at least 293 districts allow it only when parents have given permission. But there is no state requirement for schools to get parental permission, said Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.
"Local control and community standards apply," she said.
The state confirmed 33 cases of physical abuse in schools in 2003.
Corporal punishment is still used by the Dallas Independent School District, although parents now must ask for it in writing.
"Houston has outlawed it, Plano has it but doesn't use it -- it's almost like Dallas is stuck in the Dark Ages," said Martha Stowe, director of the Injury Prevention Center of Greater Dallas, which lobbied to ban corporal punishment in the DISD.
Ms. Stowe said she didn't get far arguing that paddling was bad for students. So she's shifted tactics and is now telling educators that paddling could be bad for schools because of liability issues.
"This lawsuit [the Causbys say they will file] may be the very thing that turns it around," she said.
Groveton school district officials said they will continue paddling students, even if some parents ask teachers not to. Getting rid of corporal punishment would lead to a "decline in our class discipline," said Mr. Driskell, the superintendent. Leaving the decision up to the parents would create an unfair system where students would receive different punishments for the same offense, he said.
"The board supports it and wants to keep it," Mr. Driskell said. "It's something a lot of parents still believe in."
District Attorney Joe Ned Dean says corporal punishment needs to be used more often in schools. But after investigating the Causby case, he said it's best to let a grand jury determine whether the teacher, who has left the district for what officials said was a better job in another town, used sufficient force to be charged with the felony of injury to a child.
"You can have a spanking or you can have a beating," he said.
On the advice of his lawyer, the teacher involved declined to comment.
Ask people in Groveton what they think of corporal punishment and they'll give similar answers.
"I was spanked and I think I turned out OK," said Bobby Read, a volunteer at a local food bank. "There has to be a consequence to what they do."
Janine Maxfield's 11-year-old son, Melvin, has never been paddled. But she expects her 5-year-old, Cody, will be once he gets to school.
"If he needs it, sure -- within reason," she said. "Don't leave a mark on them. One or two swats, that's OK."
How much is too much?
What about the Causby case?
"That's too much," said Wanda Read, who volunteers with her husband at the food bank. "That's abuse if a child is paddled to the point where they're bleeding."
Mrs. Maxfield said she would sue if one of her children came home bleeding from a paddling.
Alma Allan, a State Board of Education member who is running without any major party opposition to succeed veteran Democratic Rep. Ron Wilson of Houston, plans to introduce a bill to ban corporal punishment.
"I've seen too many children abused in my 14 years as a teacher and 16 years as a principal," she said. "It is barbaric."
Though previous attempts failed, Ms. Allan said she hopes she will have more success.
"The times have changed," she said.
In the meantime, Mrs. Causby will be sending her son to school in a neighboring district.
Philadelphia Inquirer, Pennsylvania, 25 July 2004
Until proven guilty
Ugly child-abuse charges are leveled at a much-admired film-school director. Parents agonize. And mobilize. Months pass. The evidence evaporates. All charges are dropped. How can this be?
By Jennifer Lin
You see it week after week: yet another story about a teacher-coach-counselor-tutor-baby-sitter-priest accused of harming a child.
Predators who fondle, touch, smack, kiss, punch. Or worse.
It is the primal fear of every parent. You entrust your child to someone who then violates him when you're not there.
I felt that panic last summer. It came charging into our home in an unexpected letter from my son's camp director, Robert J. Clark Jr., founder of the Cinekyd filmmaking school in Willow Grove.
This is a letter I hoped would never have to be written. ...
I tried to make sense of what he was saying. My heart pounded.
Upper Moreland Township police ... spanking ... formal charges ... categorically deny.
And with that, I was pulled into the hysteria over child abuse, in which police, prosecutors and the media can become hounds in a death chase.
A day after his "Dear Parents" letter, Clark turned himself in to police. Photographers staked out the district court in Hatboro to catch him in handcuffs. Police paraded him on a "perp walk," while prosecutors demanded bail of $100,000 and a ban on any contact with children. Within hours of his arrest, his mug shot ricocheted across the Internet.
The charges against Clark - sexually tinged allegations about spankings - left me confused. He denied the accusations, but the reporter in me smelled smoke and the mother was terrified of fire.
If police and prosecutors were right about Clark, I would feel nothing but relief over averting a potentially perilous situation for my son.
And if they were wrong?
At the start of 2003, Clark had thought about ending Cinekyd, a year-round film school and camp. He had started the media arts program in his basement in 1976 after the Upper Moreland School District cut funding for a similar summer program that he ran.
"If you like it so much, why don't you do it yourself?" he said his wife had urged him back then.
And so he did.
Clark, 62, a former teacher and administrator for Upper Moreland schools, loved movies from the time he was a kid growing up in Philadelphia's Olney section. At Lowell Elementary School, he used to look out the window at the old Fern Rock movie theater on Fifth Street and daydream about sneaking into the cool darkness for a matinee.
With big-framed glasses and wavy hair, Clark had a dated look from the '70s. He was not a simple man. He could be pushy, controlling, impatient, intractable, short-tempered - and those were his words.
But the Cinekyd students - and there were 7,000 over the years - knew that the man who could scream "Get the lead out!" to lollygaggers might also give you a hug when you left for the day.
Cinekyd had grown from the basement operation to a stand-alone studio with a back lot on busy Terwood Road. As he planned his 27th season, Clark didn't know if he had the energy for it.
His father had passed away. He was pinched for money after settling the estate. And he had just learned he had an inoperable blocked artery.
"The odds for me were pretty pathetic," he said. "I was physically shot, totally broke."
And there was more.
In the fall of 2002, parents began telling him about calls from police. An investigator with Upper Moreland Township police, Detective John McCue Jr., was asking questions.
It started after the mother of a 14-year-old student complained to police that Clark had punished her son with spankings. The teen told investigators that it had happened three times in locked rooms with his pants pulled down and underwear on. He also said Clark would "kiss him on the lips and pat his rear end."
McCue tracked down other students. They told him that Clark used to give them paddy-whacks, but as a birthday tradition and not as punishment.
Brandon Goetz, 24, a former student who now works as a program coordinator for NBC Studios in Burbank, Calif., later called it a "harmless ritual."
"There were usually several birthday cakes waiting on the side," Goetz said. "My parents were there. I never felt ashamed or belittled."
Clark was not worried. "I could never see where they were going with this," he said.
"I guess I was just duplicating how birthdays were celebrated when I was growing up on American Street in Olney," he explained. "You got your choice of swats, noogies, punches, or whacks on the butt."
He said he stopped the spankings around 1999. "Times changed and so did we," he said.
But nine months after the investigation began, Montgomery County prosecutors came down with the full force of the law.
On July 8, 2003, Clark was charged with endangering the welfare of children, indecent assault, corruption of minors, simple assault, and harassment. Each charge eventually carried 12 counts, each representing a past or present Cinekyd student. He also faced three counts of false imprisonment for the teen who said he had been spanked behind locked doors.
Goetz was incensed to find his name among the victims.
So were many others. Dean Ruday, a Richboro podiatrist, demanded that prosecutors remove the name of his 15-year-old son from the arrest affidavit. Months earlier, his son had answered questions for investigators, but had no complaint himself with Clark. Yet the boy was named in the affidavit supporting criminal charges.
"You don't have a right to do this," Ruday told prosecutors. "I'm his parent."
But Ruday said he was told that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was acting on behalf of his son.
Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. said a victim of a crime did not have the final say about whether a prosecution moved forward.
"We thought the charges appropriate because we thought the conduct was inappropriate and should stop," Castor said.
At the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Norristown, Clark undressed for a strip search.
He was unable to immediately post the $100,000 bail - required in full.
His narrow cell, with only a metal cot and small window, reminded him of a set Cinekyd students would have built for a police drama.
Sleep that night came in fits and starts. He woke at dawn to an anchorman's voice from a television down the hall.
... And the founder of an award-winning media arts program in Willow Grove is accused of spanking boys and kissing them on the lips. ...
Who were they talking about, Clark thought angrily. He had never gotten a speeding ticket, let alone been arrested. He was well known in the community and counted powerful politicians and business people among his supporters.
But in his dark cell, all of that seemed like the life of another person.
A nurse who came by to check on him asked him, "Are you thinking of suicide?"
"Geez, not yet," he replied darkly.
"We take comments like that seriously," the nurse replied. She waited for an explanation.
Clark paused. "In the last 12 hours, my life as I know it has been completely turned upside down.
"I truly don't know how I feel."
Two days after Clark's arrest, Cinekyd reopened for its second week - without him. He spent only a night in jail, but the court barred him from any contact with children.
The studio was busier than usual with anxious parents and returning campers. We decided to send our son back, despite our questions.
It helped to see so many other parents spring to Clark's defense. They called him a strong role model, who taught life skills and encouraged young artists.
Parents and alumni volunteered to write letters, make phone calls, raise legal fees. They bombarded a school Web site with notes of endorsement and encouragement.
Taking over for Clark was his daughter, Becky, 31, who had worked with him for years. She greeted everyone with a smile, brittle with strain.
Alumni stopped by to help, including Joe Iuliano Jr., 20, a sophomore at Syracuse University. Iuliano managed the college TV station. He gave Clark full credit for getting him started in television.
Having spent seven years at Cinekyd, Iuliano was curious about who had complained to police.
Becky beamed when she saw him. "I'm glad you don't feel any ill will, that there's no grudge."
Iuliano was puzzled. "What are you talking about?"
Now Becky was confused. She showed him the affidavit supporting her father's arrest. His name was among the students who said they had been spanked.
"What?" he snapped. "This is wrong, this is all wrong!"
Iuliano explained that McCue, the Upper Moreland detective, had called his Langhorne home in the fall. His father had given McCue his son's cell-phone number, but Iuliano said he had never spoken to the detective.
"Here's this legal document that's holding Mr. Clark's back up against the wall and my name was attached to it," Joe said. And with the sexual overtones of the charges, "it just made me sick."
(McCue deferred all questions to the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office. Castor said the detective had a different recollection, that he had interviewed Iuliano by phone. When asked whether the detective had notes of his conversation, Castor said, "Not that I know of.")
Life at Cinekyd returned to normal - for 24 hours.
On the second morning, Upper Moreland squad cars with lights flashing pulled into the Cinekyd parking lot, followed by a TV van and a radio reporter.
Teen counselors hurriedly led the 50 or so younger children to the back lot. Someone ordered pizza as a distraction.
Detectives combed the black-walled studio, editing rooms, and offices, rifling through file cabinets, shelves and closets. They packed up 288 videotapes, a laptop, another computer, floppy disks, photos.
They finished just in time to make the noon news.
Parents were furious. Why did they have to search the place when the children were there? Why tip off the media?
But the children were more resilient than grown-ups realized. As the police pulled away, they ripped apart pizza boxes and scrawled messages, holding them up in protest, as in the movie Norma Rae.
One read: "We're not leaving!"
Camp ended in late July with a wrap party for Zodiac, a suspense movie the kids had been filming all summer.
As with every other summer movie project, Clark had written the script. But this time, he stayed with his sister a mile or so away and worked from her dining-room table.
From the start, Clark's family backed him. He was a divorced father who had raised seven children - Becky, two adopted sons, and four foster sons, all grown. His youngest foster son was a videographer on The Apprentice. An adopted son was a police officer in a neighboring township.
The case against Clark intruded in humiliating ways. At his granddaughter's first birthday, Clark arrived early - and, because of the terms of his bail, left before other guests arrived.
One Saturday in August, while shopping at a supermarket, Clark flipped through The Inquirer at the checkout and saw an article about his case.
Police had filed a second affidavit that added four more students to the complaint. The affidavit also included an allegation from an unnamed former student, now in his 40s, who said he had been molested by Clark as a teen.
"I almost keeled over," Clark said.
Clark said the man had attended Cinekyd for years and later worked at the school as an adult volunteer.
"He sure as hell wasn't molested by me," Clark said.
Attempts to contact the man in the affidavit for comment were unsuccessful.
So many supporters showed up for Clark's preliminary hearing in Hatboro on Aug. 20 that the session had to be moved to a bigger room.
From the start, investigators had given the impression, echoed in the media, that a groundswell of traumatized students was complaining about Clark. What did these teens have to say?
Calling for order, District Justice Paul Leo warned supporters in the standing-room-only crowd that he would not tolerate any outbursts.
Then a mop-topped older teen described the birthday ritual of spankings. He told the judge he had felt "ashamed" by it. I winced.
Next was the government's lead witness, whose complaint had triggered the investigation. Husky and tall, the square-faced 14-year-old said he had gotten birthday paddy-whacks, as well as spankings for punishment.
Most troubling was an incident in the summer of 2002. The teen testified that Clark, angry that he and another boy had been goofing off, took them to a storage garage, locked the door and, with the boys kneeling side by side on chairs with only their underwear on, gave them wallops.
I braced myself for similar accounts. There were a dozen "victims," after all. But the next witness, a 16-year-old redhead, was nonchalant about the birthday spankings.
So was the next.
And the next.
None of those three had been spanked in punishment.
The redhead testified, "It wasn't a bad thing. Everyone was laughing, joking."
One teen had only witnessed the birthday spankings, never received one. Assistant District Attorney W. Todd Stephens pressed the boy: "Was there any occasion where Mr. Clark came in contact with your buttocks with his hand?"
Yes, the teen answered.
He'd lost a set of keys, then found them. Clark "just gave me a little pat and said, 'Next time, just give a little more effort.' "
Were these victims - or character witnesses? There was no hint of trauma in anything they said.
Upstairs in a holding room waited four other witnesses, two of whom, I later learned, were prepared to testify that they had never been spanked, and two others who saw the birthday paddy-whacks as an innocuous Cinekyd tradition.
However, Stephens never called them, saying later that he had already made his case for holding Clark for trial.
He also sent home early a fifth witness who had been in the garage with Clark's main accuser.
Learning this, Clark's attorney, Frank DeSimone, a high-profile Philadelphia lawyer, demanded that the boy testify. The district justice agreed.
Under oath, the teen said there had been no locked garage door and no spanking for him or the other boy.
He also said the only reason they ended up in the garage at all was that he, the witness, had to go there to look for a microphone. "We thought it would be a good place for a chat about being a leader and being a mentor," he said.
The district justice let stand all the charges, but reduced the counts. For the most serious imprisonment charge, however, he held the number of counts.
Of the witnesses that day, there was one embarrassed teen, one disturbing story, one outright contradiction to that story, three who shrugged it all off.
For many parents in the audience, this wasn't adding up.
At summer's end, Clark tried to get Cinekyd's fall session up and running. But it was a struggle. Attendance was down, and many parents doubted whether the school could survive.
DeSimone filed a motion to throw out the case. But it would take seven months from the time of Clark's arrest before a judge took up the matter.
On Feb. 4, 2004, Clark sat in the Norristown courtroom of Montgomery County Senior Judge Lawrence A. Brown. "It was a dark courtroom with high-hat lights," Clark later recounted with the eye of a screenwriter. "Judge Brown had a Spencer Tracy look to him."
Todd Stephens, the prosecutor, tried to enter as damaging evidence a one-minute film clip of a spanking, gleaned from the 288 videotapes seized last summer from Cinekyd.
But Brown refused: The clip was about 20 years old. The judge wanted evidence more recent than that.
'Are you sitting down?"
Frank DeSimone waited on the phone for Clark to reply.
"No, but I will," he answered.
"It's over," DeSimone explained. "He's dismissing all counts against you."
Clark was numb. He couldn't take the news in and had to call DeSimone back. "Did you call me 15 minutes ago?"
In an eight-page opinion, Brown was unequivocal.
"Given the world we live in," he wrote, "... the best thing that can be said about the defendant's conduct is that it was foolish; more in keeping with the puerile conduct expected of children rather than the teacher.
"But foolish is one thing; criminality is quite another."
The judge ruled that there was "not the slightest suggestion" that Clark had meant to harm, harass or annoy any of the boys, or that he had derived "any prurient sadistic pleasure" from spankings.
Even so, Brown added, under the state's criminal code, a teacher can use limited force to maintain discipline.
The judge said the prosecution's charges, all randomly spanning a period from 1996 to 2003, were "a shotgun approach."
The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office had until March 15 to file an appeal.
It did not.
How did this happen?
Why did police and prosecutors ignore what so many of the witnesses were telling them?
Why dismiss as unreliable the positive memories of adult alumni such as Brandon Goetz but view as credible the damaging testimony of a 14-year-old?
Why bring this case at all?
I showed up unannounced at the Upper Moreland Police Department one morning. But Detective John McCue said the only one who could discuss the case was Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor.
A few days later, Castor agreed to see me. Why did prosecutors, I asked, intervene on behalf of so many individuals who did not view themselves as victims or complain to police?
"Oftentimes children do not know when they are being victimized," Castor said. "One of the basic tenets of the criminal law is that a child is incapable of the rational thought and the understanding process to know when they are being victimized."
He continued: "And of course, when anybody is a victim of a criminal offense, it is the public that is victimized, not the individual person."
Castor said he had paid more attention to this case than usual. He decided not to appeal because he thought such action would be "fruitless."
"I always thought it was a close issue whether we should charge or not," he said. He cited Cinekyd's long history, the number of people who had attested to Clark's good character, the lack of documented physical injuries, and the number of reluctant victims.
But, Castor added, "the acts clearly did occur. I don't think there can be any question at least some of the kids did not want to participate, and there is the fact of the videotape, which is troubling to me, very troubling to me."
For Castor, a father of two, the 20-year-old clip of Clark spanking a boy in jest was the smoking gun.
The videotape showed a younger Clark reaching for a giggling boy of about 10 to put him across his knee. "This is right out of Leave It to Beaver," Clark said to the camera.
He poised his hand on top of the boy's rump and left it there. "This is Martin," Clark said, "... and this is [Martin's] behind." Martin, a rambunctious, squirming handful, could be heard laughing, "No, no, no," as Clark feigned a light spanking.
Said Castor: "When I view it, I see a guy feeling a little boy's butt, and if I saw someone doing that to my son, assuming I didn't punch 'im in the nose, I'd want police to arrest him."
On a rainy April Friday, more than 100 students, alumni and parents filled a banquet room to celebrate "Truth, Justice and the American Way." My son and I looked for our friends among the dozens of tables. He planned to return to Cinekyd this summer.
This was Clark's night.
Speaking from a podium, he told everyone with great understatement that he had never lived through anything like the last year. He thanked supporters, in particular his attorney.
"Let them see us together," he said, gesturing for DeSimone to join him, "where I'm not wearing handcuffs."
Though making light of his ordeal, Clark still had moments of anger and despair. He was energized about returning to Cinekyd. But he also understood that the odor of child-abuse charges, even when dropped, never fully washes out. He resented always having to explain himself and knowing that his mug shot was still floating around the Internet. "I can't un-Google the world," he said to me later.
Clark turned over the microphone, and more than a dozen people - current students, alumni, parents - waited in line to address him.
One was a man in his early 30s. He described himself as a kid as a royal "pain in the butt."
"At every turn in my life, people were willing to give up on me - a teacher, a counselor, whatever," the man said. "But from the day I got to Cinekyd until the day I left, this man wanted me to be more than I was - until it was who I was."
"The one person who was willing to see beyond 'what a pain in the butt' propelled me to do something with myself, have goals and aims and expect more of myself."
The man turned to embrace Clark.
This was Martin, the giggling boy from the 1986 videotape that prosecutors had wanted to introduce as evidence of Clark's deviance.
Jennifer Lin is an Inquirer staff writer.
Alamogordo Daily News, New Mexico, 29 July 2004
School report reflects on low crime in schools
By Elva K. Österreich
At Tuesday's school board meeting, Associate Superintendent Clarissa Johnson reported Alamogordo schools Quality of Education Survey results.
The report provides data on police-reported incidents at the schools regarding violence and vandalism.
"The data can be interpreted to demonstrate our relatively low incidence level for our district size," Johnson said, "and accent that staff are keenly tuned to keeping our schools safe and are quick to find and address potentially unsafe situations."
An additional report by Johnson, a discipline summary, reflects the many early interventions occurring in the schools, she said.
In Johnson's discipline summary, the total of student suspensions districtwide is 1,689, including 324 at Alamogordo High, 281 at Chaparral and 855 at Mountain View. Students receiving corporal punishment numbered 155 with 87 of those at Chaparral. The total number of students receiving detention and work service details were 3,314, with 1,420 of those at Alamogordo, 683 at Chaparral and 647 at Mountain View.
Copyright © 2004 Alamogordo News, a Gannett Co., Inc. newspaper.
Baton Rouge Advocate, Louisiana, 30 July 2004
Spanking banned in schools
St. James board OKs new handbook
By Debi Graham
LUTCHER - The St. James Parish School Board adopted a new
handbook Tuesday night that prohibits physical punishment of
students, and decided to postpone adding high school soccer
programs for now.
LeBlanc, who cast the one vote opposing adoption of the new policy, told other members he thinks schools are losing control when policies prevent teachers from using any type of physical discipline.
He said he opposed the handbook for the same reason he opposed the corporal punishment policy the School Board adopted earlier this month.
"I think it is better for the teacher to be in control of the classroom rather than the parents," LeBlanc said. The new policy was developed after parents raised objections to an incident at Lutcher Elementary in April. Teachers had punished 30 students by forcing them to kneel outside on the school sidewalk. A parent committee worked closely with school administrators to develop a new corporal punishment policy, which prohibits kneeling and other forms of physical punishment.
That new policy, which is included in the student policy
manual, says, "Students shall not be paddled, spanked,
forced to kneel or otherwise physically disciplined for
infractions of student conduct regulations." LeBlanc said he
felt the policy takes too much control away from teachers.
(Copyright 2004 by Capital City Press)
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