|www.corpun.com : Archive : 1976 to 1995 : US Schools Apr 1977|
Corpun file 23816 at www.corpun.com
Evening News, Newburgh, NY, 20 April 1977, p.16
Corporal Punishment in Schools Up to Local Boards
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Constitution does not stand in the
way of public school teachers and administrators who feel there's
no educational value in sparing the rod, the Supreme Court says.
Attorneys for the boys, joined by some national education groups,
had hoped the court would use the case to lay down strict
guidelines for teachers to follow when choosing to use corporal
punishment as a disciplinary tool.
Corpun file 23817 at www.corpun.com
Evening News, Newburgh, NY, 20 April 1977, p.16
Most NY Schools Ban Punishment
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- About three-quarters of New York's 3.5
million public school students are protected from any corporal
punishment by their local school boards, an official of the
state's largest teachers' union estimates.
Corpun file 23815 at www.corpun.com
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania, 21 April 1977, p.5
The Paddle Battle
BY A NARROW 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court has upheld the right
of public school teachers and principals to administer corporal
punishment, in the form of paddling, for disciplinary purposes.
But that's not likely to be the end of it -- especially in
It would be wrong to believe that paddling in general, and the
Supreme Court ruling in particular, will solve any basic
educational problems. Physical punishment at best controls the
symptom and not the causes of bad behavior. It is more an
instrument of socialization than education, and it exists as an
option, not a mandate, in the educator's arsenal.
Corpun file 14125 and 9290 at www.corpun.com
Clearwater Sun, Florida, 21 April 1977
Ruling Carries Clout To Kids
By Nancy Kalwary
Like fishermen who love to tell the story of their big catch to anyone within earshot, school children build legends around the principal's paddle.
They talk about the nail-studded slab and the holes the principal drilled to make the paddle swing faster, and they tell the tale of the kid who got whacked so hard he fell out of the window and was never seen again.
In recent years, paddling has come under scrutiny by parents who have claimed that a length of wood applied to the seat of the pants can constitute "cruel and unusual punishment."
One such case involved severe paddlings given to pupils in a Dade County junior high school. One student received more than 50 swats with a paddle for making an obscene phone call.
Monday, acting on that case, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a one-vote margin, ruled that nothing in the Constitution bars public school teachers from paddling unruly students.
Students at Clearwater's South Ward Elementary School know little about the Supreme Court and the Constitution, but they can tell you all about paddles.
Only five children have been paddled at the school this year, according to Principal Lewis Williams, but bad news travels fast.
First grader Scott McGrover got to see the paddle for himself.
"Mr. Williams told me, 'This is going to hurt me more than it is you,'" Scott said.
Then, according to a wide-eyed Scott, "Mr. Williams took the paddle out from behind the flowers. Boy, was it big! Then I had to bend over."
Scott stopped his description of the whack with that, but it took him only the bat of an eyelash to remember just how big the paddle was.
"It's this big," Scott said, extending his arms skyward. "But there aren't any nails on it -- yet."
Scott earned his paddling by fighting with a schoolmate.
"He called me a name so I hit him," he said.
What name? Scott wouldn't say.
"I don't think I ever want to get paddled again. Ever. I'm going to be good," he said.
Tony Ongarr, a third grader, admitted that the day he got three paddlings wasn't one of his better days.
"I've only had three paddlings and they were all in one day," Tony said. "Three is enough. I don't think I'll do those things again."
"Those things" were talking back to a teacher and two scuffles with other students.
Ben Sutton, a fifth grader, hasn't ended up on the wrong end of a paddle so far.
"I've heard kids talking about it, and they say they don't like it, so I don't want to get paddled either," said Ben.
"Parents feel that the worst thing to happen to a child in the elementary grades is to have the student suspended," Williams said.
Throughout the check mark process, parents are called for conferences with school personnel to help parents understand how children can be helped to overcome discipline problems.
Under the current discipline system at South Ward, several warnings to students and conferences precede a paddling.
"Usually the 'PTPNT' lecture works and I never have to warn a student again," Williams said. PTPNT is his code for "Promise To Paddle Next Time."
If a paddling does become necessary, county principals must tell students why they are being paddled and must have a witness to the punishment.
Williams also calls parents to explain why he is paddling their child and ask if parents have an objection.
"Most parents will say, 'Give him a good one and spare me the trouble,'" Williams said.
The Economist, London, 30 April 1977
American Survey: Education
Beat him when he sneezes
When any child in an elementary or secondary school calls his teacher names, steals the laboratory mice or is caught reading Playboy behind his desk, it is not unreasonable to spank him. So says the Supreme Court, in a decision which allows teachers to impose corporal punishment even to the point of "excess" or "medical damage" to impress good behaviour on their pupils. The court was considering a case from Dade County, Florida, where two boys, James Ingraham and Roosevelt Andrews, were beaten so severely with flat wooden paddles that they needed medical attention. A federal appeals court thought this a violation of the 8th amendment to the constitution, which outlaws cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court has disagreed, adding for good measure that children do not need the protection of the 8th amendment; it is meant for criminals in detention, not for pupils in the classroom.
The tradition of corporal punishment for children is an honorable one, linking the first president ("I cannot tell a lie; I did it with my little hatchet") to the latest, who was beaten with a peach-switch for spending too much time in his treehouse. The licence given to parents to spank their young was naturally extended to teachers, as surrogate parents instilling the virtues of honesty and duty. Despite the enormous changes in education since colonial times and a persistent feeling that school beatings might be wrong -- first publicly expressed by Horace Mann as early as the 1830s -- public opinion is still on beating's side. Only two states, Massachusetts and New Jersey, forbid it altogether under law. A Gallup poll taken last September showed, for the seventh time in eight years, that parents see lack of discipline as the greatest problem in schools.
"Discipline", however, takes many forms. Ten blows with a paddle, which may cow a seven-year-old in a tranquil country school, are a ludicrous defence for a teacher faced with a gun-toting teenager in a ghetto classroom. Last year over 204,000 aggravated attacks were carried out on teachers or classmates by pupils either in school or returning to school on purpose to commit them. Cases where spanking is appropriate to the crime are relatively few these days: the offence is either too violent or too trivial, risking the intervention of parents and courts.
Besides being ineffective, spanking may also make matters worse. Ten years ago a study by a presidential task force into juvenile crime in schools condemned corporal punishment as too often unbalanced and emotional on the teacher's side. A child's dress and appearance, his reputation and his colour are all weighted up in the decision whether to spank or not. As for the child, the beating labels him as delinquent in the eyes of other teachers and among his peers. It may mark the point where the attractions of the park the street or petty crime finally win against the new maths.
There is now a movement for a bill of rights for children which would cover all forms of abuse and neglect, whether at home or in institutions. It is largely because of this that instances of physical mistreatment of children are coming up much more frequently before the Supreme Court. The treatment of children in schools, however, is still a separate question. Classroom are accepted as areas open to public scrutiny and already governed by a prevailing law of moderate behaviour; teachers who use excessive force against pupils may always be sued for assault in both the civil and criminal courts. In that sense, in the view of the Supreme Court, the children are already protected enough.
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