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The Houston Chronicle, Texas, 16 April 1997
Parents of teen file suit against private school
By George Flynn
A private school, cleared by a grand jury last month of criminal allegations that two students were physically abused, was sued for civil assault Wednesday by parents of one of the former students.
William H. and Karen K. Vidor, parents of 13-year-old Erik Vidor, filed the state district court suit against the Classical School for Brilliant Children, 4242 Richmond Ave. Also named as defendants were superintendent Alvin A. Jackson and staff members Kareeam Brown and Kenneth Kossi.
The suit said the student was physically mistreated by the staff last year. It said that the parents gained assurances that he would not be further mistreated, but on Nov. 12 he was held down and beaten with a paddle by Jackson after a confrontation with Jackson's son.
Jackson and the school have repeatedly denied any abuse of students. On March 17, a Harris County grand jury declined to return indictments against the superintendent in the matter. Jackson said he spanked the boy, but did not cause serious bruises as alleged by the parents.
Attorney Frederick F. Hoelke, who represents the family, alleged civil assault and battery, gross negligence and slander. The suit also accused Jackson of malicious prosecution for statements he allegedly made in retaliation to Harris County Children's Protective Services.
Unspecified damages are sought.
Jackson, who gained the nickname "Boom Boom" as a star football player at Penn State University, started the school five years ago. He has appeared as a behavioral specialist on television talk shows.
For a longer article on this case, including the picture of Erik Vidor's bruised backside, from the Houston Press of 24 April 1997, see the "No-spank" website
Reno Gazette-Journal, Nevada, 21 April 1997
Lawmakers seek budget harmony
By Brendan Riley, Associated Press
Lawmakers return here today to start the 14th week of the 1997 session with money panels from the Assembly and Senate sitting down to hammer out differences in their respective budget plans.
Other action today includes a Senate Human Resources and Facilities subcommittee session on SB 220, a bill that would allow 25 charter schools to be formed in the state, either through new schools or existing public schools.
Charter schools would be exempt from mandated courses of study, compliance with class-size reduction and restrictions on corporal punishment. But they'd have to administer statewide achievement and proficiency examinations and report those results.
The Munster Times, Indiana, 30 April 1997
Phil Wieland column
Increased violence has schools looking for new solutions
Dealing with disruptive students was no problem 40 years ago when Mr. Middleton patrolled the hallways of Hambden Elementary School. He looked like Dennis the Menace's father, but you didn't want to mess with him.
Walking up the stairs to his office, the only room on the second floor and situated so he could peer down on the school's main-level hallway, was roughly akin to approaching the gallows, only more painful.
Chances were a visit to the principal's office meant a paddling, one that would echo the length of the building. As rare as those disciplinary demonstrations were, that echo was enough to keep me on the straight and narrow.
But I'm a wuss. Nowadays, it has become accepted knowledge that, while paddling might improve the principal's golf swing, it did as little to deter disruptive classroom behavior as sleeping on an atlas does to learn the state capitals. Don't ask me how I know the latter.
Gradually schools have steered away from the philosophy of discouraging violence with violence and resorted to detentions, suspensions, expulsions and alternative schools.
Sauk Village District 168 Superintendent Thomas Ryan said kids used to face tougher punishment at home than that meted out at school. When the principal was done tenderizing your butt, he couldn't also ground you and take away TV until you were 40.
That's not the case today with two-career families and single-parent homes where children often are unmonitored. It's creating new problems that call for new approaches, such as the five-day suspension of a District 168 second-grader for bringing a dinosaur-shaped squirt gun to school.
"Historically there have been issues of violence, but they were isolated as opposed to the increasing frequency we are now experiencing," said Mary Jayne Broncato, former Joliet schools superintendent and now Illinois associate superintendent for education innovation and reform.
"It's reflective of society and something people in the schools were never trained for. The challenge is how do you make sure the environment is safe without generating an atmosphere of fear," Broncato said.
"All handle it differently, and there is no right way to do it," she said. "As we get more experience, we can learn from our mistakes and from each other how to deal with the practical matter that guns and weapons are a tremendous concern.
"You can't really develop a policy that will anticipate every circumstance. It has to be flexible to interpret each situation. But local districts reflect the feelings of the community and it might be that the administration is putting in place what the community wants."
The legal cost
Suspending a second-grader for a squirt gun seems a little like using nukes on mosquitoes. Ryan said the squirt gun could have had a lethal fluid, which is true. If it did, it's a police matter. If not, we're back to the nukes.
Hammond schools had cases of first-graders bringing real guns to school, but because they were first-graders, they weren't thinking about violence on classmates, Assistant Superintendent Thomas Knarr said. All they wanted to do was show their friends.
The administration's response was to put the kids up for expulsion, but with a condition. The children would be allowed back in school if the parents agreed to get them counseling. With squirt guns, the child's age and previous record are taken into consideration.
District 168's policy is understandable in light of today's get-rich-quick mentality, which forces schools to err on the side of caution to avoid charges of neglecting children's safety.
The intimidating echo of the paddle has been replaced by something even more terrifying. The phone call from a lawyer.
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