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Meridian Booster, Lloydminster, Alberta, 1 May 2005

Sask. schools smack down corporal discipline

Saskatchewan schools are now sparing the rod, opting to correct bad behavior, rather than physically punish.

By Leo Paré

Lloydminster Meridian Booster — Saskatchewan schools are now sparing the rod, opting to correct bad behavior, rather than physically punish.

Saskatchewan Learning Minister Andrew Thompson announced an amendment to the Education Act this past Tuesday that would see corporal punishment, such as the infamous strap, banned as a form of punishment in the province.

Saskatchewan will become the seventh province to prohibit corporal punishment in schools, but Alberta, however, still lacks clear legislation regarding corporal punishment in schools.

Leading the charge against corporal punishment in Saskatchewan has been the Children's Advocate, who said banning violent discipline shows that Saskatchewan values its children.

"Since 1996, Saskatchewan's Children's Advocate has recommended that the Education Act be amended in this regard," said SCA spokesperson Glenda Cooney.

SaskLearning defines corporal punishment as a form of discipline that uses a strap, cane, hand, foot, etc. to punish.

Gillian McCreary, assistant deputy minister of learning, said although corporal punishment has essentially become an extinct practice in the province, the government felt it was necessary to legally state that it is no longer an acceptable disciplinary measure.

"The Education Act never explicitly dealt with corporal punishment," said McCreary. "It said, 'Students were required to submit to any discipline that would be exercised by a kind, firm and judicious parent.' So years ago, before we knew better and developed mental psychology … we spanked children and strapped kids in school."

McCreary said years of research have linked corporal punishment to aggression and anti-social behavior in students, which prompted a 'caring and respectful' school policy in Saskatchewan classrooms.

"Schools have codes of conduct, and clear consequences for student behaviour that exclude any form of corporal punishment," she said. "We know from child development experience and theory that this form of punishment doesn't contribute to the nurturing of problem solvers and citizens. Using aggression on children usually begets aggression."
Lashburn high school principal Murray McDonnell said corporal punishment is an outdated measure, with no place in today's schools.

"I don't think there is a philosophy of punishment at all anymore," said McDonnell. "We have to correct behavior, and you don't correct behavior by punishing."
McDonnell said in his years as a teacher he was witness to corporal punishment, but has never personally administered it or believed in it.

"Coercive punishment is useless as a tool, because the goal we want to achieve is first of all to correct the behavior. And secondly to ensure that the person who has misbehaved becomes a good, upstanding, participating member in the community of the school," said McDonnell. "Coercion doesn't get their hearts. You get only lip service, and it teaches a totally wrong lesson."

Alberta MLA Lloyd Snelgrove said he sees no harm in the appropriate use of corporal punishment in schools, and that there is a clear definition between beating and discipline.

"I went to school as long as most people and I got the strap the odd time. But guess what – it didn't hurt a bit, but it made us understand there was consequences for what you do," Snelgrove said. "If anybody can look around this world right now, and tell me that the cockeyed way we're raising kids is better than it was a generation or two ago, then they're simply not seeing what I'm seeing."

© 2005 Lloydminster Meridian Booster

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