Corpun file 19666
The New York Times, 14 June 1905
Children's Court Rules in Favor of Corporal Punishment.
Spank Them, Teachers, Says Justice Olmsted
Two lads in for the rod
If Parents Don't Want Them Put in Institutions, Teachers May Use the Birch.
Click to enlarge
The question of whether disobedient pupils may be whipped in
public schools was discussed yesterday afternoon in the
Children's Court, where Jacob Sarowitz, eleven years old, of 4
Attorney Street, and Harry Gordon, ten years old, of 115 Division
Street, were arraigned before Justice Olmsted on complaint of
Sarowitz was charged by his Principal, Miss Ellen Conway, with
playing truant, and Gordon was accused of stealing a gold ring
from his teacher, Miss Anna M. Weiss. Both boys admitted that
they were guilty.
Justice Olmsted, after reprimanding the lads, decided that
they should be punished more severely, but yielding to the pleas
of their parents, said he would not send them to an institution.
He finally decided to act under a new form of commitment by which
they or any other pupils who are disobedient or commit small
crimes may be punished by teachers in the schools. This means
corporal punishment, and, according to Justice Olmsted, is
Children brought before him, he declares, may be punished by
teachers just the same as they would by their parents. He bases
this ruling on Section 713 of the Penal Code, which says:
"When a person under the age of 16 years is convicted
of a crime he may, in the discretion of the court, instead of
being sentenced to a fine or imprisonment, be placed in
charge of any suitable person or institution willing to
receive him, and may be kept there until reaching his
majority or for a shorter term, subjected to such discipline
and control of the person or institution receiving him as a
parent or guardian may lawfully exercise over a minor."
Justice Olmsted decided to place Sarowitz under the
guardianship of Miss Conway, the Principal of Public School No.
120, for a year, and Miss Regina Cregin, the Principal of School
No. 42, will have the same control over young Gordon.
Whenever these Principals see fit they may use the rod or
strap on the lads. No interference can be made by the boys'
parents. To-day Sarowitz and Gordon probably will receive the
punishment that is in store for them.
Justice Olmsted believes this section of the code an excellent
one, as it gives him the opportunity of permitting public school
teachers permission to punish all children they bring before him.
Corpun file 19665
The New York Times, 15 June 1905
Spanking Decision Stirs Up Educators
Shall the Law or Mere Board Rules Prevail?
Board of Education Dodges
Two Women School Principals in a Dilemma, and Bad Little Boys
Click to enlarge
The best-behaved boy in Public School No. 120, in Broome
Street, yesterday, was ten-year-old Jacob Sarowitz. Over at
Public School No. 42, in Orchard Street, Harry Gordon, of a
similar age, seemed to be trying to win a medal for good conduct.
Until two days ago these boys held all records for truancy in the
east side schools, but since they stood before Justice Olmsted in
the Children's Court and the Justice committed them to the
guardianship of their respective Principals, Jacob and Harry have
been lost in a reverie, for the Judge has invested their
school-teacher guardians with full parental jurisdiction in all
family matters, from clean collars to woodshed sťances.
The Principals in question are, however, more than a little
astonished and dismayed at the action of the court. Miss Regina
Crigen, as Principal of School 42 and Miss Ellen Conway of School
120, are aware that there is a by-law of the Board of Education
which forbids corporal punishment. Justice Olmsted, on the other
hand, says with regard to the fate of Jacob Sarowitz and Harry
Gordon that if either of them needs corporal punishment it is the
right and the duty of the newly appointed guardians to see that
it is administered, "regardless of any law or regulation
prohibiting corporal punishment by a school officer."
Early yesterday Associate Superintendent Clarence E. Meleney
called at Public School 120, and to him Miss Conway unfolded the
dilemma. This was the first that Mr. Meleney had heard of the
"Briefly, the matter seems to stand this was,"
explained Miss Conway. "Jacob Sarowitz was a chronic truant.
I tried everything to cure him. Besides that, he was mischievous,
and he stole pencils. Yesterday I caused him to be sent to the
Children's Court. Justice Olmsted said he had only two courses
open to him -- to send this boy and another boy from Miss
Crigen's school to an institution, or commit them to the
guardianship of Miss Crigen and myself, one to each, with all
perquisites and privileges. To-day I received this letter from
the court, which is a sort of commission."
Mr. Meleney looked over the letter, which informed Miss Conway
that Justice Olmsted had taken advantage of Section 713 of the
Penal Code, which provides that a minor convicted of a crime may
be placed in the guardianship of any suitable person who shall
have all the rights and privileges of a father -- or a mother, as
in this case.
When Associate Superintendent Meleney arrived at that point in
the commission which gave Miss Conway authority to administer to
Jacob Sarowitz "corporal punishment ... regardless of any
law or regulation prohibiting corporal punishment by a school
officer," he folded up the letter and said severely that the
matter would be looked into.
Meantime Miss Julia Richman, District Superintendent, was sitting
over her morning mail wondering what had befallen her. On the
previous day she had written to Justice Olmsted about a
mischievous schoolboy named Harry Heilman, who was convicted in
April for stealing 30 cents from a schoolmate, and paroled on
suspended sentence. Again Harry lapsed from grace, and Miss
Richman so reported to the Justice, suggesting that the
suspension of sentence be revoked. The morning mail had brought a
reply from Ernest K. Coulter, deputy clerk of the Children's
Court, which read in part:
In view of the circumstances of the case Justice Olmsted has
directed me to say that he would not feel justified in revoking
the suspension of sentence and committing Harry Hailman to an
institution, but if you will accept the commitment the court will
place the boy under your control for a year under the provisions
of Section 713 of the Penal Code.
If such an order were made by the court the person in whose
charge the child were placed have the right to administer
corporal punishment if it were deemed necessary in a parental
capacity and not as a school teacher. The person in charge would
have legal authority to take any course that a parent might
lawfully adopt to compel obedience.
Click to enlarge
Up to last night Miss Richman had not recovered enough from the
surprise of finding herself in control of a growing boy to frame
a suitable reply.
Miss Conway, at Public School No. 120, got no chance to make a
reply. She said to a reporter:
"This greatness was thrust upon me. I really don't know what
I am going to do. I am sure I always try to be a mother to all of
the boys in this school, but -- but -- really. I confess that I
am at a loss. I dare not administer corporal punishment in the
school: there is a by-law against it: and yet the law is greater
than the by-law."
"Perhaps," suggested the reporter, "Justice
Olmsted means that you are to make notes in school about Jacob
Sarowitz's behavior, and lie in wait for him at the school door
when he comes out."
"Well, hardly think so," laughed Miss Conway, "but
I know what I am doing. Jacob Sarowitz and all the others have
heard about this, and now that they know I have the legal power
to whip them they may be careful about being wicked."
At yesterday's meeting of the Board of Education, a letter was
read from Associate Superintendent Meleney with reference to
Justice Olmsted's action, reviewing the situation. One member of
the board declared that this was a downright
"reflection" upon the by-law covering corporal
punishment. Another took sides with the bench and said that it
was "downright sensible." He drew attention to the
latter part of the letter to Miss Conway, which read:
There has been much complaint on the part of school authorities
that they do not have wider powers of discipline. Justice Olmsted
has been thinking for some time of taking advantage of the
section of the Penal Code which gives the court the right to
confer the widest possible powers on an individual who will take
charge of a child who has been convicted. As I this is the first
commitment of this kind, the result will be watched with
considerable interest and the court will be glad to hear of the
Click to enlarge
The Board of Education agreed unanimously, however, that Justice
Olmsted's decision was highly important. It was referred to the
Committee on By-laws.
Justice Olmsted, when seen late in the afternoon, was quite happy
about his action.
"The situation is this," said he. "The public
schools expect the police and the courts to discipline the
children for them. When I was at school and I stole teacher's
lead pencil or climbed on the window and made faces at the other
boys, I was thrashed. Nowadays the children get a scolding, and
if that does no good they are brought to the Children's Court by
a strapping policeman.
"The usual course is to send them to an institution to be
'institutionalized,' but I think the little mischievous fellows
-- and that's all they are, mischievous -- should get a chance.
They need the spanking, and although I am not starting a crusade
against the Board of Education's by-laws, I think my action is
the correct one in specific cases. Section 713 covers the
"Do you think the Board of Education will make any fuss
about --?" ventured the reporter.
"Fuss?" demanded Justice Olmsted. "Fuss about
what? Section 713 is the law, isn't it. Very well, then. You
can't fuss with an order of the court!"
About this website
Search this site
Country files: Judicial CP in USA
Archive up to 1975: USA