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The New York Times, 29 November 1896
Courts Are To Decide.
Contest over the Corporal Punishment Question.
A conflict of considerable magnitude and much bitterness, with several of the rich and influential charitable institutions of New-York on one side and the State Board of Charities on the other, is impending.
It has developed from an order of the State Board, issued in January, which demanded, under the penalties of the law, the discontinuance of corporal punishment in all institutions coming within the jurisdiction of the board. When the order was issued, many institutions with juvenile inmates used corporal punishment in various forms for the restraint and correction of the most troublesome of the children.
Every institution in the State complied with the order, although some of them did so under protest, in the belief that corporal punishment was necessary to the maintenance of proper discipline. The Westchester Temporary Home for Destitute Children, an incorporated charitable enterprise of White Plains, which has many people of wealth and influence in its directorate, appealed from the order to the Supreme Court, with the sympathy if not the active co-operation of several rich and powerful institutions of the same class.
Denies the Board's Power.
In the proceedings before the referee of the Supreme Court, Daniel W. Guernsey of Poughkeepsie, the opponents of the order denied the power of the board to enforce it, and took strong exception to the language of the preamble accompanying it. The preamble reads:
"That the board reiterates the opinion expressed in 1890 in its twenty-third annual report to the effect 'that whatever may be said in favor of or against corporal punishment by the whipping of children in families or in common schools, its tolerance in corporate and private institutions, without the natural restraints of parental instincts in the family and of public criticism in the public schools, is a tolerance that cannot be divorced from an inevitable tendency to abuse'; and, further, that once admitted as an exceptional or extraordinary remedy, its use inevitably extends until it becomes the chief reliance for enforcing discipline, and that familiarity with this form of correction leads to cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity, and is pernicious in its influence on both officers and inmates, and in the end detrimental to the discipline."
Several members of the incoming Legislature have been interested in the project to enact a law approved by those institutions which favor the moderate use of methods of corporal punishment. On the other hand the State Board of Charities is equally determined to enforce its order, and will meet the issue squarely if it arises at Albany.
Richard S. Emmett of 52 Wall Street, who will be one of the Westchester County delegation in the Assembly this Winter, is counsel for the Westchester Temporary Home. [...] He said yesterday to a reporter for THE NEW-YORK TIMES: [...]
"Those who differ with the State Board of Charities on this matter are impelled by the wish to do the best possible thing for the children. Their experience shows that since the Board's order was issued the relaxation of discipline has had a bad effect in many institutions. It is not uncommon for older children in restraint to defy their teachers and taunt them with their inability to enforce good behavior. The question is, shall such children be restrained and corrected where they now are, or be sent to the reformatories, where all the accessories of penal restraint will be before them to destroy their self-respect and familiarize them with the darkest side of life?"
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