|www.corpun.com : Archive : 1976 to 1995 : US Schools Dec 1976|
Corpun file 25356 at www.corpun.com
The Miami News, Florida, 6 December 1976, pp. 1A, 9A
Autographed paddles part of Mr. K's justice
By Ellis Berger
Assistant Principal Peter Kouchalakos regards himself as a father to the 1,800 students at Shenandoah Junior High; he administers discipline firmly and unilaterally, sometimes with an autographed paddle.
The signatures are those of students he has used the paddle on. When he runs out of space for more signatures, he files the paddle away in a cabinet beside his desk and breaks out a new one.
The paddles are made for him by students in wood shop. The student who made the paddle now in use was the recipient of two whacks on the backside earlier this year. He duly placed his own name on his creation and source of temporary discomfort.
"When I paddle a youngster, it's like a mother stroking her little child," Kouchalakos said. "It's done firmly, but there's no reason to use so much force that it causes resentment."
Kouchalakos believes paddling has a place in the public schools when used properly -- a subject the Dade School Board will tackle tomorrow and Wednesday.
He believes it should be administered by assistant principals like himself. But to the United Teachers of Dade (ETD), the paddle more properly belongs in the hands of classroom teachers, who are directly responsible for maintaining order and discipline.
Kouchalakos looks and talks like the epitome of the hard line, no-nonsense school administrator. The threat of the paddle is always there.
But Kouchalakos -- "Mr. K" to the students -- carries a relatively small stick (it's about six inches short of the two feet allowed under school board rules) despite his loud speech. For all his gruffness, he actually uses the paddle far less than many of his counterparts at other schools. And yet Kouchalakos remains one of the school system's staunchest advocates of paddling.
The 56-year-old Kouchalakos was raised with six brothers and two sisters in Boston by strict and loving Greek immigrant parents. Respect for their elders was one of the family's first rules.
Kouchalakos served with the army in Europe in World War II and, when it was over, played football at the University of Miami. Thirty years ago, he interned as a college student teacher at Shenandoah Junior High and has since spent his entire career there as a teacher, coach and administrator.
"In junior high, you have children at this age who are not afraid to do things that sometimes get them in trouble," Kouchalakos said. "You want to show them it's the behavior you're opposed to, not the child. When a child is paddled, it's for something he's been warned about, talked to about.
"The school has rules and regulations and children like that -- they want direction, their parents want them to be directed. The discipline has to carry the message.
"When a child is paddled, he knows why, and he tries like the dickens not to get it again. An alternative to paddling is suspension and I think throwing a kid out of school is like putting him on the highway and telling him to get out of town.
"Paddling is not a panacea. But it's necessary."
To Kouchalakos and others, the UTD demand that the school board order principals to give every teacher the right to paddle students would destroy whatever effectiveness the tool has. The UTD position is opposed by the Dade County Council of PTAs, county and area advisory committees and most administrators.
The Council of PTAs, in fact, has called for the abolition of paddling in the public schools, something that would require action by the legislature.
The teachers union wants a minimum of regulations on paddling: Individual teachers are the best judges of how many strokes, the kind of instrument, if any, and where and when a student should be paddled.
Under present policy, only a principal or assistant principal can decide whether a student can be paddled -- and by whom. An adult witness is required. A maximum of five strokes may be given to elementary students and seven to junior and senior high students. Parental permission is not necessary, nor do parents have to be notified.
In a position paper on corporal punishment, UTD Executive Vice President Pat Tortilla says the union is confident that those teachers and administrators who believe in corporal punishment will use it fairly and judiciously.
"If over-emphasis is placed on due process rights of students, respect for teachers and the authority of teachers will diminish proportionately," Tornillo says.
Teachers should be allowed to paddle students -- without checking first with a principal -- in the classroom, where infractions of school rules most often take place, Tornillo implies in his statement.
Other than supporting a statement that corporal punishment should not be administered in a way that would cause physical injury, Tornillo says such things as the size of the paddle or number of strokes should not be included in the policy.
"To include such specifics in an officially adopted rule on corporal punishment would subject this system to all kinds of legal attacks for the most miniscule deviations from the specifics prescribed," he says. "Additionally, it is not unlikely that the palm of the hand would be used in lieu of a paddle... "
On Oct. 21, the Dade County Council of PTAs adopted a position calling for an end to paddling in the public schools -- a position Tornillo says is irresponsible.
Until the law is changed, the PTA says, the school board should adopt strict regulations "to protect students from the possibility of harm which could result from that small percentage of persons who would abuse students." Parents should be notified before a child is paddled and a complete written report of the incident should be sent home, even if the parents don't request such information.
The Dade County Citizens Advisory Committee endorses the use of paddling under closely regulated conditions, with the principal still determining on a case-by-case basis when a child will be paddled and by whom.
"Some children, for whatever their special needs or background, respond best to physical discipline," the committee said. "For other children, punishment can be a humiliating and debasing experience and can start a chain of negative reaction. For serious problem offenders corporal punishment would have little meaning."
Area advisory committees also endorsed a policy that would limit the number of people authorized to administer corporal punishment, generally to principals and assistant principals.
Since it began the series of studies on paddling two months ago, the central administrative staff has stuck to its earlier position that teachers not be given automatic authority to paddle. The administration also has stuck by the requirement in the policy that gives individual principals the right to abolish paddling at the particular school.
The staff has revised some of its original language on the new policy that goes to the board for a vote Wednesday. The new wording defines corporal punishment as a penalty for misconduct "administered by the principal or designee upon the student's buttocks with a paddle within prescribed dimensions."
The number of strokes would be limited to two in kindergarten through third grade, three in grades four through six and four in junior and senior high.
Peter Kouchalakos paddled 66 students a total of 99 strokes last year. In the first 45 days this year, he has paddled 29. Many times that number have been threatened. Like 15-year-old Joe, who unintentionally was disrespectful to a teacher.
"We were kidding around," he told Kouchalakos. "I always play around with her."
"She's an adult, Joe, and you better act in a respectful manner," Kouchalakos said. "If she makes a report saying you were disrespectful, are you going to accept the paddle?"
"I guess so, but I don't want to get paddled."
"I know you're sorry and it won't happen again and that you'll tell her you're sorry."
Thereupon, Mr. K handed Joe a blank piece of paper for the note the teacher would write saying Joe had apologized. They shook hands and Joe went looking for the teacher.
Corpun file 25355 at www.corpun.com
The Miami News, Florida, 6 December 1976, p. 9A
Father decries paddle, wants Westview official fired
By Ellis Berger
George Kelly Jr. is a fidgety 12-year-old who likes to talk, sometimes even after the teacher orders silence in the classroom.
Last week he was sent to the office at Westview Junior High, 1901 NW 127th St., for talking to a boy in the next seat and for using profanity.
Assistant Principal Darrel Berteaux, following the proper school board policy, had George bend over a chair and struck him twice on the backside with a two-foot-long wooden paddle.
Berteaux insists the paddling was mild, applied with even less force than usual because George had lunch period next and Berteaux didn't want to upset him.
George Kelly Sr., however, is protesting the paddling of his son. He has Polaroid photos that show a horseshoe-shaped bruise on young George's left buttock. Photos taken three days later still show the bruise.
Kelly, who lives at 1150 NW 124th St. says he will transfer his son to another school, and he will ask the school board to fire Berteaux.
Nothing in George's account of the paddling indicates brutality by Berteaux. The assistant principal could have struck George seven times instead of just two under school board policy.
"I couldn't have caused that type of injury," Berteaux said when shown the pictures taken by George's father.
George says there was no adult witness to the paddling. as required by school board rules.
School officials say he is lying or mistaken. Counselor Jack Somny says he was called into the room by Berteaux and was standing in the rear of the office as George was paddled.
The boy's account of the paddling "is baloney, any way you want to cut it," Somny said. "The whacks this young man was given were moderate. He didn't cry or manifest any expression of pain."
But George's story that he cried and said the paddling hurt is substantiated by Berteaux, the man who did the paddling, and who, according to the official account of the incident, was standing less than 10 feet from the witness, Somny.
While there are conflicting stories about the incident with George Kelly, there is no confusion on another point: Westview Junior High has reported more paddling this year than any other school in the county.
In the first nine weeks of the school year, Westview reported paddling 307 students. Of 136 schools to submit reports on the number of students paddled, only two others paddled more than 100 -- Drew Junior High, 132, and Mann Junior High, 125. Forty-four schools reported paddling no students in those first 45 days of school.
Westview Principal James Randolph said corporal punishment is used at Westview "just like perhaps most of the schools in the county."
When told his school has paddled more than any other school, according to the reports submitted, Randolph implied the others might not be as conscientious as Westview in submitting accurate reports.
"We report everything," Randolph said.
Paddling of girls is rare at Westview, Randolph said, even though school board policy says girls may be paddled the same as boys.
"We make every effort to refrain from paddling girls," he said. Berteaux and another assistant principal, Ronald Altman, who do all the paddling at Westview, say they don't like to paddle girls.
Like it or not, Berteaux and Altman between them paddled 91 girls in the first 45 days of the school year. Except for Drew and Mann Junior Highs, no other school in the county has reported paddling more students -- boys and girls combined -- than Westview reported paddling girls.
Altman, in explaining the number of students paddled the first 45 days, says a "new group of students comes in each year and it takes quite an effort to get the new kids acclimated to the rules of the school."
He says paddling is a last resort, that other methods of changing behavior are used first.
In the case of George Kelly Jr., however, paddling seems to be the only method used. Two weeks before he was paddled by Berteaux, George was paddled by Altman.
Twice this year he has been referred to the office for misbehaving; both times he was paddled.
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