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Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tennessee, 19 November 1985
Principal broadcasts paddling to school
School officials in Welch, W.Va., will investigate a principal who paddled a special education student and turned on an intercom system so the entire school could hear it, the superintendent says.
The mother of the 12-year-old student at Hemphill Elementary School had approved of the paddling Thursday, said Vincent Mullins, principal for the past 10 years. "The wrong thing that I did was to turn the intercom on so the other students could hear it," he said.
State law allows teachers and school officials to paddle students if the parents have been given 12 hours' notice. McDowell County School Superintendent Benjamin Thomason said special education students should not be paddled.
The New York Times, 24 November 1985
Spare the Rod and Spoil the School?
By Gene I. Maeroff
This fall, for the first time, no child attending public school in New York State has to worry about being spanked for misbehavior. The Board of Regents outlawed corporal punishment earlier this year, making New York the eighth state to take such an action. Except for Hawaii, the other states that do not allow it are all in the Northeast: New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Hampshire.
But New York's ban on the use of physical force to discipline students is hardly part of a nationwide trend. Despite the objections of civil liberties organizations and some parent groups, corporal punishment is still used in most parts of the country.
Defenders of corporal punishment contend that the threat of physical force is needed to keep order. As Paul V. Armstrong, president of the West Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals, puts it: "We need to have the option to use corporal punishment with students who do not respond to other methods of discipline. I'm concerned too about someone going off the deep end and abusing it. But we don't outlaw cars just because somebody gets drunk and kills a lot of people."
But opponents – among them, civil liberties organizations and some parent groups – argue that corporal punishment is unnecessary. "There has been enough experimentation over the last 100 years to indicate that schools can work perfectly well without corporal punishment," said Adah Maurer, executive director of End Violence Against the Next Generation, a Berkeley, Calif., group. Many critics say it leads to child abuse. "It teaches that violence is a way to solve problems and contributes to the concept that it is all right to do what you want to do to children," said Irwin Hyman, professor of school psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia and director of the National Center for the Study of Corporal Punishment and Alternatives in the Schools. His group recommends forms of discipline such as suspension and denial of privileges.
The opponents cite specific cases, including the following incidents, to back up their arguments:
-- A teacher in St. Tammany Parish Public Schools in Louisiana was sent to prison this year for spanking a 9-year-old student who has cerebral palsy and is partially blind. The judge said marks on the child's body indicated that she had been yanked form her wheelchair.
-- A second grader in the De Kalb County Schools, outside Atlanta, had to be treated in hospital after she was paddled for using insulting language. The family is suing the district and the assistant principal who they said inflicted the punishment.
-- A junior high school student in Purvis, Miss., had to have plastic surgery after being struck in the face last spring by a science teacher who said he was being laughed at by the class. The teacher was suspended, but is back in the classroom this fall.
The United States Supreme Court has established the right of student to due process in disciplinary cases. But the court has also ruled that corporal punishment is an acceptable form of discipline.
Using a paddle to spank a youngster is the most common form of corporal punishment, though the rules on applying it vary. In Florida, for example, schools may choose not to use corporal punishment, but they cannot ban it. Each year, the districts must outline the circumstances under which students can be spanked. The state keeps detailed statistics: during the 1983-84 school year, 155,622 of Florida's 1,495,543 pupils were paddled at least once. California also requires its districts to list the specific instances in which children can be spanked. California schools must also get written authorization each year form parents who are willing to allow the paddling of their children. Educators may not spank students whose parents do not give permission.
Some experts argue that keeping order may have more to do with the quality of instruction than with the severity of discipline. In its report, "Discipline in Our Big City Schools," the National School Boards Association wrote: "Classroom teachers with good command of their subject matter and leadership qualities tend to have fewer discipline problems."
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