|www.corpun.com : Archive : 1976 to 1995 : US Schools Nov 1989|
Corpun file 7008 at www.corpun.com
The Houston Chronicle, Texas, 22 November 1989
Suspension puts boy in hot seat
Student told to take 'swats' before returning to school
FRANKSTON - An 11-year-old boy whose parents refused to allow him to be spanked by school officials was suspended for three days because school officials would not let him back in class without a paddling, his father says.
Matthew Gesin, a sixth-grader at Frankston Elementary, was warned several times to quit disrupting his class last Thursday before his teacher sent him and another boy to the principal's office for discipline, said Jim Gesin, the boy's father.
The other boy, who wasn't identified, took two whacks in punishment, but when Matthew reminded school officials that his parents did not want him spanked in school, he was sent home with a note.
"Matthew has been asked and told to quit talking, but he did not follow instructions. Matthew may only return when he receives his swats," the note from principal Mark Wagstaff to the boy's parents said.
The Gesins hired a lawyer and were prepared to go to a school board hearing Monday, but Wagstaff came up with a compromise Tuesday: three sessions of 45-minute detention for each whack Matthew might have gotten, for a total of 4½ hours.
The elder Gesin said he was considering the offer.
School Superintendent Bill Alexander said the Gesins were told that Matthew could not return "unless something could be worked out." But Gesin said it was clear that his son could not return unless he "took his whacks."
"There was no alternative type of punishment," he said. "It was just 'you take your swats or you're suspended'."
"We're certainly not against any kind of discipline," Gesin, 49, said Tuesday. "Anything but paddling. I'm absolutely opposed to that corporal punishment.
"Back in my school days my backside had been presented to the board of education several times. I thought they (spankings) were meaningless in what they were trying to accomplish. I think now it's about as archaic as a public hanging."
Gesin, a pilot, said his wife, Janet, 46, does volunteer work with abused children and is strongly opposed to hitting children.
"We don't spank our kids at home, I don't see why some stranger at school should spank them," Gesin said, "but we're certainly not opposed to discipline."
The Gesins enlisted the aid of attorney Jeff Doran and contacted a Houston-based group called People Opposed to Paddling Students, an anti-corporal punishment group.
Doran said Tuesday he would have been prepared to appeal the case to court if the boy had been expelled.
Gesin said he was not sure he would accept Wagstaff's offer because the suspension his son has spent at home has been longer than 4½ hours he would spend in detention.
Wagstaff declined to discuss Matthew's disciplinary record, citing confidentiality, but Gesin said his son was in trouble once before this year for shooting rubber bands in the gymnasium and he was spanked.
"He did receive some swats before he realized that his mother had instructed not to receive them. I wouldn't say he's any more a discipline problem than any other 11-year-old in sixth grade."
The Gesins also have a 21-year-old daughter.
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