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rainbow ruler   :  Archive   :  1997   :  US Schools Jan 1997


School CP - January 1997

Corpun file 756

The Sentinel, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 5 January 1997

Parent questions paddling policy

Carlisle Area School Board President Fred Baldwin says the board should "investigate" why the school district's discipline code still allows paddling of students.

Baldwin's comment was in response to concerns raised by North Middleton Township parent Phil Drumheiser during the board's policy/personnel meeting Thursday.

Drumheiser asked that the district "reconsider" allowing paddling and corporal punishment.

He says his request is not prompted by any known recent incident of a district student being paddled.

Instead, he became aware the district still allows paddling and corporal punishment by reading an elementary student handbook he received at home. The handbook includes a reference to the discipline code.

Corpun file 960

The Atlanta Inquirer, Georgia, 11 January 1997

Don't Spare The Rod In Disciplining Children

We were not the least surprised to read recently that a study showed more than four out of five Americans who were spanked as children report that it was an effective form of discipline. An informal survey of our staff showed the same results, and practically every adult we talked to told us essentially the same thing.

The same adults also mentioned that spanking a child today could get one into serious trouble. These days a person spanking a child may be charged with abuse, especially if the spanking takes place at school. Gone are the days when parents gave teachers permission to spank children who were unruly, possibly because of the actual abuse that often takes place.

For many years, it has been public policy not to spank children even when their conduct is at its worst, it being felt that corporal punishment should not be used under any circumstance to correct bad behavior. There are those who believe that failure to spank is one of the reasons for lack of discipline at school and in the home.

Talk to practically anyone "from the old school" and you will hear things like "I wish I had a dime for every time I got a whipping. I'd be rich."

"I used to get a whipping at school and get whipped again when I got home," others will tell you, "And it wasn't called brutality or abuse," terms that you hear all the time these days. Listening to these people, most of whom have nothing but praise for the individuals who administered the whippings, one has to wonder why corporal punishment currently meets with such disfavor.

At the same time, one realizes that on occasion some over-zealous person whips too hard and seriously injures a child. In these cases, it is understandable that parents rise up against the use of corporal punishment.

Knowing that parents have spoken out against corporal punishment and that such action is generally frowned upon in today's society, some disobedient children relish the opportunity to challenge those who would consider whipping them. They even have Dr. Spock to back them up. Despite Dr. Spock's advice not to whip children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released a special report which suggests that spanking may not be harmful to a child's health.

Additionally, several pediatricians believe that spanking, done in a relatively healthy family environment, is not detrimental to a child or predictive of later problems. That view supports the work of numerous research scholars, pediatricians and child psychologists who have made considerable effort in recent years to distinguish between the responsible use of disciplinary spanking and the kind of abusive physical punishment so fiercely criticized by Spock and others.

Disciplinary spanking was what a local public school principal was doing until she was arrested three weeks ago following a complaint filed by the parents of a child who had been spanked. Her use of paddle had been widely known, and most parents had signed a document saying they approved of paddling their children. After the principal's arrest, several parents came to her defense, vowing that they would fight to insure that she be retained.

These parents may have been influenced by a University of California study which found that parents employing a balanced disciplinary style of positive reinforcement and firm control (including spanking) experienced better results with the children than those employing highly authoritarian or highly permissive disciplinary approaches.

We agree with AAP that spanking should be used mainly as a backup to correct deliberate and persistent problem behavior that is not remedied with milder measures.

Corpun file 613


The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, 23 January 1997

Bill Takes Sting Out Of School's Corporal Punishment Law

By Hilary Groutage
The Salt Lake Tribune

A bill that would remove a much-ignored portion of a Utah law regarding corporal punishment in schools has been endorsed by the Senate Education Committee.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. David Steele, R-West Point, would eliminate language in the existing law that allows teachers and administrators to spank children if they have parental permission to do so.

Doug Bates, attorney for the Utah State Office of Education, said the proposed amendment would eliminate language added in floor debate during the 1992 Legislature. The Utah State Board of Education essentially ignored the legislation and passed a policy banning corporal punishment altogether.

Bates said that since parents cannot give permission for their child's civil rights to be violated, the measure should be changed.

But Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, hesitated a bit.

"I remember growing up when the 'board of education' -- a paddle -- was prominent in the classroom, hanging up there where we could see it. We were a lot better behaved. I know it's a different world now," he said.

Sen. Scott Howell, D-Sandy, said schools should not be responsible for disciplining children anyway.

"It's the responsibility of the parents. P-a-r-e-n-t-s," he said.

The committee endorsed the bill unanimously and sent it to the House for consideration.

Corpun file 0753


The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, 23 January 1997


Hands Off Those Students

Utah lawmakers could find worse ways to spend their time -- like designating the cherry the state fruit or the Dutch oven the state pot -- than repairing a long-flawed statute permitting corporal punishment in public schools.

Sen. David H. Steele, a professional educator, is sponsoring a bill this session that would eliminate one of the exceptions to the rule against hitting schoolchildren.

Yes, believe it or not, Utah law now allows public school personnel to physically assault students. All educators need is written permission from the child's home.

Legislators initially inserted that provision into law at the behest of parents who complained that the public schools might be too soft on disruptive children. Apparently believing that children need tangible, embarrassing reminders of who's boss, these parents insisted on the right to retain for their children the bad old days of teachers cracking knuckles with rulers and principals paddling bare bottoms.

Problem is, of course, such lessons also teach children that hitting is the appropriate way to solve problems and persuade people to cooperate. Yet no one in the adult world is allowed to use physical force this way.

Employers certainly don't whip their workers into line. Even convicted felons are protected against what is deemed cruel and unusual punishment.

Treating children differently implies they are less worthy of respect, less human. Educators also expose themselves to liability if they strike the children too hard and cause injury.

There may be times when physical restraint is necessary to stop a student's violent outbursts, and the law now allows for that. But with the many non-violent ways for controlling schoolchildren, there is simply no excuse for using corporal punishment to discipline students.

Utah legislators should strongly support Sen. Steele's straightforward proposal, Senate Bill 101. While they're at it, however, they would do well to get rid of another exception to the rule. Private schools, which now can use corporal punishment if they duly notify parents, have no more business inflicting pain on minors than anyone else does.

Corpun file 1217


The Wichita Eagle, Kansas, 28 January 1997

Area Briefs: Halstead/Bentley

School board bans spanking of students

Spanking is no longer a disciplinary option in the Halstead-Bentley school district. The school board voted 5-2 last week to ban corporal punishment of students.

Supporters of the ban said spanking was ineffective and used inconsistently; opponents said spanking was a useful tool that helped reinforce adult authority.

Most school districts in Kansas do not use corporal punishment. It is illegal in more than 25 states.

Corpun file 1216

San Jose Mercury News, California, 31 January 1997

Corporal punishment sponsor is accused

Former students say he beat them

A Republican state senator who recently introduced a bill to restore corporal punishment in Montana's public schools has been accused by at least 10 of his former students of inflicting abuse on students when he was a teacher in the 1960s and '70s.

Last week seven former students, most of them now in their 40s, wrote letters to the state Senate Committee on Committees, which oversees the other Senate committees, claiming they were assaulted or had witnessed assaults on other students by the senator, Casey Emerson, when he was a physical-education teacher at Bozeman Junior High School.

They said he administered a variety of punishments, including two-fisted beatings. One former student said he saw Emerson hold a student's head in the urinal and flush it.

Other former students said they never saw Emerson abuse students. "I don't have anything but positive recollections of Casey as a teacher and a coach," said Ron Aasheim, who now lives in Helena.

The 71-year-old state senator, who spent 18 years at Bozeman Junior High as a physical-education teacher and coach before retiring in the 1970s, has denied the accusations and says he believes the campaign is an effort to discredit him because he is a staunch conservative.

The controversy began during hearings early this month on Emerson's bill to restore corporal punishment to public schools. A former Bozeman Junior High student, Terri Sullivan, sent a fax to the Senate Education Committee opposing the measure. In the letter she said Emerson once grabbed her by the hair and threw her down a staircase in the 1960s.

"I've gotten over it," Sullivan, who owns an antique store in Bozeman, told the Associated Press, "but I'll be damned if I let my daughter go through the same thing."

The bill, which was opposed by several education groups, was voted down by the committee. Corporal punishment was banned by the Montana Legislature in 1991.

Emerson did not return several phone messages. Responding to Sullivan's accusations at the hearing on his bill, he called them "a pack of lies."

The president of the state Senate, Gary Aklestad, also a Republican, said Senate rules do not allow him to look into the matter or to remove Emerson until the allegations are proven in a criminal court. "Charges should be brought," he said.

When reports of the controversy appeared on television newscasts, other former students at the school came forward with stories of abuse.

Jeffrey Langan of Missoula, who said he was beaten several times by Emerson, said he was outraged by Emerson's claim that Sullivan was lying and began organizing others who said they had been victims, too.

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