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School CP - February 1997
Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, 1 February 1997
Legislature front page
Blanket immunity faces oppositionBy Gina Holland
The Associated Press
JACKSON - Edwards Elementary School Principal Linda Laws wants her teachers to be able to break up schoolyard fights without the threat of a lawsuit.
The Legislature is taking up the issue of force in public and private schools, and how policymakers can ensure peaceful campuses.
Two House committees have spent the past several weeks on a bill that would give educators some protection against civil and criminal complaints brought over paddlings and other force.
Laws, a 24-year school veteran, said teachers "need to know they have control in their rooms."
"You've got to give teachers something, not just money, support. They need to know they're not going to lose their homes if a parent is irate," she said. "You wouldn't have to have this fear all the time, in the back of your mind, that I shouldn't do that, I shouldn't do this."
At the heart of the bill is corporal punishment and administrators being able to mete punishment as authorized by local school boards.
Laws said paddlings are rare at her campus of 515 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. District policy allows principals to paddle students with a witness present, she said.
The original House bill would have protected teachers, assistant teachers, principals, assistant principals, school bus drivers and other educators who handle punishment in line with local or state school guidelines.
A committee this week, however, decided only teachers, principals and assistant principals should have special protection.
"I can just envision a school bus driver can say 'get back' . . . and deliver a backhand to the nose," said Rep. John Reeves, R-Jackson.
While the bill could not stop lawsuits over spankings or any discipline in school, protections would be provided for "moderate use of physical force or contact" designed to enforce discipline or for self-defense.
Some House members oppose corporal punishment altogether.
"We have completely lost faith in our children. Children need a spokesman too," said Rep. Tomie Green, D-Jackson. "I don't think we should be giving blanket immunity."
She unsuccessfully tried to limit the protected paddlings to those given elementary school students. She said older students might get violent in a confrontational situation.
Rep. Tom King, R-Petal, proposed the bill after hearing from educators.
"Teachers said, 'We're afraid to even hug our children now,'" he said. "If you touch a child, that can be simple assault."
"We hear it quite a bit, 'I'll take you to court,'" said Principal Laws. "People are looking for money, not necessarily looking for what's in the best interest of the children."
The bill is House Bill 313.
Los Angeles Times, 2 February 1997
My Special Education: Spare the Rod and Discard the Student
By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
PARLIER, CALIF. I recently spent four weeks as a long-term substitute teacher at a junior high school in a poor San Joaquin Valley town. In my charge were several dozen Mexican and Mexican American "special education" students.
Since the school district does not retain students with genuine learning disabilities, "special education" means young people with discipline and/or behavioral problems. Years ago, they were tested, fared poorly and placed on a special-education track, on which they likely will remain throughout high school. These are the throwaway kids whom no one wants to teach. Yet, in four weeks, they gave me a lesson.
Since the 1983 decree that, due to the poor condition of many public schools, ours was a "Nation At Risk," educators, politicians, and parents have responded with everything from resignation to outrage to paralysis.
Now, in the 1990s, education reform has become the newest cause celebre for liberal and conservative alike. One side advocates increased school funding, greater support for teachers' unions and a stronger commitment from government. The other prefers divestiture in the form of abolishing the federal Department of Education and issuing vouchers and "opportunity scholarships."
Recent policy initiatives aimed at improving education include Gov. Pete Wilson's efforts to reduce class size to 20 students at the K-3 level, and President Bill Clinton's plan to recruit, as part of his America Reads initiative, college students to serve as literacy tutors in federally subsidized work-study programs.
A tour of duty on the front lines, however, shows just how futile any or all of these measures may ultimately be without first addressing the vital relationship between teachers and students. Simply put, students cannot learn if teachers cannot teach. And teachers cannot teach without first establishing, and then preserving on a daily basis, their authority in the classroom.
Since the elimination of corporal punishment and the onslaught of school-related lawsuits, most students know, some as early as elementary school, what their teachers can and cannot do to discipline them. They also know exactly what they can get away with.
In the best scenario, students and teachers enjoy a pleasant and productive experience based on mutual respect. In the worst, every day is a game, a contest, even a battle between opposing forces: teachers trying to teach, maintain order and assert authority, and students, particularly adolescents, resorting to petty torments, disobedience and even threats to deny their teachers this authority.
At my school, it seemed like war. Teachers of mainstream students who consider their classes demilitarized zones might consider what those classes would be like if they were suddenly reinfested with kids who have been weeded out, tracked out and dumped into special-education classes.
Part of the problem is natural. Many children and adolescents have little fondness for rules or those who enforce them. So accustomed are many of them to talking their own way, acting their own way, dressing their own way and generally having their own way in schools that, when confronted with rules and discipline, they rebel.
At a school where students regularly talk back to, disobey and threaten teachers, many of whom have given up the fight, I acquired a reputation for zero tolerance. My students deemed me an exception, and not a good one. Their daily objective was to get away with as much as possible. When I thwarted them, their responses ranged from anger to resentment to depression.
One student, who fancied himself a thug, had mastered long division but had difficulty grasping the student-teacher dynamic. One day, after a face-to-face shouting match with me (which is not encouraged by the teachers' handbook), he broke into tears. And while that was not an especially glorious moment, it was, for the ultimate good of the student, a necessary one.
In the gradual process of gaining respect for authority, many of these students begin at an awesome disadvantage. My own parents were raised with a stern hand at home and ordered to treat their teachers with the same level of respect or suffer my grandparents' wrath. My parents did me the same favor. Once upon a time, there was no mistaking who was the parent and who the child. No longer.
Accustomed to running their home life, students expect to run their school life as well. The continuum of respect for authority that once guided children from home to school and back again has been shattered. A single mother complained to me recently that her teenage son was earning D's and F's in high school and that he cared only about performing in the school's dance troupe. My solution: Deny him the dancing. That, she agreed, might work. If only, she said, the school would prohibit him from participating in dance unless his grades improved. Afraid to be the villain, she lacked the nerve to exercise what she agreed was probably the only leverage she had over her son. She instead expected school administrators to do her dirty work for her.
The solution may lie in state legislatures reinstating some kind of corporal punishment or school boards finding ways to hold parents financially accountable for their children's misbehavior. It may lie with the individual parents and teachers and school administrators. Or it may lie in the past, in a set of values that we have been so anxious to leave behind.
On my last day at the front, a Latino teacher who had put in 14 years offered up this gem. What these students needed, I suggested to him, were rules, order, discipline and a renewed respect for authority.
"What these kids need," he corrected me, "is a spanking."
Daily Oklahoman, 5 February 1997
Lawsuit Filed Over Paddling In Drumright
By Michael McNutt
DRUMRIGHT - Parents of a high school senior in Drumright say a math teacher violated school policy by paddling the teen-ager.
Krista Hubbard, on behalf of her daughter, Kourtney Niccum, has filed a lawsuit in Creek County District Court against the teacher, James Foster, high school Principal Larry Erwin and the Drumright School Board.
The lawsuit seeks at least $30,000 in damages.
Jay Niccum, the girl's father, said Foster allegedly offered to forgo a mathematics assignment if his daughter and other students agreed to three swats from a paddle.
The incident allegedly occurred last fall on the school's homecoming day, Jay Niccum said. Students complained about having to do work that day, he said.
Jay Niccum said Foster swatted his daughter once, knocking over the 90-pound teen.
Jay Niccum said his daughter received a bruise.
Superintendent Arthur Johnson was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
Jay Niccum said Drumright's schools have a policy that allows corporal punishment as a form of discipline only.
Parents must sign a consent form, which neither he nor Hubbard did, Jay Niccum said. -APNEWSTYPE
Los Angeles Times, 9 February 1997
Use of Corporal Punishment in Schools
Re "My Special Education: Spare the Rod and Discard the Student," Opinion, Feb. 2: Bravo to Ruben Navarrette! He hit a bull's-eye! No amount of money given to schools for new programs, or for teacher salaries (which need increasing to keep talented teachers in the profession), or the false idol called vouchers will bring our schools up to world standards until the "teacher-student dynamic" is resolved.
In my 25 years as a public school teacher (both here and in Australia), I have witnessed the teacher in the classroom being hamstrung by well-intentioned but misguided (even self-serving in some cases) advocates of children's rights. While I am not ready to advocate spanking kids in school, I see nothing wrong with grabbing a student by the arm and forcing him/her into a chair. One of my colleagues recently witnessed an administrator racing after a student who was walking out of school during class. Unable to use his hands, the administrator was reduced to demands and pleas to return to school; naturally, the student ignored him and kept on walking. Where is that student's education going? What has he learned? The administrator, by the way, has discovered how impotent he is.
The answer lies with everyone involved, beginning with the family and the community. Values have to change. Lawyers have to agree to back off and let us do our (difficult) jobs. Would they tolerate this kind of behavior in a courtroom?
When Navarrette reflects on his experience as a four-week, long-term substitute teacher in a poor San Joaquin Valley town, he boasts of only one accomplishment: reducing one of his special education students to tears during a shouting match. His zero-tolerance discipline policy produced reactions ranging from anger to resentment to depression. He feels his experience qualifies him to recommend corporal punishment as the solution to our schools' problems.
His story supports a different conclusion. He describes his students as "the throwaway kids whom no one wants to teach." Was he the first long-term sub to whom they had been entrusted? At my South-Central Los Angeles high school, numerous teaching positions routinely go unfilled, because my urban students are also kids whom few people want to teach. Is it possible that a class on its second or third long-term sub perceives that no one wants to teach them? Navarrette should be glad that his students resorted only to disobedience and petty torments to dramatize their plight, and did not stoop as low as the violence that he wished to visit upon them.
It has been my experience that when we give students qualified, committed and sensitive teachers, they respond with respect.
Copyright (c) 1997 Times Mirror Company
Houston Chronicle, Texas, 12 February 1997
Investigations fail to bring abuse charge against principal
By John Makeig
The parents of a 12-year-old boy say their son suffered a badly bruised posterior when he was punished with a paddle by the superintendent of the Classical School for Brilliant Students.
But two Houston police investigations and a new probe by the Harris County district attorney's child abuse section have not resulted in charges against Alvin "Boom Boom" Jackson, 42, over the Nov. 12 paddling.
On Wednesday, Jimmy Dunne, who heads up People Opposed to Paddling Students, gave out photographs that he said showed the injury to the boy's rear. They show wide, dark bruises, dotted with what appear to be abrasions, covering the entirety of the boy's bottom.
"My God! If I did that, put me in jail! No way!" said Jackson when shown the photographs.
According to a brief written statement from the parents, the 12-year-old was a happy student at the school until Jackson altered his punishment policies. Without elaborating on what that meant, the statement says the boy soon became an unhappy student.
The Classical School is a private facility at 4242 Richmond in southwest Houston. Most of its 50 students had academic and disciplinary problems in public schools before coming to Jackson's school as a last resort, he explained.
According to Jackson, he tells parents that if their children "act up," he can report the events to parents, call the police or administer "not more than two" whacks with a paddle.
Assistant District Attorney Denise Oncken said that she has not accepted charges on a case where versions differ drastically. Oncken said the case may be referred to a grand jury.
Houston Chronicle, Texas, 14 February 1997
Paddling allegations to be investigated
By John Makeig
Copyright 1997 Houston Chronicle
A 15-year-old boy Friday became the second former student who claimed he was abused at a private school in Houston.
Charlie Hanna, who appeared at a press conference at the office of Jimmy Dunne, head of People Opposed to Paddling Students, said one teacher at the Classical School for Brilliant Children paddled him, supposedly for eavesdropping on a conversation. He said another teacher slammed him into a wall.
No charges have been filed against Alvin "Boom Boom" Jackson, 42, a former New York Jets defensive player and now superintendent of the school, or any of his faculty.
Harris County Assistant District Attorney Denise Oncken, head of the child abuse section, said Friday she hopes to begin presenting evidence to grand jurors before the end of February.
Earlier this week, two former students and their parents have accused Jackson of paddling a 12-year-old boy so severely that it caused extensive bruising. They also accused him of allowing two teachers to brutalize students.
Wednesday, the boy's parents allowed Dunne to distribute color photographs of their son's buttocks showing numerous bruises purportedly inflicted with a paddle.
The 15-year-old boy's mother, Kathryn Hanna, said she had been unable to convince police to seek charges against school personnel.
"I said, 'I want charges filed against this man,' " Kathryn Hanna said she told a female officer. "She looked at me like I was crazy."
She said Oncken was reluctant to file charges in the Hanna case "because there weren't enough bruises."
Oncken said that was not strictly accurate. She said there were no bruises whatsoever.
When reporters went to the school to question him Friday, Jackson became agitated and loudly accused them of ruining his reputation. Publicity about the 12-year-old's case, he said, had cost him a contract with various school districts to place students at his facility on Richmond.
Jackson was restrained by members of his staff who hustled him into an office. His attorney, Don R. Caggins, said Jackson and the two teachers "deny the allegations, each and every, all and singular."
Caggins blamed the complaints on "disgruntled parents and expelled students."
The Arrow Online, 14 February 1997
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