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School CP - March 1999

Education Week (USA), 1 March 1999

On The Record

Not So Common Sense

The U.S. Supreme Court will hand down a ruling later this year in a bizarre case of sexual harassment involving 10-year-olds. Aurelia Davis, the plaintiff, alleges that Monroe County, Georgia, school officials failed to respond to complaints that her daughter, LaShonda, was being fondled and harassed by a boy in her 5th grade class. Davis eventually went to the police, and the boy pled guilty to sexual battery, but Davis is suing, claiming that schools can be held responsible for student-on-student sexual harassment. When the case was heard before the court in January, it stirred the passions of columnists and editorial writers nationwide, all of whom seem to claim that common sense is on their side, whichever side that may be.

The first time little Johnnie harasses little Susie, he should be hauled into the principal's office, where his little fanny is paddled. Then little Johnnie should be sent home with a note describing his behavior. The discipline he will receive from his parents will be far worse than any punishment he would ever receive from his teachers or his principal. That's how children used to be disciplined before the first generation of parents in the 1960s rejected parental discipline as fascist, authoritarian, and destructive of their children's creativity.

--Rowland Nethaway
Dayton Daily News

We are too quick to trivialize the bullying that leaves children alone to deal with their own pint-size tyrants. But it is legitimate to wonder where you draw the line between teasing and harassment. . . . How does a school, under fear of lawsuit, mete out punishment appropriate for everything from hallway antics to harassment? This is a problem that should be solved by teachers, parents, and principals, not lawyers.

What happens, though, when those in charge refuse to address the problem? When a school knowingly and willfully stands aside and lets students create a hostile environment? In the name of that not-so-common common sense, there has to be a compromise between the fear of frivolous lawsuits and the fear of harassment. And there is one--no matter what those who sound the alarm and trivialize the problem say. The same standards that the court set up in teacher harassment can easily apply to students.

--Ellen Goodman
Boston Globe

Sexual harassment among students is at the stage at which sexual harassment in the workplace was a few years ago. . . . [T]his case is not as much about what one student did as it is about what the school didn't do. The school failed to respond to behavior that clearly was sexual harassment and that adversely affected the victim's ability to get an education. A ruling for LaShonda Davis wouldn't take discipline out of the hands of school officials. Quite the contrary. It would put educators on notice that punishing and preventing such behavior is not simply their prerogative; it is their duty. Any school that fails in that duty should pay a price.

--Atlanta Constitution

Those who believe that even a sandbox insult can make its way to the Supreme Court must be raising their glasses. . . . If the court held in the parent's favor in this case, we would be asking teachers to become law enforcers on top of everything else we expect them to do. One effect is to drive capable people farther away from a profession that desperately needs more good, talented, diligent, and dedicated recruits.

--Patriot Ledger
Quincy, Massachusetts

The schools have a responsibility to provide a safe, wholesome atmosphere for learning. A student who tells her principal she is being mistreated sexually by anyone on school property, including a classmate, ought to have a legal remedy if the principal allows the harassment to continue.

--Omaha World-Herald

While it may feel right to want justice for this child who undeniably suffered, it is wrong to convert a single, extreme incident into a national springboard for the expansion of already unwieldy sexual harassment laws. . . . It's inappropriate to extract money from school boards who have no control over the behavior and from whom, ironically, we've effectively removed any authority to take appropriate disciplinary action. If the school had expelled the offending kid, they'd have had another kind of federal lawsuit on their hands.

--Kathleen Parker
Orlando Sentinel

It is true that too many of our schools are rife with incivility, profanity, and bullying. Yet most intimidation is non-sexual. Boys do the greater share of physical bullying, but they have no monopoly on hurtful behavior. Girls are proficient at what sociologists call "relational aggression" -- hurting by shunning, excluding, spreading rumors. Almost any junior high school girl will tell you that girls can create as much misery as boys, especially for other girls.

Children and teenagers need moral guidance. They need firm codes of discipline in a school environment that does not tolerate egregious meanness or gross incivility, whether sexual or nonsexual. They do not need a federal law that bears down hard on boys.

--Christina Hoff Summers
Arizona Republic

APB News, New York, 3 March 1999

Teacher charged with child abuse

Allegedly Beat First-Graders With 21-Inch Paint Stick

By Valerie Kalfrin

MIAMI ( -- A first-grade teacher faces federal child abuse charges tonight for allegedly using "Mr. Stick" -- a 21-inch stick used to stir paint -- to discipline her students, authorities said.

Assistant state attorneys Don Ungurait and Mindy Paurowski told they are still evaluating the evidence against Mariefrance Milhomme and will make a decision to file formal charges against her by March 22.

"Corporal punishment is not per se illegal in schools; it's a violation of school policy. At issue here is the circumstances under which she struck the children," Ungurait said, adding that the woman faces a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted of all counts.

Milhomme, a 29-year-old Pembroke Pines resident who school officials said taught at Henry E.S. Reeves Elementary School for two years, was arrested Monday on six counts of "child abuse resulting in no great harm" after an anonymous call to the school prompted an investigation, authorities said.

Caught on hidden camera

The Miami-Dade County Public Schools Police Department, which handles allegations against employees, eventually placed a security camera in Milhomme's classroom closet, Lt. Dorene Baker said.

According to the arrest affidavit, Milhomme "directed a student to a closet inside her classroom," where the camera recorded her closing the door and beating the student with a 21-inch, heavy-duty paint stirrer with "Mr. Stick" written on it.

Milhomme spent Monday morning in Turner Guilford Knight jail and was released on $30,000 bond that afternoon, Baker said.

She has been assigned to the school district's regional administrative office pending the outcome of the investigation, said Dr. Henry C. Fraind, deputy superintendent of the 350,000-student school district.

None of the children was seriously injured, the affidavit said, but the beatings "could reasonably be expected to result in the physical or mental injury to the children." The document also said the students interviewed "consistently described the beatings" and told investigators they cried.

'The lady knew better'

"County guidelines clearly state that a teacher cannot use corporal punishment to discipline a child," Fraind said. "We have a preponderance of evidence that the teacher did it. ... The lady knew better."

Fraind said a number of parents have been supportive of the teacher, a sentiment echoed by Edward Tobin, Milhomme's Miami attorney, in published reports.

"I know she is well-liked by all of the parents, and she does a great job," he was quoted as saying. "She's a hard worker, and she will be exonerated." was unable to reach the attorney for additional comment this afternoon. A woman answering the phone at Milhomme's house said the teacher was not home.

Valerie Kalfrin is an staff writer

Dallas Morning News, 11 March 1999

Spankings banned in Bryan schools

Associated Press

BRYAN, Texas - There will be no more spankings in any Bryan public schools, the school board decided this week.

The vote to ban corporal punishment in the school system was unanimous.

"I don't think we want to be in the business of hitting kids," board secretary Susan McKneely told The Eagle newspaper of Bryan-College Station in Wednesday's editions.

Ms. McKneely has long sought the removal of corporal punishment.

"We're trying to teach them not to hit people," she said.

The ban went into affect on Tuesday.

Joy Dyer, the district's elementary education director, said the practice of paddling has been all but nonexistent in the district in recent years.

"It has been found to be ineffective, and there are just so many other things that can be done to steer a child in the right direction, " she said.

1999 The Dallas Morning News All Rights Reserved

Spears and Shields, Magazine of Moberly Senior High School, Missouri, 14 March 1999

ISS: Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

By Adam Carter

Inside the realms of Moberly Senior High School, there is a room which students despise like no other. It is a room with no windows -- a room with no hope.

Room 201 has many names; some call it "The Jail," while others simply call it "Hell." No matter how you look at it, one day there will make you never want to go back.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, the room to which I have been unpleasantly referring is the In School Suspension (ISS) room. Located across from the girls' bathroom near the office, this room has seen thousands of students spend hours upon hours bored out of their minds. So bored in fact, that many times the greatest entertainment is the ticking of the clock -- a clock which seems to hypnotically rotate at a torturously slow pace.

If you walk by there, it is not uncommon to see hopeless faces staring out, for a lone passerby is a highlight for anyone bound to the confinement of ISS.

I am by no means implying that students should not be disciplined for their behavioral shortcomings, but it does seem that sitting in a room from 7:35 in the morning to 2:35 in the afternoon may be a little extreme.

On Tuesday, February 23, I had the opportunity to experience this for myself; it was an experience I'll never forget. First of all, I made the huge mistake of completing my homework the night before; this left me with a day which included the following four events:

1. Staring at a gum wad stuck to the wall.

2. Staring at the second hand on the clock until I became dizzy and nauseous.

3. Sleeping (Lucky for me, I got a corner seat so I could get away with this).

4. Waking up to find a large puddle of drool on my desk.

These four monotonous steps were repeated until, finally, it was time for lunch, time for freedom! Now I had been waiting for lunch for the last couple of hours -- not because I was really hungry -- but because I was assuming that I would get to go to the lunchroom and temporarily escape the meloncholy doldrums of the ISS penitentiary. I was in for a surprise.

Instead of getting to leave, we inmates got our lunch "catered" to us. This lunch, which arrived in a clear plastic bag from a woman in a hairnet, was nothing more than a peanutbutter sandwich, a mushy apple, and sour milk. As my protest against the inadequate food, I announced that I was not hungry.

I looked around, and everyone else had the same expression, as if to say, "Are we really expected to eat this?" But as time went by, the nasty food actually started to look good. After about 45 minutes, I had consumed it all, including the last drop of sour milk.

After another hour, I couldn't handle it any longer. I got out my notebook and began planning an escape. Now I had seen "The Shawshank Redemption," so I knew that it could be done; I just wasn't sure how. In the corner of my desk, I noticed a hole about 2 inches deep in the side of the wall, which must have been someone else's attempt at breaking out. After about another thirty minutes, I gave up my escape mission and continued staring at the gum wad on the wall until I finally fell asleep.

When I heard the ring of the bell, I woke up with joy and started to get up and leave. I had served my sentence, and I was done! I would never have to come here again! As I was at the doorway, preparing to run out into the parking lot so that I could see the sunlight, Coach Buescher informed me that it was only sixth hour bell, and that I needed to go back to my seat.

The feeling I had at that moment was one so painful that I cannot even begin to describe it. The only comparison would be the feeling experienced by a prisoner on death row who gets prank pardoned.

I sat back down and reviewed my options, until I realized that I had none. I had to simply sit and wait until my release. That last hour may have been the slowest ever. The ticking of the clock began again, and I watched it. I actually forced myself to watch the clock, the only real connection to the outside world. I stared intently at that evil red second hand leisurely flaunt around at it's extremely slow pace.

The first seven minutes of the hour were killers, but then it started to get a little better. When at last the bell rang, I literally ran out of there like a little kid. I saw the school through completely different eyes this time. I walked the hallway, saying hi to everyone I knew. It felt so good to just be alive. I looked out the window and saw the sun. The entire world seemed so beautiful. I breathed the air deeply into my lungs; for I had done it. I had survived a day in room 201.

As I look back on the event, I still remember the acute agony of the entire ordeal. Just yesterday, I walked by there and noticed a sophomore, Chris Perkins, looking out with sad, sad eyes. All he said to me was, "Get me out of here." I just kept on walking, for I knew there was nothing I could do.

Until the School Board looks into the possibility that this is mental torture, In School Suspension will surely continue. Personally, I would have rather been beaten with a paddle or forced to do community service.

All I can say is that if you are reading this, and you are thinking about doing something which could result in ISS, you really need to stop and think about it. Room 201 is waiting for you, and there are no windows, and believe me, there is no hope.

Fort Worth Star-Telegrapm, Texas, 26 March 1999

Principal not charged

Irving district investigating boy's paddling

By Betsy Blaney and Mike Lee
Star-Telegram Staff Writers

IRVING -- The Bowie Middle School principal who left bruises on a 13-year-old boy this month by spanking him will not face charges in connection with the incident.

Principal James Puryear's actions did not break the law, Irving police spokesman David Tull said yesterday.

But the boy's mother, Ruth Maldonado, said that Puryear should be removed from his position. She said she is looking for a new school for her son, Pedro Maldonado Jr.

"I never said and I never will say that I think a teacher up there hasn't done their job. What I will say is he [the principal] went overboard," she said.

The Irving school district's ban on corporal punishment at the school will continue until the district completes its investigation into the spanking, Superintendent Jack Singley said in a written statement. Singley did not say when the investigation will be completed.

Puryear spanked Pedro Maldonado Jr. three times with a wood paddle March 10 after the boy was sent to the principal's office for fighting in school. He had been sent to the office more than 20 times and was in trouble for skipping detention that week, his mother said.

Puryear left bruises on the boy's buttocks that were "consistent with physical abuse," a medical report from Children's Medical Center in Dallas said. Almost the entire buttocks area had purple bruises and was swollen and tender, according to the physician who examined the youth. His parents took him to Children's Medical Center the day after the spanking.

Pedro Maldonado Jr. is 4 feet 8 inches and weighs about 86 pounds. Puryear is 6 feet and weighs more than 200 pounds, according to his driver's license.

Police officials said they completed their investigation late Wednesday after interviewing the teen, his parents and school officials, Tull said.

"Apparently, everything was in line with the corporal punishment guidelines," Tull said.

On March 15, school officials suspended corporal punishment at the school. The practice is allowed under state law, although many Tarrant County school districts have banned it, officials have said.

Ruth Maldonado said she is considering filing a complaint against Puryear with the Texas Education Agency. She also has talked to Irving school board members about banning corporal punishment permanently in the district.

Bob Fathman, a clinical psychologist and president of the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools, said that it would probably be illegal for a parent to paddle a child hard enough to leave bruises. Allowing educators to paddle children creates "a dual system of child abuse laws," he said.

"We hold parents to one set of standards, but because someone gets a paycheck from a school board ... it seems to allow them to do things to children that no one else in society is allowed to do," he said.

"The research is solidly against it. Kids who are paddled have a higher dropout rate, lower self-esteem and they tend to be more violent when they grow up."

Corporal punishment in schools is banned in 27 states. Texas accounted for about one-third of the 500,000 incidents of corporal punishment reported to the U.S. Department of Education in 1993-94, the last year for which statistics were available, Fathman said.

1999 Star-Telegram

blob Follow-up: 12 August 1999 - Irving schools keep paddling permissible

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Colin Farrell
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