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San Francisco Chronicle, 17 October 1984
Senate Hearing on Child Violence
Paddled Student's Tale of Pain
WASHINGTON -- A North Carolina woman told a Senate hearing yesterday that the thrashing she received with a wooden paddle for playing hooky from high school one day "was the worst pain I've felt in my life. I felt violated."
"I've never, ever been hit like that before," said Shelly Sue Gaspersohn, 20, of Dunn, N.C., of the beating she took in 1981 at the hands of assistant principal Glenn Varney.
Gaspersohn said Varney hit her six times on the buttocks with the paddle. "The force was so great that massive bruises appeared on my buttocks," she said. "Throughout the next two days I hemorrhaged and had to see a doctor."
Varney's office at Dunn High School, responding to a telephone call, said he was away and could not be reached for comment. The school principal also was unavailable.
Gaspersohn, along with her mother, a psychologist and a West Virginia school principal, testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Juvenile Justice, whose chairman, Arlen Specter, R-Pa., is holding hearings on how violence affects children.
The psychologist, Dr. Irwin A. Hyman of Temple University, said the "alarming rate of child abuse" in the United States can be traced to the notion that "hitting children is unacceptable."
Also, he said, excessive use of corporal punishment in the schools can inhibit learning and arouse aggression against other pupils and school property.
But Paul V. Armstrong, president-elect of the West Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals, said that with proper controls, corporal punishment can be an effective disciplinary tool.
"I do not believe administering corporal punishment for fighting teaches aggression any more than I believe receiving a speeding ticket teaches you to be a race car driver," Armstrong told the subcommittee.
Gaspersohn told the panel that after the thrashing, she and her parents sought to discipline Varney through the Harnett County School Board, which investigated and found no evidence of impropriety.
They filed suit and, on Dec. 16, 1983, a county Superior Court jury found no wrongdoing on the part of Varney or the school board, she said. An appeal of the verdict was filed October 4 with an appellate court in North Carolina.
Hyman, director of the National Center for the Study of Corporal Punishment and Alternatives in the Schools, said that "the acceptance by adults that they have a right to do as they will with the bodies of children leads to the enormous problem of physical and sexual abuse of American children." -- Associated Press
News-Pilot, San Pedro, California, 19 October 1984
L.A. school board puts end to swat teams
By Colleen Bentley-Adler
As expected, the Los Angeles school board voted Monday to abolish swattings as a way to discipline unruly youngsters.
By a 6-1 margin, with East San Fernando Valley board member Roberta Weintraub dissenting, the board voted to ban corporal punishment immediately from the Los Angeles Unified School District's elementary and junior high schools. It already is forbidden in senior highs.
Weintraub, who said she was not on a crusade to maintain corporal punishment, cited a 1979 teachers' union referendum approving of swattings as a disciplinary option as her main reason for voting against the motion.
She said the views of teachers should be taken into consideration because "they are the ones in the classrooms," adding that she believes teachers would respond the same way if another vote were taken.
No teachers or leaders from United Teachers of Los Angeles, however, appeared before the board either in favor of or against the motion.
Moreover, in recent contract talks, union leaders agreed to let the board vote on continuing or abolishing swattings. Even though the board's vote now bans the practice, corporal punishment remains in the contract, but in effect, is a moot section.
Board member Rita Walters, who along with Jackie Goldberg, co-authored the motion to ban corporal punishment, said leaving it in the contract while voting against it is "a schizophrenic act on our part."
Board member Larry Gonzalez said Monday's vote to ban the practice is the first step in removing corporal punishment from the contract.
"We have to fight to take it out of the contract all together," he said.
Both Walters and Goldberg disagreed with Weintraub about how teachers would vote on corporal punishment in 1984, especially given the low numbers of actual swattings that have occurred.
Corporal punishment has been allowed in the district since 1980. In the 1982-83 school year, the latest for which statistics are available, 1,017 pupils were swatted - 359 in elementary schools and 658 in junior high schools.
Of those paddled, 48 percent were black and 31 percent were Hispanic, statistics that caused Gonzalez to say corporal punishment 'rests on the back of minority children.'
Goldberg, who is a teacher in the Compton School District, said her research showed that swattings were administered most often for fighting.
"That's the ultimate irony," she said, pointing out that as an administrator swatted a child for hitting someone else, he or she told the child not to hit anyone again.
"It's an antiquated system that has no place" in the schools, she added. In near identical language, Walters called corporal punishment "a relic of the past," the demise of which is "long overdue."
The recent rash of child abuse and molestation cases being reported caused board President John Greenwood to rethink his position on the issue, he said.
Swatting at school is "an act which gets copied in the home" and sends the wrong message that hitting children is OK, he said.
Weintraub said after the board meeting, however, that equating corporal punishment and child abuse is "really getting a little far-fetched," particularly given the strict guidelines under which it is administered.
Regulations on the books are that parents have to sign a slip granting permission to an administrator - not a teacher - to swat a child; medical records must be checked before a swat is given; a child can refuse to accept the punishment; it must be done by an administrator in the presence of another staff member and not in the classroom or in front of other pupils, and only one to three swats on the buttocks through regular clothing is permitted.
Kerby Alvey, a psychologist representing the Center for the Improvement of Child Caring, said corporal punishment is an archaic practice that is outlawed in the military, mental institutions and prisons.
Allowing schools to administer swattings, he said, is "saying that physical force is a legitimate means to resolve conflicts ... It's time to stop the hittings.
Margaret Wright, chairwoman of the United Parents Council, called corporal punishment "cruel and cowardly behavior that is not allowed of other professionals who deal with children, such as doctors or nurses.
Saying swattings are a form of child abuse, Wright said that "abused children become abusers ... our prisons are full of abusers."
Standard Times, San Angelo, Texas, 21 October 1984
Paddle Ban Revives Trauma Of Youth
By Jack Cowan
Testimony was heard in Washington, D.C., last week on legislation to ban paddling in U.S. schools. A man representing the American Psychological Association said there is "overwhelming research evidence that corporal punishment is unnecessary, counterproductive and, at times, destructive to the mental health of children."
I wish someone had brought up this matter 20 years ago. I had nearly the same thoughts as the psychologist when I was asked to bend over and accept my corporal punishment.
"Mr. Bustbottom, I think these licks are unnecessary, counterproductive and may be destructive to my mental health, not to mention the health of my behind." "You should have thought about that before you went into your comedy routine in Miss Boring's English class. Now, grab your ankles."
"But all I did was ask if Shakespeare ever wrote anything in English. Have you ever tried to read any of that stuff ? Gee, I don't think that's worth anywhere close to three licks."
"Five. Don't forget, you were out of your seat when the bell rang. That's a very serious offense."
"You're right, sir. I should be grateful you aren't going to shoot me."
"Right. Now, let's get on with this."
"Saaayyyy, that's some paddle you have there, Mr. Bustbottom. Where did you get it?"
"Yes, it is a fine piece of wood, isn't it? This was my favorite baseball bat when I played minor league ball, and I took great care in flattening to just the right shape. A guy really can put some power into his licks with it. You should have seen me when I was a coach. I could lift a kid four inches off the ground with this baby."
"I'll bet. And those notches are a nice touch, too. You must have 175 or 200 on there."
"Two hundred and eighty seven. I should get the school record in a couple of years if everything goes well. All right, let's get to it."
"Uh, I was just wondering, don't you think maybe detention would be a better punishment? A week, say? The last time you gave me licks I was afraid I was going have to find a donor for a transplant. Sometimes it seems like you enjoy hitting kids."
"Certainly not. How can you ask such a thing? The threat of corporal punishment is merely the most effective incentive we have to keep students like yourself in line. If we didn't have this deterrent, there would be pandemonium in the schools. Kids would constantly be saying clever things and standing up when they should be sitting down."
"Gosh, what a mess that would be."
"Look, I got licks in school when I was a kid. If you decide on a career in teaching, you can give licks to kids when you grow up. See how it works?"
"I dunno, sir, I think if I were a teacher I could find better ways to discipline students than to bruise their butts. I would reason with them, and if that didn't work I would withhold privileges. Corporal punishment seems a little brutal to me. Of course, if that's the kind of thing you like, if you get some kind of kick out of belting kids with that piece of lumber you call a paddle, I guess I can't do anything to stop you."
"I'll tell you what, let's go down to the detention hall."
"Really? You mean it? You're going to give me detention?"
"Uh uh. That's where we keep the big paddle that we use when we really need to teach a kid a lesson ... "
USA Today, 23 October 1984
The Debate: Spanking in schools
Teachers must stop hitting our students
Shelly Sue Gaspersohn was a 17-year old senior honor student in Dunn, N.C., who never broke a school rule. Until the day she cut classes.
As punishment, an assistant principal who "looked like a weight lifter" walloped her six times on the buttocks with a wooden paddle. The beating was so severe that her doctor reported it to authorities; she still suffers from nightmares.
Most people probably think that corporal punishment is something that hasn't been done since colonial days, when they still put people in stocks.
Yet each year one million public school students are paddled -- or beaten -- for breaking school rules.
A federal survey last year found that in three southern states -- Florida, Arkansas, and Mississippi -- nearly 12 percent of all students had been physically punished.
In Dade County, Fla., a substitute teacher lined up students who were unruly at lunch and paddled them. The teacher was charged with 13 counts of battery and spent six months in jail.
And In Bartonville, Ill., teachers threw six students into their seats, and then slammed their heads against their desks. Why were the teachers so angry? Because these students, who had learning disabilities, had disrupted the class and wandered away.
And so it goes across the USA. Students are punched, slapped, choked, kicked, and spanked by teachers Using rulers, leather straps, and paddles.
Five states have already said enough is enough. Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Hawaii have banned corporal punishment. The Los Angeles school board voted last week to outlaw it. More districts should follow suit.
A few teachers and principals say the schools need the right to hit their students. They think it's a useful way to maintain discipline.
Corporal punishment is a terrible way to maintain discipline. It sends our young people the message that the way to solve a problem Is by hitting someone. The great majority of educators know that. They are smart, capable professionals who don't need weapons to keep order.
Discipline is essential to the learning process. But it can be achieved without taking a paddle to a pupil.
To keep students in line, schools can isolate them, deny them privileges, or restrict their activities. They can make them rake leaves, weed lawns, or sweep playgrounds. .....
USA Today, 23 October 1984
An opposing view
Teachers need right to hit their students
By Paul Armstrong
Paul Armstrong is principal of the Murphytown and Pleasant Valley schools and president-elect of the West Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals.
WILLIAMSTOWN, W.Va. -- Corporal punishment is one method of correction that has proved useful in schools across America. It is not the only method of discipline and should not be the only punishment. But the option to use it should not be removed.
Responsible educators try other methods of discipline before administering corporal punishment. The final alternative should be suspension from school after corporal punishment has failed.
A 1982 state Supreme Court decision and later legislative action put suspension from school ahead of corporal punishment in the priority of disciplinary actions we can use. But many principals have met with substantially greater resistance to suspension from school than we ever received about corporal punishment. In fact, the majority of parents choose, even insist, that a paddling should be the action taken.
Psychologists argue against it. They say it teaches aggression and is "rule by fear," which they consider inherently wrong. I cannot accept these axioms, regardless of any research to the contrary.
Social and behavioral research often reaches conclusions that support a belief or bias of the researcher. I do not believe paddling teaches aggression any more than giving speeding tickets teaches you to be a race car driver.
I believe it is fear of getting a ticket that causes the driver to remove his/her foot from the accelerator at the sight of a police car. Fear of the consequences is an appropriate deterrent to negative behavior. To believe a society will behave appropriately because it is the right thing to do is naive.
The Gallup Poll has reported since 1978 that discipline is seen as the biggest problem facing public schools. One of four respondents mentions discipline. And one of three nonpublic school parents mentions discipline. I can only conclude that tying the hands of public school personnel in disciplinary measures has driven families from public schools to private schools.
A Senate subcommittee is looking into this matter, but federal legislation to abolish corporal punishment is incongruent with the concept of local control of schools. Such decisions should be left to the citizens and professionals of the local community - - with state guidelines where appropriate.
Federal legislation prohibiting corporal punishment would further erode discipline in the schools. More appropriate action on the part of Congress would be sufficient funding for education to continue training teachers with alternative forms of discipline.
Increased training will decrease the frequency of corporal punishment. But corporal punishment as a disciplinary option should be retained.
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