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School CP - July 1989

Corpun file 4403


The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, 24 July 1989

Norman Schools to Try Corporal Punishment Ban

By John Perry

NORMAN -- Teachers and principals here have put away their paddles, at least for the next school year, to find out if corporal punishment is necessary to keep discipline in the schools.

Assistant school superintendent Nancy O'Brian said the yearlong moratorium on paddling came about at the urging of a group of parents who oppose the use of corporal punishment.

O'Brian said corporal punishment actually has been used very little in the Norman school district. At several Norman schools it is not used at all, she said.

Even so, he said, several administrators and teachers were leery of an outright ban because it would limit their options when faced with disciplinary problems.

"We took a look at the research, and there is a large national movement to abolish corporal punishment," she said. "But because we didn't have a clear consensus, the board wanted to take a careful look at the issue."

Board members approved the moratorium on corporal punishment in May.

The moratorium will give school board members, administrators and teachers a chance to study the issue, O'Brian said. The board then will decide what changes, if any, should be made in the district's corporal punishment policy.

Before the moratorium, the district allowed corporal punishment administered by school administrators, unless parents requested that their child not be paddled, O'Brian said.

Nancy vonBargen, one of the leaders of the group of parents who urged the board to ban paddlings, said she became involved in the issue through her work in the state Department of Human Services' child-care licensing unit.

In July 1988, vonBargen was asked to prepare a position paper for the Oklahoma Child Care Advisory Committee on the use of corporal punishment in the child-care industry.

A review of the research turned up little to recommend corporal punishment and much to condemn it, she said.

In fact, there is a growing consensus among educators and psychologists that corporal punishment is both dangerous and unnecessary, vonBargen said.

Legislatures in 18 states have now banned the use of corporal punishment seven of them since January, she said.

Oklahoma City schools sharply restricted the use of corporal punishment last year by requiring written permission from parents before a paddling could be administered.

Last October, the Choctaw-Nicoma Park district became the first in state to ban corporal punishment.

But the school board there reversed its decision the following month when it was faced with a survey showing that a majority of parents, teachers and administrators opposed the ban.

VonBargen said she isn't surprised at the results of the Choctaw-Nicoma Park survey. Teachers, who are continually pressured to do more with less, are naturally protective of every option open to them, she said.

Also, vonBargen said, parents often associate corporal punishment with classroom discipline.

"We agree that there needs to be discipline," vonBargen said. "We just need to educate people that there are better ways to achieve it.

"I don't think our children are any more disorderly or teachers any less resourceful than in those 18 states (that have banned paddlings)."

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