|www.corpun.com : Archive : 1976 to 1995 : US Schools Aug 1989|
The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, 21 August 1989
Paddling Ban on School Board Agenda
By Chris Brawley
The Oklahoma City school board may vote tonight to ban corporal punishment during the 1990-91 school year, providing educators with another year to prepare for schools without paddling, superintendent Arthur Steller said.
But Fran Morris, who served on the Oklahoma City district task force which studied corporal punishment, hopes to persuade board members to immediately abolish corporal punishment.
She contends that the recommendation to wait a year is not the task force's, but the administration's.
In a report to board members, Morris points out that more than 90 percent of last year's 865 paddlings occurred in six schools.
In 64 of the 84 Oklahoma City schools, corporal punishment was never used.
"If there are 64 schools that don't use corporal punishment at all, that proves we can have good education without it," said Morris, who also is state coordinator for Oklahomans Opposed to Corporal Punishment.
Last summer, the board apparently taking the first step towards eliminating corporal punishment, decided that educators could not spank a child without first getting written permission from parents.
Last year's 865 paddlings is a decrease from the previous year, when paddling was used 997 times.
During the 1985-86 school year, corporal punishment occurred 2,214 times, the report shows.
When the policy was changed last summer, Ann Turner, president of the Oklahoma City Federation of Teachers, said teachers would be upset that the board hadn't replaced corporal punishment with another option.
Now, she said, if corporal punishment is banned, "with the right principal, I don't think it will be noticable."
It was during the past school year that a task force of 18 community members, parents, teachers and administrators, studied corporal punishment.
Morris said the task force was specifically told not to recommend the use or abolishment of corporal punishment, but to recommend alternatives to paddlings.
The task force accomplished this mission by its last meeting, May 25, Morris said in a "minority report" to board members. More than two months later, an emergency meeting was called. Less than 24 hours' notice was given to task force members and only seven people attended.
At that time, Morris wrote, "a central office person who had attended only one previous meeting suggested that the report include a recommendation to abolish corporal punishment a year from now so that teachers would have another year to prepare.
"On the basis of what we now know from the recently released statistics, that is clearly not indicated," Morris said.
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. tonight in the auditorium of the school district administration building, 900 N Klein.
The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, 21 August 1989
Child Abuse Office Funds Conference
By Chris Brawley
Oklahoma's first conference on corporal punishment is being made possible through an $8,000 grant from the child-abuse prevention office of the state Department of Health.
But, "We are in no way saying corporal punishment is abusive because it's not true," said Linda Passmark, who heads the child-abuse prevention office.
The conference, to be conducted Nov. 16 in downtown Tulsa, is co-sponsored by the Tulsa County Superintendent's office and the grassroots organization, Oklahomans Opposed to Corporal Punishment (OOCP).
The Tulsa County Superintendent's office, which won the $8,000 state grant, is co-sponsoring the conference because "by virtue of the fact that we are educators, we are very close to the problem," said Dale Janda, Tulsa County deputy superintendent.
"We do consider it a form of child abuse," Janda said.
Passmark said she considers other forms of discipline more effective, but corporal punishment is abusive only in extreme cases.
State Department of Education officials think "it's not even appropriate" to take a stand on corporal punishment, as it is a decision left up to local school districts, department spokeswoman Sharon Lease said.
Nationwide, the movement to end to corporal punishment appears to be growing.
Of the 19 states which have banned corporal punishment in the schools, nine have done so this year, according to OOCP.
Apparently, no school district in Oklahoma has banned corporal punishment. But the Oklahoma City school board may vote tonight to end spankings by the 1990-91 school year.
In its fight to end corporal punishment, the OOCP has involved 47 community coordinators, from Oklahoma City and Tulsa to Alva and Madill.
The OOCP plans to seek passage of a bill in the Oklahoma Legislature to ban corporal punishment in schools within the year. The organization also plans to sponsor the state conference, said Fran Morris, OOCP's state coordinator.
Though open to public, the conference will probably attract mainly mental health professionals and educators, Janda said.
Scheduled to speak is child psychologist Robert Fathman, president of the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools.
Fathman became embroiled in the issue after his daughter, a second-grader, was spanked for circling answers on a test instead of underlining them, Morris said.
Other speakers will be Patrick Stern, a pediatrician who led a successful movement to end corporal punishment in Little Rock, Ark., schools last year, and Sen. Ernie Chambers, a Nebraska state lawmaker who persuaded his fellow legislators to ban corporal punishment.
Chambers, the only black senator in his state, was outraged that black children were being spanked in disproportionate numbers to children of other races, Morris said.
The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, 21 August 1989
Jefferson Students Keep Paddle Busy
By Chris Brawley
Corporal punishment, carried out with a "basic old wooden paddle," was used more times at Jefferson Middle School last school year than all the other 83 Oklahoma City schools combined.
The principals of Jefferson, 6800 S Blackwelder Ave., used corporal punishment 510 times. Throughout the urban school system, corporal punishment was used 865 times.
"That figure looks alarming, but a lot of parents wanted their kids paddled instead of sending them home. That was the alternative. They can't learn anything at home that's for sure." said Leslie Austin, who was Jefferson's assistant principal.
And it wasn't a pleasant job, Austin said. It was he who spanked 90 percent of the Jefferson students.
"There's a lot of parents out there who believe in corporal punishment," Austin said. He is an assistant principal at Webster Middle School this year.
A district report on corporal punishment shows that far more Jefferson students have been spanked in recent years than the students at the other eight middle schools.
During the 1985-86 school year, 504 students were spanked at Jefferson. At Jackson Middle school, 312 were paddled.
Since 1985, Moon Middle School has managed without corporal punishment, the report said.
With the exception of Jefferson, Rogers Middle School relied more on corporal punishment than any other Oklahoma City school this year.
But while more than 500 paddlings occurred at Jefferson, paddling was used 118 times at Rogers.
Austin said he can't explain the difference, though it is possible the figures can't be trusted. "I really don't know. ... Not unless some schools aren't reporting actual figures," he said.
The district's top administrators were concerned about the use of corporal punishment at Jefferson, principal Joe Hodges said.
During the first semester, students were punished with 439 paddlings.
After that, Jefferson educators were encouraged to use other methods of discipline, a tactic which was apparently effective, superintendent Arthur Steller said.
During the second semester, corporal punishment was used 71 times which means paddlings still occurred more frequently at Jefferson than at any of the other schools.
Detention before and after school and during lunch was used more often during the second semester. Parental conferences became more frequent, Hodges said.
Hodges has doubts about how effective paddling is in changing the behavior of sixth-,seventh- and eighth-graders who are at "a horrible, awkward age."
But Austin said, "I think it's effective on certain individual students."
Because of a school board policy change last year, educators had to obtain written permission slips before the "basic old wooden paddle," as Hodges calls it, could be used.
"You'd be surprised how many parents requested to sign one of those permission slips," Austin said.
Jefferson school collected 127 permission slips, which means most of the students were paddled more than once. Austin said some students were paddled six and seven times.
Corporal punishment is like other forms of discipline, Hodges said.
"If you have to keep using it," he said, "it's not effective."
Orlando Sentinel, Florida, 24 August 1989
Corporal punishment should not be banned
By D.L. Cuddy
D.L. Cuddy of Raleigh, N.C., a former public school and university teacher, was a senior associate with the U.S. Department of Education during the Reagan years. He wrote this article for The Orlando Sentinel.
ON March 13 the U.S. Supreme Court kept intact a Texas law allowing corporal punishment, short of deadly force, in public schools. This is disturbing because an earlier court ruling had held that students' rights do not end at the schoolhouse gate, and I do not believe anyone has the right to assault students just short of killing them.
There is, however, a growing movement in the nation to ban corporal punishment from the schools. In Florida, for example, a new law gives school districts that option. I believe this movement also goes too far because there is obviously no rampant child abuse on the part of America's teachers, most of whom are responsible adults.
Some individuals characterize corporal punishment as "violence" against children. From my experience as a teacher, however, I found that many students would prefer a paddling after class to being severely reprimanded in class in front of their friends, which they might consider emotional or psychological "violence".
More than once, I also heard a student admonishing a classmate to cease his misconduct or risk a spanking by the teacher, thus acknowledging the deterrent effect of corporal punishment.
Most disturbing, though, about the movement to outlaw corporal punishment is that it would even deny parents the right to instruct the teacher to act on behalf of them in administering this type of disciplinary action. Government would actually be telling parents what type of discipline may and may not be exercised concerning their children.
This would clearly undermine parental authority for children who have been taught the biblical commandment, "Honor thy father and they mother," and one would have to ask where would such government usurpation of parental authority end? Could this be just the first step in an effort to prohibit all corporal punishment, even that exercised in the home by parents?
From my experience with students, I believe they actually desire the stability that results from fairly and consistently enforced rules of discipline, rather than the permissiveness encouraged by lax standards.
Some years ago, Sweden outlawed corporal punishment in what is generally considered one of the more permissive societies in the world, and which also has one of the highest suicide and venereal disease rates among nations. These facts should be remembered during the current debate in this country.
In the United States, the increasingly lenient attitude toward youthful misbehavior perhaps can be traced to the teaching of psychologists such as Dr. Benjamin Spock in the 1950s.
However, in an article just a few year ago, Spock admitted, "Inability to be firm is the commonest problem of parents in America today. The basic trouble is the fault of the experts. It is a cruel deprivation that we professionals have imposed on mothers and fathers We didn't realize until it was too late how our know-it-all attitude was undermining the self-assurance of parents."
Parents should be the final authority concerning the disciplinary measures affecting their children, and corporal punishment should never be administered in school without parental permission. Also, to ensure that it isn't administered abusively, a witness should always be present. Thus, there should be limitations on the use of corporal punishment, but for government to completely prohibit it as an option would be going too far.
Most teachers who use corporal punishment do so reluctantly and only as a last resort. They are not the source of "violence" in the schools.
If those seeking to ban corporal punishment are really concerned about brutality in the nation's schools, their efforts would be better spent doing something about the fact that each month, according to research by Jackson Toby of Rutgers University, literally thousands of teachers are attacked or robbed by students.
Some opponents of corporal punishment counter that this form of discipline sends the wrong message to students that violence is an appropriate means of solving problems.
But if there were a connection between the incidence of corporal punishment and student violence, why was there so little student violence decades ago when corporal punishment was more prevalent than today?
No, corporal punishment is not the cause of student violence, nor will banning it stop the attacks and thefts. Instead, taking knives and guns away from students would do more than anything else of which I know we do to reduce violence in schools.
If we as a nation are serious about ending hypocrisy concerning violence in America, something should be done about the television networks having news anchors and reporters bemoan violence and permissive sex in society, but then glorifying this behavior in their own prime-time programming and "soaps."
With children spending more time watching television than doing homework, is it any wonder why violence and teen pregnancies have increased among students?
THE ARCHIVE index
About this website
www.corpun.com Main menu page