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School CP - February 1997

Sydney Morning Herald, 4 February 1997

Christians call for parents to do the caning

By Helen Pitt
Religious Affairs Writer

A Christian community school on the North Coast has vowed to defy the State Government ban on corporal punishment by calling in parents to administer the cane.

The radical plan, put to the board of the Nambucca Valley Christian Community School last night, is seen as a legal loophole to the NSW legislation. This bans corporal punishment in NSW private schools and came into effect on January 1.

The Minister for Education, Mr Aquilina, has warned that private schools continuing to use corporal punishment would face deregistration.

However, the Nambucca Valley school's chairman, Dr Peter Barnes, said he did not believe the school would be deregistered if it allowed parents to do the caning.

He said he would call in parents to administer discipline to their children, rather than risk deregistration by allowing teachers to carry it out.

"We will carry on -- we're not closing down but we are not intending repudiating corporal punishment -- it is a matter of how you administer it", Dr Barnes said. "This is an issue of parents' rights. A parent should be able to decide how a child is disciplined between the hours of 9 am and 3.30 pm."

Dr Barnes, who believes there are biblical justifications for corporal punishment, said the legislation to ban it was "like Germany in 1935 -- not NSW in 1997."

A spokeswoman for Mr Aquilina said the issue had not been raised with the Government and if the school wished to pursue this course of punishment, it would have to raise the matter with the Board of Studies.

A spokeswoman for the Board of Studies, which registers schools, said it was unclear if the school risked deregistration if parents administered the corporal punishment.

"We have not entered into negotiations with this school but would be prepared to explore all methods of alternative discipline with them," she said.

The president of Christian Community Schools, Mr Bob Frisken, has called on the principals of the 40 Christian community schools not to administer corporal punishment until a meeting between parents, teachers and principals takes place on February 14.

"There has been a great deal of unhappiness and anger amongst parents on this issue," he said. "Parents have a right to choose if they want their children educated in a similar way as they are brought up at home.

"While some schools are saying this is not worth risking having to close over, we believe it is still a matter that needs some talking about with the Government."

Mr John Baxter, the State co-ordinator of the 25 NSW Christian parent-controlled schools, said they would accept the State Government legislation but "unwillingly and under duress."

The vice-president of the Religious Freedom Institute, Mr John Swan, reaffirmed yesterday that it would support the defence of any Christian school which defied the ban.

"RFI takes the view that it is the inalienable right of parents to educate and properly discipline their children and parents delegate that authority to the school that they choose to send their children to," he said.

Herald Sun, Melbourne, 25 February 1997

Sparing the Rod

CANING and the strap have had a long, inglorious history in Australian schools.

The brutal "thwack" of the strap delivering six-of-the-best to a miscreant echoed around the corridors of technical schools - and was still to be heard occasionally in high schools - right into the supposedly permissive '60s and early '70s.

Corporal punishment was outlawed in Victorian state schools in 1983.

Simple solutions prevailed in the old, autocratic era of the "cuts", says Dr Tony Townsend of Monash University's education faculty.

Rebellious, failing or truanting students left school the day they reached the official leaving age - if not before.

Only around one in three made it to Year 12 and one in 10 to university.

"Schools effectively pushed students out if they were no good," Dr Townsend says.

While corporal punishment persists in a few fundamentalist Christian schools, most schools employ a more complex and civilised armory of disciplinary methods.

Sanctions range from "time out" and "in-school" suspensions right up to expulsion.

At the same time, the teaching climate has become much tougher.

Children come from diverse backgrounds and stay longer and society's problems of drugs, broken homes, violence, and unemployment are spilling over into schools.

Dr Townsend fears that unless we spend more money to cut class sizes, we are in danger of becoming like the United States where the worst schools employ security guards and metal detectors to check bags.

But according to others, like state school psychologist Ieuan Williams, schools are handling their discipline problems better than ever.

"A number of schools who have had very bad reputations up to a year or two ago have had a complete turnaround," Mr Williams says. 

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