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School CP - May 2006

Corpun file 17659

Royal Gazette, Hamilton, Bermuda, 8 May 2006

Bring back the cane for unruly students

photo by Chris Burville. Mike Charles, general secretary of Bermuda Union of Teachers - for Monday interview.

The leader of Bermuda's teaching union is calling for the cane to be used on unruly students in Bermuda's public schools.

Mike Charles, general secretary of the Bermuda Union of Teachers (BUT), said he advocated a return to corporal punishment being available to all teachers, as opposed to just principals.

"There are very serious problems in our schools," he said. "I can send you up to CedarBridge right now and there are kids up there and they are completely out of control.

"I must point out however that this is only a small amount of kids that are causing these problems."

He said: "When I was in school you had to sit and listen and you had to pay attention otherwise you would be disciplined. Some people feel that the discipline that was used in the past should not be used now. I'm not so sure of that.

"I think we have gone completely the other way and what do we have? We have chaos."

In an extensive interview in today's Royal Gazette, Mr. Charles claimed most methods by which teachers could discipline students were no longer available.

"What is there in the system right now outside of expelling the kid?" he said. "What's the consequence (for bad behaviour) these days? Sit outside the principal's office and then you go back to class laughing."

He added that he believed caning should be used where all else had failed with a child but that teachers should not be able to use it on students of the same gender.

"I don't advocate just walking around with a ruler or strap and whacking kids around," he said. "There are times and I'm not saying it is something that should be used liberally. It should be there as a last resort."

He pointed to recent incidents at CedarBridge Academy – including the discovery of home-made bottle bombs and a pellet gun on the premises – as evidence of an "escalation" in bad behaviour among students.

And he criticised Government's public response to what happened. "For whatever reason they tried to minimise whatever it is that is being done which is unfortunate because it doesn't go away by keeping quiet."

Education Minister Terry Lister said he was "shocked" by Mr. Charles' remarks on corporal punishment and would never allow teachers, aside from principals, to use it "for their own protection".

"Ask Mr. Charles what his position will be when a 24-year-old female teacher canes a student and that student's mother and father comes to the school and beats the life out of that teacher," he said.

"That's the practical reason why we don't have teachers flogging students anymore."

He added that teachers should be able to manage their classes without force.

Shadow Education Minister Neville Darrell agreed. "I do not support corporal punishment in school," he said. He said he would prefer to see an alternative school set up for disruptive students – an idea also supported by Mr. Charles.

But Independent Senator Carol Anne Bassett said she believed corporal punishment could be an effective deterrent to bad behaviour if used properly.

"During the time that I was in school and my children were in school that was the way it was. Even though a lot of times the teachers didn't hit you, just the fact that we knew they could meant that a lot of children would toe the line," she said.

Mr. Lister refuted the claim that Government had tried to play down recent events at CedarBridge.

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