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School CP - May 1998

Bermuda Sun, Hamilton, 15 May 1998


Public flogging

THE BERMUDIAN public is generally enthusiastic about flogging, and many recall the welts of their childhood with great nostalgia and not a little pride.

So we aren't surprised that the beating that headmaster Dale Butler administered to three boys in front of his assembled students has generated great applause as well as criticism.

Mr. Butler argues that a public example was needed: Beating the young thieves in private would only teach the three boys a lesson: Beating them in front of 240 or more of their schoolmates would share the lesson with a wider audience. And he points out that a general lack of discipline is a problem among students throughout the island.

So why, we wondered, doesn't he take his show on the road and share it with an even larger audience. The boys could be flogged at school assemblies throughout the island, at the National Stadium before major matches, and on stage at the flagpole on Harbour Nights.

If that is not convenient, headmasters at other schools could arrange field trips to Mr. Butler's school, so their students could share in the lessons being doled out there, much as they now take educational trips to the Aquarium and the Bermuda National Gallery.

At the very least, a videotape of the flogging should have been made, so the lesson could be shared and repeated with a wide audience, even if the boys repent and reform and require no further beatings.

Discipline is sorely lacking, among students and adults alike. ...But let's get real: The episode was humiliating not only for the children involved, but for the headmaster, the school, and our education system in general. And the lessons it taught were, at the best, confused and contradictory.

Bermuda Sun, Hamilton, 27 May 1998

Butler: I'd strap them again

By Meredith Ebbin

CHILD care advocates who are opposed to corporal punishment may have won a small victory in the wake of headmaster Dale Butler's controversial decision to strap three youngsters in public.

Mr. Butler told the Sun if he had to do it all over again, he would still strap the youngsters -- but not in public.

But he predicted that principals will be less likely to resort to corporal punishment now for fear of generating criticism.

With most Bermudians in favour of corporal punishment, Mr. Butler, who is running for the PLP in Warwick East, denied his actions were politically motivated.

But Mr. Butler, whose party is opposed to corporal punishment, said most of the calls he received were in support of his actions -- they ran the gamut of Bermuda's cultural, political and racial spectrum, he said, from Filipino to Portuguese and included blacks and whites, and UBP and PLP supporters.

Even though he was once opposed to corporal punishment, Mr. Butler said a little spanking doesn't hurt.

And the reason he has changed his mind is that students nowadays are more difficult to discipline because there is less control in the home.

While corporal punishment may still be on the books in public schools yet outlawed in private schools, he said teachers in public schools still need to have it as a last resort.

He said teachers in public schools have more challenges -- they have "numerous social issues to deal with."

"Teachers are burnt out, " he said.

Students attending private schools tend to be more motivated and there is a greater degree of parental interest. Students come to school ready to learn.

Mr. Butler ran into a storm of criticism from child care advocates after it was revealed that he strapped three students at Northlands Primary School as the full school looked on during assembly.

The students were among nine who had stolen "precious rocks" from a neighbour's collection. Six who owned up to the theft were not strapped.

Mr. Butler said the decision to strap them was made by a team comprising six teachers and it was made because all other forms of discipline, including in-school suspension, had failed.

He said since then the three, who were aged 10 and 11, had apologized.

"Two of them admitted they were out of control," he said.

Mr. Butler was criticized by the Ministry of Education for strapping the youngsters in public -- his actions were called medieval -- and by child rights activist Sheilagh Cooper, founder of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, for strapping them period.

He said of Mrs. Cooper: "Sheilagh Cooper asked for a public outcry and she got it -- against herself and her agency."

He said "a handful" of parents at Northlands were concerned their children had witnessed the strapping as they were not aware of the use of corporal punishment.

Mr. Butler, the father of two sons, says his own children haven't been spanked since they were about age five.

He said he doesn't use the belt very much at Northlands -- he described his school's environment as "loving" and "caring."

But he said he would still keep it on the books even for high school students -- although it's less effective at that stage, it is still a good deterrent.

He said he still gets calls from his former students at St. George's Secondary School, where was headmaster for 10 years, supporting his decision to strap them -- it showed he meant business, they've told him.

He also said when the decision was made to strap the youngsters, he did not consider that he was operating against PLP policy -- he said decisions he makes in school are not influenced by PLP policy.

"It never once occurred to me that it was against PLP policy. If it came to a conscience vote, based on what I have seen, I would retain it as a last resort."

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