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Judicial CP - June 1905

Corpun file 19666


The New York Times, 14 June 1905

Children's Court Rules in Favor of Corporal Punishment.

Spank Them, Teachers, Says Justice Olmsted

Two lads in for the rod

If Parents Don't Want Them Put in Institutions, Teachers May Use the Birch.

Press cutting

The question of whether disobedient pupils may be whipped in public schools was discussed yesterday afternoon in the Children's Court, where Jacob Sarowitz, eleven years old, of 4 Attorney Street, and Harry Gordon, ten years old, of 115 Division Street, were arraigned before Justice Olmsted on complaint of their teachers.

Sarowitz was charged by his Principal, Miss Ellen Conway, with playing truant, and Gordon was accused of stealing a gold ring from his teacher, Miss Anna M. Weiss. Both boys admitted that they were guilty.

Justice Olmsted, after reprimanding the lads, decided that they should be punished more severely, but yielding to the pleas of their parents, said he would not send them to an institution. He finally decided to act under a new form of commitment by which they or any other pupils who are disobedient or commit small crimes may be punished by teachers in the schools. This means corporal punishment, and, according to Justice Olmsted, is lawful.

Children brought before him, he declares, may be punished by teachers just the same as they would by their parents. He bases this ruling on Section 713 of the Penal Code, which says:

"When a person under the age of 16 years is convicted of a crime he may, in the discretion of the court, instead of being sentenced to a fine or imprisonment, be placed in charge of any suitable person or institution willing to receive him, and may be kept there until reaching his majority or for a shorter term, subjected to such discipline and control of the person or institution receiving him as a parent or guardian may lawfully exercise over a minor."

Justice Olmsted decided to place Sarowitz under the guardianship of Miss Conway, the Principal of Public School No. 120, for a year, and Miss Regina Cregin, the Principal of School No. 42, will have the same control over young Gordon.

Whenever these Principals see fit they may use the rod or strap on the lads. No interference can be made by the boys' parents. To-day Sarowitz and Gordon probably will receive the punishment that is in store for them.

Justice Olmsted believes this section of the code an excellent one, as it gives him the opportunity of permitting public school teachers permission to punish all children they bring before him.

Corpun file 19665


The New York Times, 15 June 1905

Spanking Decision Stirs Up Educators

Shall the Law or Mere Board Rules Prevail?

Board of Education Dodges

Two Women School Principals in a Dilemma, and Bad Little Boys Temporarily Good.

Press cutting

The best-behaved boy in Public School No. 120, in Broome Street, yesterday, was ten-year-old Jacob Sarowitz. Over at Public School No. 42, in Orchard Street, Harry Gordon, of a similar age, seemed to be trying to win a medal for good conduct.

Until two days ago these boys held all records for truancy in the east side schools, but since they stood before Justice Olmsted in the Children's Court and the Justice committed them to the guardianship of their respective Principals, Jacob and Harry have been lost in a reverie, for the Judge has invested their school-teacher guardians with full parental jurisdiction in all family matters, from clean collars to woodshed séances.

The Principals in question are, however, more than a little astonished and dismayed at the action of the court. Miss Regina Crigen, as Principal of School 42 and Miss Ellen Conway of School 120, are aware that there is a by-law of the Board of Education which forbids corporal punishment. Justice Olmsted, on the other hand, says with regard to the fate of Jacob Sarowitz and Harry Gordon that if either of them needs corporal punishment it is the right and the duty of the newly appointed guardians to see that it is administered, "regardless of any law or regulation prohibiting corporal punishment by a school officer."

Early yesterday Associate Superintendent Clarence E. Meleney called at Public School 120, and to him Miss Conway unfolded the dilemma. This was the first that Mr. Meleney had heard of the decision.

"Briefly, the matter seems to stand this way," explained Miss Conway. "Jacob Sarowitz was a chronic truant. I tried everything to cure him. Besides that, he was mischievous, and he stole pencils. Yesterday I caused him to be sent to the Children's Court. Justice Olmsted said he had only two courses open to him -- to send this boy and another boy from Miss Crigen's school to an institution, or commit them to the guardianship of Miss Crigen and myself, one to each, with all perquisites and privileges. To-day I received this letter from the court, which is a sort of commission."

Mr. Meleney looked over the letter, which informed Miss Conway that Justice Olmsted had taken advantage of Section 713 of the Penal Code, which provides that a minor convicted of a crime may be placed in the guardianship of any suitable person who shall have all the rights and privileges of a father -- or a mother, as in this case.

When Associate Superintendent Meleney arrived at that point in the commission which gave Miss Conway authority to administer to Jacob Sarowitz "corporal punishment ... regardless of any law or regulation prohibiting corporal punishment by a school officer," he folded up the letter and said severely that the matter would be looked into.

Meantime Miss Julia Richman, District Superintendent, was sitting over her morning mail wondering what had befallen her. On the previous day she had written to Justice Olmsted about a mischievous schoolboy named Harry Heilman, who was convicted in April for stealing 30 cents from a schoolmate, and paroled on suspended sentence. Again Harry lapsed from grace, and Miss Richman so reported to the Justice, suggesting that the suspension of sentence be revoked. The morning mail had brought a reply from Ernest K. Coulter, deputy clerk of the Children's Court, which read in part:

"In view of the circumstances of the case Justice Olmsted has directed me to say that he would not feel justified in revoking the suspension of sentence and committing Harry Hailman to an institution, but if you will accept the commitment the court will place the boy under your control for a year under the provisions of Section 713 of the Penal Code.

"If such an order were made by the court the person in whose charge the child were placed have the right to administer corporal punishment if it were deemed necessary in a parental capacity and not as a school teacher. The person in charge would have legal authority to take any course that a parent might lawfully adopt to compel obedience."

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Up to last night Miss Richman had not recovered enough from the surprise of finding herself in control of a growing boy to frame a suitable reply.

Miss Conway, at Public School No. 120, got no chance to make a reply. She said to a reporter:

"This greatness was thrust upon me. I really don't know what I am going to do. I am sure I always try to be a mother to all of the boys in this school, but -- but -- really. I confess that I am at a loss. I dare not administer corporal punishment in the school: there is a by-law against it: and yet the law is greater than the by-law."

"Perhaps," suggested the reporter, "Justice Olmsted means that you are to make notes in school about Jacob Sarowitz's behavior, and lie in wait for him at the school door when he comes out."

"Well, hardly think so," laughed Miss Conway, "but I know what I am doing. Jacob Sarowitz and all the others have heard about this, and now that they know I have the legal power to whip them they may be careful about being wicked."

At yesterday's meeting of the Board of Education, a letter was read from Associate Superintendent Meleney with reference to Justice Olmsted's action, reviewing the situation. One member of the board declared that this was a downright "reflection" upon the by-law covering corporal punishment. Another took sides with the bench and said that it was "downright sensible." He drew attention to the latter part of the letter to Miss Conway, which read:

There has been much complaint on the part of school authorities that they do not have wider powers of discipline. Justice Olmsted has been thinking for some time of taking advantage of the section of the Penal Code which gives the court the right to confer the widest possible powers on an individual who will take charge of a child who has been convicted. As this is the first commitment of this kind, the result will be watched with considerable interest and the court will be glad to hear of the boy's progress.

Press cutting

The Board of Education agreed unanimously, however, that Justice Olmsted's decision was highly important. It was referred to the Committee on By-laws.

Justice Olmsted, when seen late in the afternoon, was quite happy about his action.

"The situation is this," said he. "The public schools expect the police and the courts to discipline the children for them. When I was at school and I stole teacher's lead pencil or climbed on the window and made faces at the other boys, I was thrashed. Nowadays the children get a scolding, and if that does no good they are brought to the Children's Court by a strapping policeman.

"The usual course is to send them to an institution to be 'institutionalized,' but I think the little mischievous fellows -- and that's all they are, mischievous -- should get a chance. They need the spanking, and although I am not starting a crusade against the Board of Education's by-laws, I think my action is the correct one in specific cases. Section 713 covers the situation nicely."

"Do you think the Board of Education will make any fuss about --?" ventured the reporter.

"Fuss?" demanded Justice Olmsted. "Fuss about what? Section 713 is the law, isn't it. Very well, then. You can't fuss with an order of the court!"

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