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School CP - July 1996


Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas, 10 July 1996

Donahue Show

A lawyer and counselor discuss corporal punishment in schools on the program that airs Tuesday.

By Jessamy Brown, Star-Telegram Staff Writer

ARLINGTON - Two Arlington residents are to appear next week on a TV talk show debating whether schools should use corporal punishment.

Attorney Howard Rosenstein was invited to appear on the Phil Donahue show after he filed a lawsuit against the Dallas school district, which he hopes will be the beginning of the end of corporal punishment in Texas. Also appearing is Linda Metcalf, an Arlington counselor and education consultant.

The program, broadcast locally on KDFW/Channel 4 at 1 p.m., is to air Tuesday. Although Donahue has stopped producing new shows, this one was taped in February for later use, producers said.

"My main focus was how appalling it is that in this day and age, teachers still hit children," Rosenstein said.

Metcalf served as an expert on working with children to change their behavior without using corporal punishment.

Dennis Eichelbaum, Dallas district general counsel, said yesterday that he believes the district will be dismissed from the lawsuit at a hearing July 25.

Eichelbaum declined further comment but did say he was not asked to give the district's point of view on the talk show.

Texas leads the nation in the number of students who have been on the receiving end of corporal punishment, a practice that 27 states have abandoned, said Jimmy Dunne, president of Houston-based People Opposed to Paddling Students.

The punishment, in which adults strike children on the buttocks with wooden paddles, has changed over the years, Dunne said. Some schools allow parents to determine if their child is punished or if the presents will be present during the spanking. Other districts limit the punishment to three swats, administered only by a school official, not a teacher.

The number of student paddlings recorded in Texas during the 1991-92 school year, the most recent figures available, was 141,027, including 9,367 handicapped children, said Dunne, who said he also appeared on a 1986 Donahue program on the same topic.

In Arlington schools, paddling was banned in July 1993. Officials have a multilevel system for handling misbehavior, including verbal warnings, suspension and being sent to Turning Point, an alternative campus for disruptive students, according to the Student Code of Conduct.

In the Dallas lawsuit, filed in December on behalf of several students, Rosenstein charges that school officials have violated their policy on corporal punishment. Further a "systematic beating of children ... has been accepted, developed and promoted by the teachers and the administration" at Comstock Middle School, Rosenstein said in a news release. The matter has a trial date in January 1998, he said.

Under a Dallas policy included in the lawsuit, only principals, assistant principals and counselors are allowed to administer paddlings; a teacher may do so with the consent of a principal and with written approval by parents. Also, the policy states, paddling is allowed only after such measures as counseling and parent conferences have failed, and the punishment is to be administered out of view of other students.

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