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rainbow ruler   :  Archive   :  1996   :  US Schools Oct 1996


School CP - October 1996

Corpun file 00611

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WBOC-TV, Salisbury, Maryland, 4 October 1996 (transcript)

Corporal Punishment, Public Schools and Your Kids

Reporter: Eric Roby

Public schools in Delaware have the right to spank students with or without parent permission. Tonight Eric Roby talks with a mother that says that's not right.

Eric Roby: "Margaret Layton is like most parents -- she wants to make sure her eight-year-old daughter gets a good education but she doesn't want the public school system to tell her how her child should be discipline in school."

Margaret Layton / Parent: "Discipline should be taught in the home. They go to school to learn to be educated."

Roby: "But Layton found out when she enrolled her daughter in the East Millsboro Elementary School that Delaware schools have the right to spank children with or without the parents' permission."

Earl Savage / Indian River School District: "It isn't hardly used anymore, any longer. It used to be but not too much anymore."

Roby: "But it is still up to the principals. And the principal at East Millsboro Elementary School says on an average year he spanks 7 to 9 children. But for Margaret Layton that's too much."

Margaret Layton: "I put her on the bus and I sit here during the day and I'm wondering if she is going to be spanked or paddled."

Roby: "School officials say that 75 percent of the spankings are actually requested from parents. But Margaret Layton says she didn't like the answer when she asked if she could stop the principal from ever spanking her child."

Earl Savage: "Not necessarily -- but I think most of the principals will probably abide by the parents' wishes."

Roby: "But for Layton that's not good enough. She says corporal punishment sends the wrong message to children."

Margaret Layton: "Violence is not the answer. Sit down and discuss it. But this uses violence -- paddling is violence."

Roby: "School officials say spanking still has a place in the classroom. So for Layton she is now seeing if she should start home schooling her child. Eric Roby, WBOC News."

Tonight the principal at the East Millsboro Elementary School agreed to work with Layton on her concerns with corporal punishment.

Corpun file 04444


The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, 5 October 1996

Boys' Paddlings Anger Parents

Wister Principal Won't Be Prosecuted

By Mark A. Hutchison

WISTER - Tommy Walston has had his share of swats at school. But the 12-year-old Wister seventh-grader said the three licks he took Sept. 10 from Principal Dennis Shoup made his hip bones rattle.

"I begged for suspension after the first one," Tommy said. "No way could I sit down when I got back to class."

When the pain didn't subside, Tommy showed his father, Randy, where he'd been paddled.

"When I saw what they'd done to my boy, I headed straight to the school," Walston said. "They have no business paddling kids like that."

Meanwhile, Tommy wasn't alone in his discomfort. His friend, Andrew Amos, drew the same punishment and complained to his mother.

"He had red marks from top to bottom, side to side," Wileata Amos said. "They turned into bruises the next day."

Amos complained to school Superintendent Jerry Carpenter and Wister Police Chief Donnie Edwards, who then took a complaint from Walston.

Prosecutor Robert Stockton said he's seen pictures of the boys' buttocks after the paddling. He also reviewed the doctor reports.

"We've declined to file any criminal charges. The parents signed a consent form and corporal punishment is legal," he said. "It didn't rise to the level of child abuse. We didn't see it as excessive force."

Edwards took pictures of the boys' buttocks and gave his report to the district attorney's office.

Edwards on Friday said only that "the pictures speak for themselves."

Shoup declined comment. Carpenter said he couldn't discuss the specific incident because of confidentiality laws.

"I can tell you our principal has followed our policy on every item of discipline I'm aware of," Carpenter said.

The superintendent said he spoke with the boys' parents and thought the matter was resolved.

Both boys were taken by their parents to see separate doctors a day after the paddling. Poteau physician Muhammed Majeed wrote a letter saying Andrew had "extensive bruising" and "therefore, I strongly consider this as an excessive force of using discipline and it should be discouraged."

Carpenter said he hasn't seen the doctor's letter but that "anytime a teacher or principal paddles a student, he puts his whole career on the line."

The boys said they were playing rough about noon Sept. 10 when they were taken to the principal. School officials told parents the boys were fighting.

Each was given a choice of three swats or three days' suspension. Both chose the swats.

"It sounded like this guy (Shoup) was practicing his golf swing on these boys," Walston said. "He pulled the paddle way back behind his head."

Parents are asked at the beginning of the school year to sign a form allowing corporal punishment for their children. The policy says in part that "corporal punishment may never be administered in any degree that will result in serious injury."

Walston and Amos signed the form.

"Suspension is like a vacation for the kids," Walston said.

State law allows the 549 school districts to choose whether to allow corporal punishment. A state education department official said he didn't know how many schools allowed it.

Both parents agree the swats of their sons were justified. The dispute is whether there was excessive force.

Amos and Walston say they'll complain to the school board Oct. 28.

"If this paddling was done by me or any other parent, we'd have charges against us," Amos said. "But Oklahoma law protects teachers and principals. I want it stopped, even if it takes rewriting the laws." -APNEWSTYPE- DTOBJ


Forth Worth Star-Telegram, Texas, 11 October 1996

Trustees take issue with district paddling policy

By Robert Cadwallader
Special to the Star-Telegram

GRAND PRAIRIE -- Corporal punishment took a beating from two school board members at this week's meeting, but other trustees said district policy regarding paddling is fair and effective.

Board member Keith Head requested that the district's discipline policy be discussed Thursday night because he thinks it varies too much from campus to campus, he said. Specifically, he said he is unhappy that students are spanked for excessive absences at some campuses.

"I really think the district needs to reevaluate it," Head said. "I think we are setting ourselves up for a lawsuit, especially if we use corporal punishment for tardiness."

Trustee Lorraine Saenz-Sarabia said she also opposes spanking.

"I think that we as a district can come up with an alternative to physical pain," she said.

The district paddles only if the student's parents have granted permission, district staff officials said. Principals alternate disciplinary measures to find the one that works best for a particular student, officials said.

Board Vice President Frank Brundrett said he can vouch for the usefulness of paddling, citing his own childhood.

"I could agree with Mr. Head and Ms. Sarabia as far as the female gender, but it was effective on me," he said. "Fear of being punished and being swatted kept me out of a lot of trouble."

Board President Michael Grace and member Norris Rideaux also cited their own similar experiences as students and their support for the district's policy.

Trustee Billy Langston didn't comment during the board discussion. Afterward, he said that he hasn't made up his mind but that he sees no problems as long as parents give consent and alternate punishments are tried to find which is most effective.

School attorney Edgar Coble said that school districts are immune from lawsuits stemming from paddling but that individual school employees are not.

Head also said he is concerned that students at some schools are disciplined -- not necessarily paddled -- for asking to go to the restroom more than twice in six weeks. He called it "sickening" and "archaic."

Superintendent Charles Holloway said the staff would try to ensure that the discipline policy is enforced more equitably between campuses.

Other officials said that equality is virtually impossible because of the wide range of offenses and available punishments, combined with recent emphasis on campus- level autonomy.


The Indianapolis Star/News, Indiana, 29 October 1996

Hearing Nov. 8 on paddling case

Staff Report

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (Oct. 28, 1996) -- A Hamilton County judge will hear arguments Nov. 8 on a motion to dismiss a charge against Sheridan High School Principal Al Youmans in connection with the paddling of a student.

Youmans was indicted Aug. 9 on a misdemeanor count of criminal recklessness in the February paddling of Christopher Goodnight, 15.

Christopher, who was being disciplined for fighting, chose a paddling in place of suspension. His parents later went to authorities after seeking medical treatment for bruises on the boy's buttocks.

Judge William Hughes was to have heard arguments today on the motion to dismiss.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp filed battery and criminal recklessness charges against Youmans on May 16 in Superior Court 3.

She subsequently decided to take the case to a grand jury, and on July 26 she moved to dismiss the initial charges. The court agreed and dismissed the charges three days later.

After the grand jury issued an indictment against Youmans, Leerkamp filed the criminal recklessness charge in Hughes' Superior Court 4.

In seeking dismissal, defense counsel William Wendling argues that Youmans was protected by Indiana law when he paddled Christopher.

In his brief, Wendling asserts that "it has been more than 100 years since any Indiana Appellate Court has had to address a school official's use of corporal punishment in the context of a criminal prosecution."

Indiana courts, he said, have repeatedly upheld the right of educators to use corporal punishment to keep discipline in school.

Likewise, he argued, the legislature has endorsed corporal punishment in schools.

In 1973, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation saying, in part, that school personnel "shall, when pupils are under their charge, have the right to take any action which is then reasonably necessary to carry out, or to prevent an interference with, the educational function."

Wendling wrote, "The legislature did not intend for school officials to be charged with criminal battery or recklessness when administering corporal punishment."

He further noted that Indiana law provides that "a person is justified in engaging in conduct otherwise prohibited if he has legal authority to do so."

The Marion-Adams School Board passed a resolution June 20 stating it found "that Mr. Youmans' conduct was completely within the scope and policy of Marion-Adams Schools."

Further, the board committed to paying Youmans' legal expenses "incurred in the defense of this matter which came about out of his duties as principal, following our policies and procedures."

However, the board has suspended its voluntary paddling policy in the wake of the indictment.

blob Follow-up: 12 November 1996 - Sheridan principal off the hook in paddling case


The Washington Post, 30 October 1996

Swell Slogan, Bad Policy

By Robert J. Samuelson

I am all for parenting. With three children (ages 6, 9 and 11), homework, soccer games and car pools are the most important parts of my life. But my commitment to parenting stops well short of enthusiasm for the "parental rights" amendment now proposed for the Colorado state constitution. The amendment's architects regard it as a trial run. If it's approved in November, parental rights would go national in a big way. A recent poll shows voters favoring the amendment 54 percent to 26 percent. Too bad. "Parental rights" is a swell slogan, but it would make lousy social policy.

We have long debated this question: How should parents and government split responsibility in child rearing? Not until 1918, for example, did all states have compulsory-school-attendance laws. That debate echoes our own. "We used to think that the care of our children was entirely the affair of the home," said one reformer of the time. Compulsory-attendance laws, she said, were a triumph over this mind-set. But another child advocate wondered whether more schooling was better, because the family "is the mother of all the affections, the first school and the best."

It is because these issues are so personal that social change shouldn't be imposed arbitrarily. The Colorado amendment risks doing precisely that. It would add 16 words to the constitution's section that defines citizens' "inalienable rights." The new words would be: "and of parents to direct and control the upbringing, education, values and discipline of their children." What does that mean? No one knows. Good law promotes clarity and certainty. By contrast, the amendment would create confusion and conflict -- and then consign much of the conflict to our least democratic political institutions, the courts.

Jeffrey Bell, the amendment's main author, says that its highly generalized language was patterned after the "Equal Rights Amendment" of feminists. "Because of the broadness of the language, it ensures that there will be further debate about what parental rights are," he says. And litigation. The ERA and the parental-rights amendment share the same defect. Both exploit seductive rhetoric (women's "equality" and parents' "rights") to plug a measure whose impact would flow only from specific acts -- undisclosed and impossible to anticipate -- of legislatures, courts and agencies. Both invite unintended consequences.

Of course, the Colorado amendment -- if adopted -- might prove a sham. The new language is so vague that no state bureaucrat or school official might alter any current policy. The amendment's supporters would then rightly feel incensed that they had been misled. But it's equally likely that, armed with their new "inalienable right," parents of all political persuasions might object to various policies of schools (curriculum, counseling, discipline), libraries or social agencies. Many objections might be mutually exclusive. If complaints weren't settled, the aggrieved could flock to courts.

I don't dispute the sincerity of Bell and other advocates, though (as with most of these proposals) they come with political baggage. Most of the amendment's active supporters are Republicans; Bell was a top aide to Jack Kemp in his 1988 presidential campaign. The advocates' main fear is that government -- run by "elites" -- is substituting its views of children's welfare for parents'. Says the Colorado Coalition for Parental Responsibility:

"Educators have introduced sex education, distribution of condoms and propaganda for 'alternate lifestyles' despite the objections of parents. The attack on parents' rights manifests itself in the reaction of social services in removing children from their homes without due process for such 'offenses' as spanking a child. . . . In the medical arena, there has been HIV testing of children [and] abortions."

The extent of these practices -- and opposition to them -- isn't clear. Americans generally don't fault their school for "low moral standards." In a 1993 poll, only 3 percent of respondents cited that as a problem, compared with 21 percent who deplored "lack of financial support." Nor is government weakening families by somehow revoking parental rights. If anything, the process works in reverse: The weakening of families -- through more divorces, out-of-wedlock births and two-earner couples -- has pulled government into the breach.

Still, I don't regard complaints of government meddling as frivolous. Groups of all ideological flavors strive to advance their agendas through state power. Schools and social agencies are bureaucracies that can be silly, heavy-handed and arbitrary. The recent episode in which a 6-year-old was punished for "sexual harassment" after kissing a classmate is a reminder. These issues are often hard, because emotions run high, and right and wrong aren't obvious. As an opponent to schools' distribution of condoms in New York once said: "There is no way in this city and these United States that someone is going to tell my son he can have a condom when I say he can't."

The boundary between governmental and parental prerogative is a continuing debate, because social conditions and popular attitudes constantly shift. But redrawing the boundaries ought to be a time-consuming process. Consider student spanking and paddling in schools. In 1970 most states (49) permitted them. Now only 23 do, and in 11 of these, local school boards have outlawed them for more than half of students. Public opinion has moved. In 1958 a poll found that 62 percent of respondents supported paddling and 35 percent didn't. By 1994, 56 percent disapproved and 38 percent approved. Does the change support or repudiate "parental rights"? It depends how you feel about paddling.

The point is that the slogan does not illuminate most specific disputes. These need to be considered on their own merits or demerits. And debates should be channeled toward our most democratic arenas: state legislatures, city councils and local school boards. The thrashing out of differences is what democracy is all about. It can be ugly and vindictive. But it also can educate, expose areas of agreement and allow for the accommodation of minority views. Platitudes don't make good policy -- or parenting.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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