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rainbow ruler   :  Archive   :  1997   :  US Schools Feb 1997


School CP - February 1997

Corpun file 0617 at

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, 1 February 1997

Legislature front page

Blanket immunity faces opposition

By Gina Holland
The Associated Press

JACKSON - Edwards Elementary School Principal Linda Laws wants her teachers to be able to break up schoolyard fights without the threat of a lawsuit.

The Legislature is taking up the issue of force in public and private schools, and how policymakers can ensure peaceful campuses.

Two House committees have spent the past several weeks on a bill that would give educators some protection against civil and criminal complaints brought over paddlings and other force.

Laws, a 24-year school veteran, said teachers "need to know they have control in their rooms."

"You've got to give teachers something, not just money, support. They need to know they're not going to lose their homes if a parent is irate," she said. "You wouldn't have to have this fear all the time, in the back of your mind, that I shouldn't do that, I shouldn't do this."

At the heart of the bill is corporal punishment and administrators being able to mete punishment as authorized by local school boards.

Laws said paddlings are rare at her campus of 515 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. District policy allows principals to paddle students with a witness present, she said.

The original House bill would have protected teachers, assistant teachers, principals, assistant principals, school bus drivers and other educators who handle punishment in line with local or state school guidelines.

A committee this week, however, decided only teachers, principals and assistant principals should have special protection.

"I can just envision a school bus driver can say 'get back' . . . and deliver a backhand to the nose," said Rep. John Reeves, R-Jackson.

While the bill could not stop lawsuits over spankings or any discipline in school, protections would be provided for "moderate use of physical force or contact" designed to enforce discipline or for self-defense.

Some House members oppose corporal punishment altogether.

"We have completely lost faith in our children. Children need a spokesman too," said Rep. Tomie Green, D-Jackson. "I don't think we should be giving blanket immunity."

She unsuccessfully tried to limit the protected paddlings to those given elementary school students. She said older students might get violent in a confrontational situation.

Rep. Tom King, R-Petal, proposed the bill after hearing from educators.

"Teachers said, 'We're afraid to even hug our children now,'" he said. "If you touch a child, that can be simple assault."

"We hear it quite a bit, 'I'll take you to court,'" said Principal Laws. "People are looking for money, not necessarily looking for what's in the best interest of the children."

The bill is House Bill 313.

© 1997 The Sun Herald.

Corpun file 0638 at


Los Angeles Times, 2 February 1997

My Special Education: Spare the Rod and Discard the Student

By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Ruben Navarrette, Jr. is an author, lecturer, and senior fellow of the Washington-based organization, One Nation Indivisible

PARLIER, CALIF. I recently spent four weeks as a long-term substitute teacher at a junior high school in a poor San Joaquin Valley town. In my charge were several dozen Mexican and Mexican American "special education" students.

Since the school district does not retain students with genuine learning disabilities, "special education" means young people with discipline and/or behavioral problems. Years ago, they were tested, fared poorly and placed on a special-education track, on which they likely will remain throughout high school. These are the throwaway kids whom no one wants to teach. Yet, in four weeks, they gave me a lesson.

Since the 1983 decree that, due to the poor condition of many public schools, ours was a "Nation At Risk," educators, politicians, and parents have responded with everything from resignation to outrage to paralysis.

Now, in the 1990s, education reform has become the newest cause celebre for liberal and conservative alike. One side advocates increased school funding, greater support for teachers' unions and a stronger commitment from government. The other prefers divestiture in the form of abolishing the federal Department of Education and issuing vouchers and "opportunity scholarships."

Recent policy initiatives aimed at improving education include Gov. Pete Wilson's efforts to reduce class size to 20 students at the K-3 level, and President Bill Clinton's plan to recruit, as part of his America Reads initiative, college students to serve as literacy tutors in federally subsidized work-study programs.

A tour of duty on the front lines, however, shows just how futile any or all of these measures may ultimately be without first addressing the vital relationship between teachers and students. Simply put, students cannot learn if teachers cannot teach. And teachers cannot teach without first establishing, and then preserving on a daily basis, their authority in the classroom.

Since the elimination of corporal punishment and the onslaught of school-related lawsuits, most students know, some as early as elementary school, what their teachers can and cannot do to discipline them. They also know exactly what they can get away with.

In the best scenario, students and teachers enjoy a pleasant and productive experience based on mutual respect. In the worst, every day is a game, a contest, even a battle between opposing forces: teachers trying to teach, maintain order and assert authority, and students, particularly adolescents, resorting to petty torments, disobedience and even threats to deny their teachers this authority.

At my school, it seemed like war. Teachers of mainstream students who consider their classes demilitarized zones might consider what those classes would be like if they were suddenly reinfested with kids who have been weeded out, tracked out and dumped into special-education classes.

Part of the problem is natural. Many children and adolescents have little fondness for rules or those who enforce them. So accustomed are many of them to talking their own way, acting their own way, dressing their own way and generally having their own way in schools that, when confronted with rules and discipline, they rebel.

At a school where students regularly talk back to, disobey and threaten teachers, many of whom have given up the fight, I acquired a reputation for zero tolerance. My students deemed me an exception, and not a good one. Their daily objective was to get away with as much as possible. When I thwarted them, their responses ranged from anger to resentment to depression.

One student, who fancied himself a thug, had mastered long division but had difficulty grasping the student-teacher dynamic. One day, after a face-to-face shouting match with me (which is not encouraged by the teachers' handbook), he broke into tears. And while that was not an especially glorious moment, it was, for the ultimate good of the student, a necessary one.

In the gradual process of gaining respect for authority, many of these students begin at an awesome disadvantage. My own parents were raised with a stern hand at home and ordered to treat their teachers with the same level of respect or suffer my grandparents' wrath. My parents did me the same favor. Once upon a time, there was no mistaking who was the parent and who the child. No longer.

Accustomed to running their home life, students expect to run their school life as well. The continuum of respect for authority that once guided children from home to school and back again has been shattered. A single mother complained to me recently that her teenage son was earning D's and F's in high school and that he cared only about performing in the school's dance troupe. My solution: Deny him the dancing. That, she agreed, might work. If only, she said, the school would prohibit him from participating in dance unless his grades improved. Afraid to be the villain, she lacked the nerve to exercise what she agreed was probably the only leverage she had over her son. She instead expected school administrators to do her dirty work for her.

The solution may lie in state legislatures reinstating some kind of corporal punishment or school boards finding ways to hold parents financially accountable for their children's misbehavior. It may lie with the individual parents and teachers and school administrators. Or it may lie in the past, in a set of values that we have been so anxious to leave behind.

On my last day at the front, a Latino teacher who had put in 14 years offered up this gem. What these students needed, I suggested to him, were rules, order, discipline and a renewed respect for authority.

"What these kids need," he corrected me, "is a spanking."

Corpun file 4505


The Oklahoman, 5 February 1997

Lawsuit Filed Over Paddling In Drumright

By Michael McNutt
Enid Bureau

DRUMRIGHT - Parents of a high school senior in Drumright say a math teacher violated school policy by paddling the teen-ager.

press cuttingKrista Hubbard, on behalf of her daughter, Kourtney Niccum, has filed a lawsuit in Creek County District Court against the teacher, James Foster, high school Principal Larry Erwin and the Drumright School Board.

The lawsuit seeks at least $30,000 in damages.

Jay Niccum, the girl's father, said Foster allegedly offered to forgo a mathematics assignment if his daughter and other students agreed to three swats from a paddle.

The incident allegedly occurred last fall on the school's homecoming day, Jay Niccum said. Students complained about having to do work that day, he said.

Jay Niccum said Foster swatted his daughter once, knocking over the 90-pound teen.

Jay Niccum said his daughter received a bruise.

Superintendent Arthur Johnson was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Jay Niccum said Drumright's schools have a policy that allows corporal punishment as a form of discipline only.

Parents must sign a consent form, which neither he nor Hubbard did, Jay Niccum said. - APNEWSTYPE

Corpun file 0637 at


Los Angeles Times, 9 February 1997


Use of Corporal Punishment in Schools

Re "My Special Education: Spare the Rod and Discard the Student," Opinion, Feb. 2: Bravo to Ruben Navarrette! He hit a bull's-eye! No amount of money given to schools for new programs, or for teacher salaries (which need increasing to keep talented teachers in the profession), or the false idol called vouchers will bring our schools up to world standards until the "teacher-student dynamic" is resolved.

In my 25 years as a public school teacher (both here and in Australia), I have witnessed the teacher in the classroom being hamstrung by well-intentioned but misguided (even self-serving in some cases) advocates of children's rights. While I am not ready to advocate spanking kids in school, I see nothing wrong with grabbing a student by the arm and forcing him/her into a chair. One of my colleagues recently witnessed an administrator racing after a student who was walking out of school during class. Unable to use his hands, the administrator was reduced to demands and pleas to return to school; naturally, the student ignored him and kept on walking. Where is that student's education going? What has he learned? The administrator, by the way, has discovered how impotent he is.

The answer lies with everyone involved, beginning with the family and the community. Values have to change. Lawyers have to agree to back off and let us do our (difficult) jobs. Would they tolerate this kind of behavior in a courtroom?



When Navarrette reflects on his experience as a four-week, long-term substitute teacher in a poor San Joaquin Valley town, he boasts of only one accomplishment: reducing one of his special education students to tears during a shouting match. His zero-tolerance discipline policy produced reactions ranging from anger to resentment to depression. He feels his experience qualifies him to recommend corporal punishment as the solution to our schools' problems.

His story supports a different conclusion. He describes his students as "the throwaway kids whom no one wants to teach." Was he the first long-term sub to whom they had been entrusted? At my South-Central Los Angeles high school, numerous teaching positions routinely go unfilled, because my urban students are also kids whom few people want to teach. Is it possible that a class on its second or third long-term sub perceives that no one wants to teach them? Navarrette should be glad that his students resorted only to disobedience and petty torments to dramatize their plight, and did not stoop as low as the violence that he wished to visit upon them.

It has been my experience that when we give students qualified, committed and sensitive teachers, they respond with respect.

Los Angeles

Copyright © 1997 Times Mirror Company

Corpun file 0603 at


The Houston Chronicle, Texas, 12 February 1997

Investigations fail to bring abuse charge against principal

By John Makeig
Copyright 1997 Houston Chronicle

The parents of a 12-year-old boy say their son suffered a badly bruised posterior when he was punished with a paddle by the superintendent of the Classical School for Brilliant Students.

But two Houston police investigations and a new probe by the Harris County district attorney's child abuse section have not resulted in charges against Alvin "Boom Boom" Jackson, 42, over the Nov. 12 paddling.

On Wednesday, Jimmy Dunne, who heads up People Opposed to Paddling Students, gave out photographs that he said showed the injury to the boy's rear. They show wide, dark bruises, dotted with what appear to be abrasions, covering the entirety of the boy's bottom.

"My God! If I did that, put me in jail! No way!" said Jackson when shown the photographs.

According to a brief written statement from the parents, the 12-year-old was a happy student at the school until Jackson altered his punishment policies. Without elaborating on what that meant, the statement says the boy soon became an unhappy student.

The Classical School is a private facility at 4242 Richmond in southwest Houston. Most of its 50 students had academic and disciplinary problems in public schools before coming to Jackson's school as a last resort, he explained.

According to Jackson, he tells parents that if their children "act up," he can report the events to parents, call the police or administer "not more than two" whacks with a paddle.

Assistant District Attorney Denise Oncken said that she has not accepted charges on a case where versions differ drastically. Oncken said the case may be referred to a grand jury.


The Houston Chronicle, Texas, 14 February 1997

Paddling allegations to be investigated

By John Makeig
Copyright 1997 Houston Chronicle

A 15-year-old boy Friday became the second former student who claimed he was abused at a private school in Houston.

Charlie Hanna, who appeared at a press conference at the office of Jimmy Dunne, head of People Opposed to Paddling Students, said one teacher at the Classical School for Brilliant Children paddled him, supposedly for eavesdropping on a conversation. He said another teacher slammed him into a wall.

No charges have been filed against Alvin "Boom Boom" Jackson, 42, a former New York Jets defensive player and now superintendent of the school, or any of his faculty.

Harris County Assistant District Attorney Denise Oncken, head of the child abuse section, said Friday she hopes to begin presenting evidence to grand jurors before the end of February.

Earlier this week, two former students and their parents have accused Jackson of paddling a 12-year-old boy so severely that it caused extensive bruising. They also accused him of allowing two teachers to brutalize students.

Wednesday, the boy's parents allowed Dunne to distribute color photographs of their son's buttocks showing numerous bruises purportedly inflicted with a paddle.

The 15-year-old boy's mother, Kathryn Hanna, said she had been unable to convince police to seek charges against school personnel.

"I said, 'I want charges filed against this man,'" Kathryn Hanna said she told a female officer. "She looked at me like I was crazy."

She said Oncken was reluctant to file charges in the Hanna case "because there weren't enough bruises."

Oncken said that was not strictly accurate. She said there were no bruises whatsoever.

When reporters went to the school to question him Friday, Jackson became agitated and loudly accused them of ruining his reputation. Publicity about the 12-year-old's case, he said, had cost him a contract with various school districts to place students at his facility on Richmond.

Jackson was restrained by members of his staff who hustled him into an office. His attorney, Don R. Caggins, said Jackson and the two teachers "deny the allegations, each and every, all and singular."

Caggins blamed the complaints on "disgruntled parents and expelled students."

blob Follow-up: 17 March 1997 - School official spared abuse charge

The Arrow Online, 14 February 1997
Magazine of Flathead High School, Kalispell, Montana

State legislature proposing new laws that will affect teens

By Krista Benson
Arrow Staff

Many FHS students don't know -- and in some cases, don't care -- what's going on in the Montana legislature. That might change if students knew about proposed laws such as Senate Bill 241, proposed by Senate Majority Leader John Harp of Kalispell.

SB 241 proposes to revoke the driver's licenses from students who drop out of school or receive lower than a "C" average. This bill recently went before the Senate Education Committee, which has not taken action on it.

Harp's bill is only one of the many that would directly affect students. Among the other bills relating to teens:

- Senate Bill 4, proposed by Sen. Casey Emerson of Bozeman, would reinstate corporal punishment in Montana public schools. This bill requires the principal to notify parents if the punishment is used to "maintain orderly conduct of a pupil." However, if the punishment is issued because of "open and flagrant defiance of the teacher, principal, or authority of the school," the teacher or principal may give the punishment without notice.

- House Bill 245, proposed by Rep. Richard Simpkins, would allow students to drop out after eighth grade. This would lower the dropout age from the current mandated age of 16 to approximately 13 years of age.

- Senate Bill 166, proposed by Sen. Jim Burnett of Luther, would revise the penalty for children 12 years of age and older who are convicted of criminal mischief involving vandalism to include public spanking on the bare buttocks, in some cases. It would also allow the transfer to criminal court the prosecution of a youth 12 years of age or older who commits vandalism.

- Senate Bill 201 and Senate Bill 202 would strengthen the death penalty. Senate Bill 201, introduced by Sen. Bill Glasier of Huntley Project, provides the death penalty for people convicted twice of rape who inflicted serious bodily injury on a person during both offenses. Senate Bill 202, also introduced by Glasier, would provide the death penalty for people twice convicted of selling drugs.

Senior Heather Maiden had a very strong reaction to SB 4, the bill to reinstate corporal punishment in schools.

"I can't believe this could ever happen," said Maiden. "It shouldn't happen. Teachers don't have the right to hurt us."

But senior Brandan Shultz had a quite a different reaction to the bill.

"It's a good idea if we get to hit back," said Shultz. "They should just set up a boxing ring in the foyer -- what an idea!"

"They'd have no chance to get a job," said sophomore Paul Richards of the bill to lower the dropout minimum age. "They still have a lot of learning to do after 8th grade."

Reactions to bills ranged from "ridiculous" to "great." The latter was the reaction of junior Shanna Burduck when she learned of the proposal to make the death penalty an option for juries when sentencing repeat rapists. "It's definitely a good idea for rapists," said Burduck. "If you rape somebody, you have no respect for human life. If they've done it repeatedly, they're going to do it again. This is a way of stopping it -- they'll never do it again."

Legislators have also taken notice of these bills, many of which they have dubbed "strange."

"I think a lot of it comes from people who have a strange view of life," said House Minority Whip Tim Dowell of Kalispell. "Then, they talk to their representatives to try to get these sorts of things into legislation."

Corpun file 0656 at

Education Week, Bethesda MD, 19 February 1997

News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

Paddling Remains Legal Yet Forbidden in Utah

The Utah House spiked a bill last week that would have outlawed corporal punishment in state schools. Opponents of the measure argued that teachers should have the option with written parental permission.

"Most of us grew up with a little paddle from the teacher, and I think it worked well," said Rep. Bradley T. Johnson. "I think we hurt kids when we don't teach them discipline and respect."

GOP Rep. Sheryl L. Allen, the bill's sponsor, argued that "corporal punishment teaches violence."

Rep. Allen said she was surprised the House defeated the bill. The Senate passed the bill two weeks ago. The state school board adopted a policy in 1992 that prohibits corporal punishment.


The Dallas Morning News, Texas, 23 February 1997

Jury Calls Paddling by Superintendent Reasonable

PINE BLUFF, ARK. -- A federal jury has ruled in favor of a school superintendent who was accused of excessively paddling a 14 year old for swearing. The teen, Edman Smith, said Gould Superintendent John Hickman hit him on the head, hip, elbow, and buttocks on Dec.16, 1994. The boy's mother Phenia Smith filed suit.

A jury last week agreed with Mr Hickman's attorney that the paddling was reasonable given the student's behavior. The superintendent denied testimony by some other students who witnessed the paddling and said he hit the boy between 13 and 20 times.

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