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School CP - August 1998

Tulsa World, Oklahoma, 9 August 1998

Poll Shows School Violence Is Of Great Concern In State

By World's own Service

Oklahomans are deeply concerned about the safety of public schools, according to the latest Oklahoma Poll.

The poll showed 85.11 percent of those polled said they are "very" concerned about violence in public schools. Another 12.14 percent said they were "somewhat" concerned. And a total of more than 97 percent reported some level of anxiety over school violence.

The poll has an error margin of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

The reason appears to be a rash of violent incidents around the country earlier this year.

"I was not as much concerned for safety before the shootings," said Paul Swanson, one of the 750 people who took part in the July survey.

School shootings over the past year in Pennsylvania, Oregon, Kentucky and Arkansas have shattered what many consider a sacred place for children.

Poll consultant Al Soltow of the University of Tulsa saw particular significance in results showing the same high response figures in all sections of the state -- Tulsa, Oklahoma City and rural areas.

"Between urban areas and rural areas, there's no difference," Soltow said.

Those polled cited a variety of reasons for school violence.

The No. 1 reason seen as a major cause of school violence was a lack of parental supervision. Some 93.73 percent agreed that permissive parenting lies behind school violence.

Katherine McGrew, a Jenks middle school principal, said her experience as a school administrator corresponds with that finding.

"When we bring parents in, they (students) show disrespect to them, or the parents show disrespect to the school," she said. "The child goes with disrespect because it's easy and causes attention."

Other major causes cited by a majority of those polled were: drugs (83.76 percent), relaxed discipline standards in society (77.57 percent), lack of religious teachings in the home (66.51 percent), the easy availability of guns (66.26 percent) and violence on television and in movies (56.19 percent).

Henry Bias, the principal at Coweta High School, said he is surprised by the relatively low response to media violence as a major cause of school trouble.

"That really surprises me," he said. "I thought it would be the opposite. Anytime you watch TV it's violent."

The absence of school prayer was cited by 48.83 percent of those surveyed.

A comparatively small proportion of those surveyed reported incidents of school violence involving people in their household.

Statewide, 36.26 percent reported that someone in their home had been involved in a school fight, with the numbers ranging from 33.93 percent in Tulsa to 37.66 percent in Oklahoma City.

About 19.65 percent said household members had experienced school violence involving knives. Those numbers were generally consistent in rural and urban settings.

"Those numbers are disturbing," Soltow said. "Usually we see dramatic difference across the state, but it's 20 percent across the board."

Some 13.84 percent statewide reported incidents of school violence involving guns, with the Oklahoma City area significantly higher -- 20.26 percent -- than other areas. In Tulsa, 13.84 percent reported gun violence at school involving people in their household. In other parts of the state, the number was 10.91 percent.

"I'm not sure how to explain the Oklahoma City number," Soltow said. "But it reflects something happening there. Parents are aware of it. It may not have been something that made the media anywhere."

Metal detectors, corporal punishment and armed guards proved to be a favorite way of avoiding school violence among those questioned.

Statewide, more than 84 percent said metal detectors are at least somewhat effective in reducing school violence with more than 38 percent saying they are very effective.

"This clearly deals with the segment of guns," Soltow said. "It does nothing about what is the number-one problem, which is fighting."

A majority -- 52.61 percent -- said corporal punishment is very effective in deterring school violence. Another 22.35 percent said it is somewhat effective.

Eleven Tulsa-area districts -- Owasso, Collinsville, Skiatook, Sperry, Bristow, Berryhill, Bixby, Liberty, Catoosa, Verdigris and Coweta -- still use the paddle as punishment.

More than 70 percent said armed guards at all schools would be somewhat or very effective in curbing school violence.

A majority -- more than 64 percent -- saw good effects in classes on conflict resolution.

But when ranking the solutions, Soltow found the findings puzzling.

"The two that ranked last are conflict resolutions and longer suspensions. These are the only two that place responsibility with students," Soltow said.

"With corporal punishment number one and longer suspensions last, people are saying 'whip our kids now but don't send them home'."

Tulsa World, Oklahoma, 10 August 1998

A Code Of Conduct

Discipline Varies Across School District Boundaries

By Ginnie Graham and Scott Cooper
World Staff Writers

Actions have consequences.

But in school, the same actions may not have the same consequences.

Cross a school district boundary or even from one school to another within the same district, and the standards of school discipline can vary sharply.

"No two school districts are alike, no two schools are alike, just like no two homes are alike," Tulsa Superintendent John Thompson said. "You are not relaxing the rules, it's just a different culture. And you adjust to the needs of that environment."

In general terms, the amount of flexibility in school discipline procedures lessens as the school district gets larger.

With about 43,000 students, Tulsa Public Schools is the largest district in the state.

"The goal is to be consistent with kids across the district," said Jack Arnold, director of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program for Tulsa Public Schools.

"One student will not be penalized any more in one school or given preferential treatment," he said. "In the same sentence, we have to say to schools that they have the final say."

By comparison, there are 2,400 students in the Coweta School District.

"I want to be flexible," said Henry Bias, Coweta High School principal. "Just because it's written in black and white doesn't mean it's best. I look at what's best for the students and what's best for the program."

Most districts have written code manuals or student handbooks. In Tulsa, the blueprint for discipline can be found in a district's "code of conduct" manual.

The Tulsa district revised its code of conduct policies in 1995 to outline specific actions and consequences with a range of minimum and maximum punishments.

"It has been helpful in talking with kids and knowing exactly what is expected of them," said Emitt Milhouse, assistant principal at Rogers High School. "I'm a no-nonsense person and will not have you violating our policies or rules. In Tulsa, if you violate the rules, you know the consequences beforehand. It's not a threat, but a promise that you will do this to yourself if you take this action."

Before the code of conduct was changed, the district suspended students within 11 broad categories, Arnold said.

The district patterned the revisions after guidelines created by the federal departments of education and justice.

Infractions are divided into discipline problems and illegal actions calling for police or legal intervention.

Broken Arrow has spent the past three years working on safety and code of conduct policies. The one area of emphasis for Broken Arrow and other districts is alternative education over suspension.

"We have to consider a list of options, including in-school suspension and alternative education, before sending a child home," said Bill Coyle, director of secondary curriculum in Broken Arrow. "The state law has changed on suspensions and alternative education every year for the last five years."

Schools now have the option of sending a student to alternative education before suspension.

Lealon Taylor, chief of staff with the state Department of Education, said the law was changed to make suspension a last resort so students could still be punished for conduct but not for academics.

"We used to just kick them out and ignore them," Taylor said. "That's where the alternative education wave came in. Suspensions were used for students who shouldn't be suspended."

Schools are also required to continue to provide for a student's education even if the student is sent home. There is little discretion under the law if the student is suspended for five days or more.

"If a kid is sitting in jail, we're required by law to provide services," Coyle said.

Broken Arrow has 41 offenses which may lead to in-school or home suspension.

Tulsa has 57 specific offenses outlined in its policies, with a range of corresponding discipline options. For example, a first offense of using profanity ranges from a conference to a five-day suspension.

In Jenks, principals use in-house intervention for a first offense of fighting.

Sometimes school policies require police action also.

In Tulsa, police may be called on any illegal action, although there is room for discretion in some instances.

Some of the offenses that can lead to police notification include tobacco use, reckless use of a vehicle, drug and alcohol use, possession of a weapon other than a gun and possession of stolen property -- with gambling, there is the option of police intervention with a punishment range of a parental conference to a 10-day suspension with a follow-up assessment.

The flexibility allows the principal to judge the offense individually.

Other issues are inflexible. Federal law requires an automatic, one-year suspension for carrying a firearm along with the student going into police custody.

Tulsa-area districts also have written policies regarding the rules of the school, but the punishments vary.

A suspension in Tulsa may translate to a few days of detention in Coweta.

The Owasso, Collinsville, Skiatook, Sperry, Bristow, Berryhill, Bixby, Liberty, Catoosa, Verdigris and Coweta school districts still rely on the "old-faithful" paddle for a few swats as a form of punishment and discipline.

But the emphasis has shifted from automatic suspensions to more one-on-one mediation.

"The time has gone where principals just throw kids out of school," Coyle said. "Suspension is not quick and effective."

Jenks Principal Katherine McGrew said she now has more flexibility for punishments, including offenses involving weapons other than guns.

"It used to be suspension the first time," she said. "The policy now is based on age, size of the weapon and what they were doing with it. They can be suspended for one year."

Most districts have formed discipline and safety committees, which outline the different offenses and what the punishments will be.

"In the handbook, it details what happens to minor and major offenses," said Henry Bias. "A major offense would be weapons or illegal activity. A minor offense would be cutting class.

"But if a student cusses out a teacher, that could be a major offense."

Corpun file 6346

L'Observateur, LaPlace, Louisiana, 14 August 1998

Riverside celebrating 28th year

By Leonard Gray

RESERVE - Riverside Academy is celebrating its 28th year in operation as its only original faculty member, principal Barry Heltz, celebrates his 19th year as principal.

Such dedication and devotion to the school ("Riverside Academy is all I know!") is reflected in its 53-member faculty, 16 of whom are themselves graduates of Riverside.

The 900 students who attend the school are also drawn to the old-fashioned, traditional values and high standards of education, coupled with the discipline and structure Heltz personifies.

"With the paddle, the ones I've done it to, it got their attention." Most of the problems with today's youth, indeed, stems from a breakdown of the family unit and the correspondingly lack of attention paid to discipline of children.

"I've seen a lot of changes with parents and students," he observed. "Once, the principal's word was law at the school." Riverside, however, has endured and continued to grow and develop.

"I've seen the school grow physically and academically," Heltz said, and added that though the school has come under criticism for its perceived emphasis on athletics, Riverside has produced graduates who earned academic scholarships and the school has even produced National Merit Scholars.

However, discipline is very much on Heltz's mind as the school year prepares to open Aug. 17. "Everywhere, you see achievement test scores go down," he said. "What happened to the Three R's?" He continued that the difference is discipline, something which begins in the earliest grades and continues through 12th grade at Riverside.

"This is a disciplined, traditional-type school, just like the old days. If you don't like a lot of rules and regulations, then this isn't your school. We have a very structured way to doing things. That's the way we operate." Tradition aside, though, there are changes at Riverside Academy. This year, for the first time, full Internet access will be provided in every classroom. Also, a new cafeteria opens for students this fall, along with several new high-school teachers.

"We're a very Christian school," Heltz pointed out. "We start off each day with the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silent prayer." Discipline, for the former basketball coach, assistant football coach and athletic director, has been a watchword for Heltz for many years. This year, however, he is stepping down as athletic director (a post he's kept since 1979) to devote full-time to his duties as principal.

The school population growth, which has held steady at 900, "has leveled off for the past three or four years," he said. However, he remains excited about the new school year and hopes to close out his education career at Riverside Academy.

"Every day is something different," he smiles.

Corpun file 6955

Houston Chronicle, Texas, 16 August 1998

Corporal Punishment

Paddle's thwack the answer to school troubles

By Elbert R. Ogilvie

WE are starting another school year, which also commemorates the 12th anniversary of the passing of one of the most significant pieces of legislation in the history of Texas public schools since the Brown vs. Board of Education decision: the prohibition of corporal punishment.

While the Brown ruling wielded an impact of enormous implications, no school reform since has so devastated and unraveled the orderly and regimented fabric of what was once the most venerated institution in the community after the church. Though no study or research has been offered to expose any such findings, this represents the perspective of a teacher, whose day-to-day experiences far exceed the discoveries of quantitative evaluation.

Of all the problems that currently beset our schools, none is so thoroughly severe and extreme as the management of discipline. Although student codes of conduct booklets are generally explicit about what constitutes a violation and the specific consequences for its redress, infractions of every kind and level have spiraled exponentially with relative impunity. All of the much heralded innovative and improvisational new methods of disciplining adopted and deployed during the post-corporal punishment era have proved thus far useless and abysmally ineffective.

Moreover, and more important, teachers have been arbitrarily assigned the blame for the disorder and turmoil that permeate these schools (and are thus the target of the community's misguided wrath and the school administration's diatribes).

Even more disturbing and unsettling to teachers is the direct manner with which the issue of discipline has become manifest with regard to teacher evaluation and the casting of unfavorable aspersions on competency. Teachers, of course, know this to be a ruse by which administrators and other officials can surreptitiously absolve themselves of any culpability for poorly performing schools. This commonly used strategy has yielded significant casualties at many a school. When the tactic (vile subterfuge) falls short of casualty (transfer to another school) it will most assuredly result in at least a subdued and broken teacher whose confidence and management are seriously impaired.

As one may well have imagined, the conditions described make the exchange or imparting of knowledge and ideas quite difficult at best, yet further exacerbating the situation is the students' often contemptuous and always contentious relationship with teachers and principals. Automatically implicit in any student-teacher relationship is the inherent subordination of student to teacher. The sanctity of this premise was never more clearly delineated than during the pre- and post-World War II era when paddling was the swift retribution for serious infractions. Now this very premise which sustained urban schools so long has been usurped by the state and supplanted with one in which the positions are reversed.

In the new order, it is not at all uncommon to hear directed at the highest authority such common refrains as "You can't tell me what to do," or " I don't care." By far the most frightening remark for any teacher is "We're gonna get you fired." Of course one would like to think that the kids are simply poor, misguided young souls whose hearts and minds are incapable of such duplicity and dissimulation, but they are (usually aided and abetted by adults of dubious integrity and an immense capacity for stealth and guile).

The general consensus, among those who dare to say so, is that today's schools are devoid of any real or meaningful punitive measures to discourage such behavior, let alone deter it. The result is an environment in perpetual siege where teachers, with paralyzing fear and paranoia, must toil daily.

What it really boils down to for inner-city schools is that all of the supposedly major issues are but insignificant matters, comparatively, used for the express purpose of diverting attention from and concealing the fact that the lack of discipline is our most formidable problem.

While I'm not suggesting that we can "beat the devil out of our children," I am indeed saying that "talking" and "shouting" (cutting-edge approaches to discipline based on behavior modification) have been complete and utter failures. I also am saying that these schools' long record of proficient management, academic success and rich tradition was the direct result of their unwavering commitment to not "sparing the rod."

Although we continue to deny it, by either mute affirmation (from fear of reprisals for being thought old-fashioned) or cleverly worded theory (based on dubious precepts of child development research), the banning of corporal punishment in our schools has spawned a massive proliferation of disobedience and a relentless source of decay in the very institution that has steadfastly served as the trust and vanguard of a community's hopes, dreams and promises of a better future.

We should remember that this same state that declared a moratorium on paddling in the schools has ironically reserved for itself not only the right to incarcerate, but to murder (capital punishment ) when, in its wisdom, it is deemed necessary.

We now have the benefit of hindsight to make a bold and pivotal decision for our schools. Should these discipline conditions continue unabated, a disproportionate number of our schoolchildren are likely to end up in our penal institutions and, yes, on death row.


Associated Press, 27 August 1998

Poshard Would Let Schools Paddle Pupils

By Mike Robinson

CHICAGO (AP) -- Democrat Glenn Poshard said Thursday that he would leave the decision on whether to use corporal punishment as discipline to local school districts.

The question came up at a news conference at which the candidate for governor discussed his plan for improving Illinois schools.

"I would leave it up to the local school districts," the Southern Illinois congressman said when asked whether he would outlaw corporal punishment in disciplinary cases.

For decades, corporal punishment most often meant paddling students on the seat of the pants. It was standard procedure in a number of Illinois school districts. But it was outlawed by the Illinois General Assembly in 1993.

The law allows local school districts to apply for an exemption if they want to continue to paddle the youngsters.

"I think that is appropriate," Poshard said.

Poshard said that as a teacher in Southern Illinois long ago he never imposed corporal punishment on a student. He said he had seen it imposed on youngsters when he was a student teacher.

"You can argue about whether it does any good," he said.

Poshard's Republican rival, George Ryan, was aware of the ban. "It's already against the law," Ryan said in a telephone interview. "It's against the law to hit children."

"As far as I'm concerned it's a good law," Ryan said. "We send our kids to school to learn, not to be paddled."

Ryan said that some school districts have asked to be exempted from the ban. But he said that state lawmakers have refused to do so thus far.

State Board of Education spokeswoman Kim Knauer said that the law bans "slapping, paddling or prolonged maintenance of students in physically painful positions."

It also bars teachers and school administrators from "the intentional infliction of bodily harm," she said.

Chicago Tribune, 28 August 1998

Poshard takes a beating over spanking stand

By Rick Pearson and Ray Long
Tribune Staff Writers


Democratic gubernatorial candidate Glenn Poshard said Thursday that it should be up to local school districts to determine whether to discipline students with corporal punishment, a practice that has been outlawed for four years in Illinois public schools.

Poshard, a five-term congressman from Marion, said that when a local school board determines that there is a community "value" using corporal punishment, then state officials should not interfere.

"You know, people can argue all day about whether, in fact, it is needed or whether it does any good or not. It's certainly not something that I would choose to use. But I don't think that the state should be mandating the use of it or the non-use of it to local school districts," said Poshard, a former teacher.

Poshard's comments, made as he unveiled specifics of his plan to improve grade- and high-school education, drew immediate criticism from not only his Republican rival, George Ryan, but also from the state's largest teachers union.

The Illinois Education Association plans to meet with both candidates for governor Saturday before making an endorsement in the race. The union was a major supporter of the law banning corporal punishment.

"I think he's trying to be reasonable about it," Robert Haisman, the IEA's president, said of Poshard. "But it's the 1990s, for God's sake."

Haisman added: "We do think it is wrong to hit kids. We don't think that's a good (community) value. There are ways to (impose student discipline) without striking children. I don't think that's OK. That's the way the IEA views it."

Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), a major Poshard supporter who sponsored the law banning corporal punishment, said he appreciated the candidate's desire to give local school districts more control. But Lang said allowing corporal punishment is "a mistake."

"I felt strongly then and I feel strongly today that corporal punishment is not the way to go," Lang said. "To have a principal or teacher strike my child, I feel, is not appropriate."

Lawmakers from primarily rural areas opposed the state law prohibiting corporal punishment. And in 1995, schools in three Downstate communities, Benton, DuQuoin and Golconda -- all in Poshard's congressional district -- sought and failed to win General Assembly approval to waive the ban and reimpose corporal punishment policies.

Poshard said that, when he was a teacher in schools that used corporal punishment, he never struck a student.

Poshard aides would not say whether the Democrat would support changing state law or issuing state waivers to restore local school districts' ability to use corporal punishment. Instead, they said Poshard "supported the right" of local school districts to seek waivers from the ban.

But Ryan, the Republican secretary of state, said Poshard should realize that "school is for education, and teachers are there to teach."

"I guess that means he's still trying to be a regional candidate," Ryan said. "Running for governor is a statewide program."

In outlining his education agenda, Poshard also called for letting school officials suspend driver's licenses of disruptive students and requiring students to stay in school through age 18. State law now requires that they attend until at least age 16.

Poshard called for cutting class sizes, connecting all schools to the Internet, raising teacher standards and requiring performance-based contracts for executives at the State Board of Education.


Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 28 August 1998

Mt. Pleasant School Board OKs Discipline Policy


Residents lauded Mt. Pleasant school directors for approving a new student discipline policy Thursday night, then urged the board to stand behind administrators' efforts to enforce it.

The policy addresses how students could be disciplined for violating drug, alcohol and tobacco policies; possessing weapons; stealing or destroying property; behaving violently and dangerously; ignoring school bus safety rules; and violating student driving regulations.

Those at the meeting urged school directors to support the administration in implementing the policies adopted.

The board also discussed corporal punishment. Board member Don Scott said he is not in favor of corporal punishment and suggested the policy be amended to require a parent be present before corporal punishment is administered. Scott's motion was not seconded.

Copies of the newly adopted policies will be available for public review at the high school.


Corpun file 6954

Houston Chronicle, Texas, 29 August 1998


Time for corporal punishment

In response to Karen North's Aug. 18 Viewpoints, "People are not for hitting," it's quite obvious to me North is not a parent, a teacher or in any position dealing with children.

I am a parent of four, ranging in age from 14 to 27, and I couldn't agree more with Elbert R. Ogilvie's Aug. 16 Outlook article ("Corporal punishment - Paddle's thwack the answer to school troubles"), although this is a politically incorrect stance in the 1990s.

Contrary to North's "research" (obviously garnered from other childless sources), appropriate corporal punishment has kept generations of children in line, has taught them self-discipline and a respect for authority - all of which a number of children lack in this day and age.

As a child in the '50s and '60s, I was paddled at school and, after school, I was the recipient of either a belt or a switch as a result of the infraction of rules at school. I was not an abused child, nor am I part of the criminal element. But I did learn a healthy respect for authority.

Building self-esteem in children was not the issue then, but respect for elders and authority was. Somehow, a vast majority of us managed to grow up to be productive citizens, in spite of corporal punishment at home and in school.

Serious juvenile crime has been on the rise over the last two decades, and the politically correct answer to this is to "talk" to kids, send them to time out and use positive discipline methods. When that doesn't work, we have to build more juvenile facilities in which to teach them discipline, respectful behavior and how to set limits, which is what the problem was to begin with.

Parents can no longer parent. Even though the law in Texas allows parents to spank their kids, kids have been told they control their lives, minds and bodies and have been told to report that type of thing to the authorities, at which point there may be an unending investigation by Child Protective Services, the parents hauled off to jail and the kids removed from the home.

Teachers are in an even less enviable position. Since they have even less authority than the parents, they must endure being cursed at, hit, shot, etc. and have no recourse but to put up with it or quit a job they probably loved at one time.

Children are not stupid, and they learn in short order that they can get away with almost anything (including murder) and that there's not too much that can be done to them until they become adults.

I am not a proponent of beatings, but I am a proponent of corporal punishment. Perhaps when North becomes a parent and her child raises a hand in anger at her, or a school calls to tell her her child lacks discipline and respect for authority, maybe then she will understand that there is a time and a place for corporal punishment both at home and in the schools.

Perhaps one day when society gets tired of building facilities to house juvenile offenders so they can be taught discipline, limits and a respect for authority, it will wake up and realize Ogilvie and others like him are right.

Janet Thomas, Katy

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