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rainbow ruler   :  Archive   :  1999   :  US Schools May 1999


School CP - May 1999

Corpun file 3923

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Reuters, 5 May 1999

Barron: Discipline Begins At Home

(MONTGOMERY) -- Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Lowell Barron believes a little "tough love" from parents and a return to corporal punishment in the schools can prevent disasters like the Columbine High School massacre last month. Permissive parents, Barron said, too often produce uncontrollable children and uncontrollable children can lead to tragedy.

Corpun file 3920

Grand Forks Herald, North Dakota, 11 May 1999

Discipline has its impact

Column by Joe Delgado

Things were different now.

No longer was I some punk kid in a suburban Long Island, N.Y., neighborhood, experimenting with varying levels of disrespect for authority, exerting my pride, mouth or fists whenever it suited me.

No, now I was in a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., high school with all the stereotypical inner-city trimmings: A diverse mix of ethnic groups all with their own loud and proud agendas, bigotries and attitudes.

Ah, but the difference -- the very big difference for me was in my new dean's office.

Inside there, I imagined, it must have hung. The talk of the school. I imagined this instrument of certain and acute pain to be quite large and quite hard. Perhaps made of some unbreakable substance and certainly too heavy for any man of documented strength to wield.

It was "the paddle."

Back in L.I., my dean was a man who weighed his words carefully. He spoke sternly, yet softly. And he spoke to me many a time.

Another day in eighth grade, for a while anyway, would easily mean another confrontation of some sort -- be it verbal or physical, with authorities or peers.

I stood up to one and all, refusing to show fear or respect, and laughing inside when this man -- who surely, with his balding, clean-shaven face and bespectacled frame, had served as the model for the original Poindexter in "Felix the Cat" -- would punish me.

Calling in my parents, to me anyway, was the worst thing he could do. And since it was usually the first thing he would do, it could only get better.

They'd all talk with me in this office that had almost become rather cozy. A nice couch, some nice pictures, a clean desk.

Why are you acting out like this, I would be asked. Maybe there's something missing? Go home and think about it for a few days.

Suspension? Sure, I'll take the vacation, I remember thinking with glee. I was having the time of my life.

The man simply didn't move me.

But here, at Northeast High School in 1982, the party was over. My tongue-speed no longer was clockable to a radar gun, and I suddenly discovered the stiffening and tingling ability of little hairs slightly above my shirt collar in back.

Oh, yeah. I was scared.

This new dean, this superdean, was someone to be concerned about. He was a colossal, muscular man who tragically was born without the ability to smile. A man whose every throbbing thigh muscle was visible regardless of what pants he chose to wear on a given day.

There was a large picture of him from his days in the NFL as a member of the Detroit Lions. He was staring ahead, still in his three-pronged stance, probably seconds before he killed the poor fellow he was facing that day. The following frames in that roll of film, well, you had to wonder about.

Somehow, even with his shirt and tie at Northeast, he didn't seem that far removed.

There were some kids who apparently must not have known of his existence until the paddle came down like Thor pounding his mighty hammer. We all would know who that poor teen-ager was, though. Notoriety grew for the victim almost as quickly as the legend of our dean did.

I vaguely recall earning a trip to his office for some reason. But I clearly recall escaping with my hindsight intact.

I spent one year of my life at Northeast, the only year I ever made the honor roll. Coincidence? I can't say for sure.

I was also the new kid in school, after all. A shy kid thrust at age 14 into a whole new way of life -- from speech patterns to ideals. And that, I must concede, had some impact on my suddenly restrained behavior.

But discipline must have an impact somehow. No one would argue with that. Maybe a paddle is outdated in today's world, but an impact must be made. Would a little more discipline in the lives of some misguided youths have helped avoid a tragedy like the recent school shooting in Littleton, Colo.?

I'm not here to say.

Funny, though, how hard it is for me to recall the names of the men who were responsible for disciplining me. A thorough search of the memory banks continues to turn up empty.

The names are lost. Probably forever.

And yet, during my search, I find lingering remnants of that old fear, that line I finally decided to walk, a frighteningly large, muscular silhouette of discipline, and -- oh, yeah -- that paddle.

That's all that remains now.

For me, I guess it was enough.

Delgado is a Herald copy editor.

Corpun file 4016

Arlington Morning News, Texas, 29 May 1999

Nothing to cheer about

Penalty for smoking unclear, girl's supporters say

By Lori Price and Nancy Calaway
Staff Writers of the Arlington Morning News

GRAND PRAIRIE - Sitting near red-and-gold pompoms, photos and a decorated South Grand Prairie High School jacket, Amber Page flails her hands in frustration as she explains her disappointment in being kicked off her cheerleading squad for smoking.

"You might as well confine me to a state prison, because they have not only taken away my dream, but they've taken away so much of my pride," Amber said during an interview at her home Friday. "I was always so proud to cheer at South, because that's what I was. I wasn't a football player or a softball player, I was a cheerleader."

The petite, blond 17-year-old's dreams were quashed when she was dismissed from the squad after a school administrator caught her smoking a cigarette in the school parking lot in April. Amber received a paddling for the incident, but was barred from returning to the squad during her senior year.

Paddled: Amber Page
Amber Page, 17, was kicked off the South Grand Prairie High School cheerleading squad after being caught smoking last month. Amber, who will be a senior in the fall, has been cheering for 11 years.
(Arlington Morning News: Lane Hickenbottom)

Grand Prairie school officials have said cheerleaders were tested on the rules and demerits in their handbook as park of their class work. School trustees decided Thursday night to form a task force to examine the guidelines for all extracurricular activities.

Amber said she's heartbroken by the administrative decision to kick her off the squad. School board members upheld the ruling this week.

"I've worked so hard and I've been cheering all my life," she said. "I feel like everything is being taken away from me."

Amber has been a cheerleader for more than a decade, including three years at South Grand Prairie, all while maintaining an A average at school.

But she quit cheering competitively with an all-star squad so that she could devote her talents to the school team.

Now, she said she plans to try out for the Texas Tech University squad after high school.

Amber said she knew that smoking was wrong, but she doesn't understand why she's being punished so harshly. She said she offered to speak to younger students in the district about the dangers of smoking as an alternative to being dismissed from cheerleading.

"I made a mistake that was stupid and it was silly, but I've learned from it," Amber said. "Punish me, but not for the whole year."

Amber's parents, Mike Page and Tonya Hernandez, said their daughter was grounded for a week for smoking.

Ms. Hernandez said she was disappointed when she found out about her daughter's smoking, but she doesn't believe school officials acted appropriately. The district's punishment, she said, is too much for her daughter, who has never been in serious trouble at school before.

"What they're doing is taking a good kid and treating her like a bad kid," Ms. Hernandez said. "That's just not right."

Mr. Page said he would also like to know why there wasn't a more extensive investigation regarding Amber's case. She is a minor, he said, who was smoking cigarettes with other minors, yet she was the only one punished.

"Why didn't anyone ask where she got the cigarettes from? Why weren't the other kids taken in, too?" Mr. Page said. "It just doesn't make sense."

Amber and her parents have said they were not aware that tobacco use was grounds for dismissal from the squad. They said the list of demerits regarding cheerleaders was not a part of the cheerleader handbook they received at the beginning of school.

"Had I known that this was going to jeopardize [cheerleading], they know that I would have never done that because they know how much I love this," Amber said, referring to school officials.

School officials said Amber and her parents signed a statement acknowledging receipt and understanding of the cheerleader handbook.

On Thursday night, the Grand Prairie school board examined the handbooks and rules for all extracurricular activities after approving next year's cheerleader handbook.

"It passed with the stipulation to put together a task force to look at all the guidelines for all activities," said Sam Buchmeyer, a district spokesman.

Although a time frame for when the task force will be assembled has not been specified, Mr. Buchmeyer said any recommended changes the panel may decide on won't take effect until the 2000-2001 handbooks are discussed next year.

The current cheerleader handbook, which Amber was asked to abide by, does not include a list of infractions and how many demerits each holds as punishment. District officials said that document was handed out separately.

According to the 1998-99 demerit list, any alcohol-, drug- or tobacco-related violation of the Student Code of Conduct results in 30 demerits. Cheerleaders who have more than 26 demerits are dismissed from the squad.

The school board agreed Thursday to include the infraction list in next year's cheerleader handbook to avoid confusion, Mr. Buchmeyer said.

Brittany Pippen, 19, a former South Grand Prairie cheerleader, said she is concerned that the student handbook does not specify punishments.

"Nowhere in the Code of Conduct did it ever say what the penalty for smoking would be if I was caught," said Ms. Pippen, who graduated last year. "It never said you would be kicked off the squad. In my opinion, if I would have known the exact consequences, I might have changed some of my actions."

District officials said they didn't immediately know how many students have been caught smoking on campus this year. But previously, officials have contended that there is not a large number of students who smoke.

Some students and graduates said they disagree.

"Smoking is a bad problem on campus," said Tanna Thornton, a 1998 South Grand Prairie graduate. "The rule is just not enforced, because if it was, they'd have an office full of kids all the time."

Some believe Amber is being used to set an example for other students.

"If it would have happened to any other student, they would have taken their swats and it would be over with," Ms. Thornton said. "But because she is a cheerleader, they are doing these other things."

Kacey Cartwright, a 17-year-old graduating senior who cheered with Amber on the South Grand squad, believes her friend's punishment is too harsh.

"I don't think, personally, she should have been kicked off," Kacey said. "By doing that, they've done nothing to make her a better person or the cheerleaders or the school".

Athletes are often punished differently, Kacey said, echoing a concern expressed earlier this week by Amber's parents.

David Thompson, athletic director and football coach for the school, said there are rules for athletics that are listed in the coaching manual, but did not cite a formal handbook that is used and given to students.

"Each coach has a copy of the manual, and I'm sure they go over that with the athletes," Mr. Thompson said. "Everything is up to the discretion of the coach, but there is some punishment that goes along with it that is not up to the discretion of the coach."

Mr. Thompson said he could not give specific example of punishment because he didn't have a copy of the manual with him.

Mr. Thompson declined to comment on Amber's punishment, but he said that he has never dismissed anyone from an athletic team for smoking.

John Pogue, a trustee, said he would like to see one handbook for all students who participate in extracurricular activities. But, he added, penalties for cheerleaders and athletes should be tougher.

"They should be held to a higher standard because they know going in that they're a choice group," Mr. Pogue said. "Not everybody gets to do what they get to do, and they are more of an example and a role model than those in organizations that everyone can be a part of without having to be selected."

Staff Writers Kathy A. Edgar and Julie Elliott contributed to this report.

© 1999 The Dallas Morning News All Rights Reserved

blob Follow-up: 7 August 1999 - A blow to the spirit (includes a detailed account of the paddling and two more photos of Amber Page)

Corpun file 4013


The Dallas Morning News, Texas, 30 May 1999

Pomp and different circumstance

Seniors at West Texas school never found three to be a crowd

By Scott Parks
Staff Writer of the Dallas Morning News

MAPLE, Texas - Three Way High School students never get lost in crowded classrooms or shunned by the "in" crowd.

Crowds of any kind don't exist in this remote corner of the arid plains where West Texas meets New Mexico.

Senior classmates Jonathan Kindle, Jose Baeza and Gerald Perez might never have met at a big-city high school. At Three Way, they were the entire 1999 graduating class -- the smallest of any public high school in Texas.

"Sometimes, you get a lot of individual attention because you're the only individual in class," said Jonathan, the class valedictorian. "There's no separate groups at school. We're one whole crowd."

The community fabric is so tight-knit you couldn't stick a pin through it. The kids may look the same in their jeans and T-shirts, but the culture is a world apart from a big-city public school.

Three Way's 115 students, ages 5 through 19, come from 56 families scattered within a 25-mile radius of the school. Mostly, their parents are school employees, farmers and farm laborers -- an even mix of Anglos and Hispanics.

The faculty consists of 16 teachers. They hold class in a neat, 50-year-old tan brick building surrounded by treeless farmland as far as the eye can see. The nearest store of any kind is 18 miles away in Morton, population 2,600.

Mary Furgeson, a Three Way teacher for 18 years, has known two-thirds of the senior class -- Jonathan and Gerald -- all of their lives.

"You just feel like you're their mother," she said. "A lot of them call me Mary. It's homey. Maybe it shouldn't be, but I don't have any discipline problems from it."

Superintendent Bill Hood, who's worked at Three Way since 1993, said no one has been exiled to the county Alternative Education Program for problem students. And no one has gotten in trouble for drugs.

"We get a rumor from time to time and bring out a drug dog, but we've not had a kid in trouble for drugs," he said.

Occasionally, an adult has to remind a kid to remove a rifle from the family pickup before he comes to school. Hunting is a favorite after-school activity. Most students could walk out their back doors to hunt quail, dove, rabbits or coyote. And a lot of them carry pocketknives to school. In Three Way culture, it's a tool, not a weapon.

The discipline problems out here seem positively Brady Bunch-ish by today's standards, according to Mr. Hood. A fight here and there. A kid talking back to a teacher. A student driver peeling out in the parking lot, leaving behind a rooster tail of flying dust.

Principal Danny James, who doubles as head coach of the six-man football team, is the school disciplinarian. He paddles, counsels, wheedles, cajoles and doles out menial chores until offenders get right with the system.

In many big schools, teachers routinely give zeroes to students who fail to turn in work. And, then, they move on.

At Three Way, students complete all classroom assignments -- no exceptions. Procrastinators sit in the office until they do the work.

"They usually get it done within a couple days," said the amiable administrator, a heavyset man who dips snuff and cleans his fingernails with a pocketknife. "I've got all the time in the world. The individual attention is sometimes more than they want."

Out-of-town girls

Mr. Hood, Coach James, head custodian Octavio Perez and five teachers live in reduced-rent houses on campus. They burn their trash in a pit about a hundred yards away from the school and just a stone's throw from the football field.

Mr. Perez is father of Gerald Perez, the senior class football and basketball star. Right now, he's worried that Gerald, youngest of his four children, may not go to college next year.

"He wants to work and make money," Mr. Perez lamented.

Gerald, a lean and muscular 19-year-old with a ready smile, said he intends to enroll in South Plains College in nearby Levelland, but his resolve seems halfhearted. He brightens when talking about girls.

"Some of the towns around here get tired of us taking their girls out," he said.

For romance, Three Way boys typically turn their sights on girls in nearby towns. They rarely date female classmates, Ms. Furgeson said.

"It would be like dating your sister," she said.

Jonathan, 18, said lack of privacy is a problem at Three Way.

"You don't want something out, and it gets out, then everybody knows," he said.

Jonathan, who comes from a prominent Bailey County farm family, plans to attend Texas Tech University next year to study agri-business. He intends to return eventually to the family cotton farm, where he grew up driving a tractor through the blowing dust.

Like his father and older brother before him, Jon believes he got a solid, basic education at Three Way Schools.

But academic electives are scarce.

Band, art, choir or school newspaper don't exist. Neither do cooperative work programs, because there are no local employers. The only foreign language offered is Spanish. Forget about honors programs.

"Those things aren't possible in our type school," Jon said. "It can get kinda slow sometimes."

But "slow" also is Three Way's big luxury.

With an average class size of five to eight students, the teachers can easily slow down the instructional pace for any student in danger of falling behind.

Jose Baeza, son of a farm worker, came to Three Way in 1996 from Jal, N.M., population 2,200. He said his new teachers inspired, supported and encouraged him to improve his grades year by year.

"They've done nothing but make it easier for me all the way," he said.

Jose said teachers expect him to attend college, and he doesn't want to disappoint them. He plans to take computer repair and maintenance courses at South Plains College next year.

"When Jose came here, he was a handful," recalled Ms. Furgeson. "Now, he mentors younger students in our computer lab. He's motivated to do something with his life."

"This Is Your Life'

The 1999 graduation ceremony was held May 21 in the Three Way cafeteria. Jon delivered a valedictory address. The Rev. David Graham, who pastors the Baptist church across the road from the school, was keynote speaker.

It took less than a minute to hand out the three diplomas. The ceremony also included a "This is Your Life" videotape about each boy, complete with baby pictures and family photos. Proud relatives and school staff beamed.

Jose, Jonathan and Gerald said they realize they missed out on some things because of where they live. They graduated without ever seeing the ocean or flying on an airplane. They never saw Michael Jordan play basketball or watched Troy Aikman launch a touchdown pass.

Last week, however, they branched out beyond the plains for a senior trip to Florida. Along with their chaperons, they drove 70 miles east to Lubbock, got on an airplane and flew to Orlando. They splashed in the ocean at Fort Myers, lolled on the beach and went deep-sea fishing.

Then, they returned home to their West Texas cocoon 30 miles south of Muleshoe.

"These kids are pretty sheltered," said Mr. Hood, the superintendent. "I guess we're pretty isolated from the real world."

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