Dear California Legislator:
In 1987, the California legislature had the wisdom and courage to pass a good law to protect children from violent punishments in schools, but later it passed a second law to nullify that good law. We urge you to correct this situation. Let us explain:
On January 22, 1871, a New York Times editorial stated:
"... It is exceedingly unsafe to leave too wide a discretion in their hands. The nature even of instructors of youth is fallible, and there is a kind of intoxication in the exercise of unlimited power, though it be only over little boys and girls, that may wisely be checked and controlled."
116 years later, on January 1, 1987, California heeded that warning by prohibiting teachers and other school employees from physically punishing school children. Education Code section 49000/49001, which came into effect on that day, prohibited disciplinary uses of force such as the beating of a child's pelvic area with a wooden board -- a practice that had been commonplace in California schools prior to that date.
"The Legislature finds and declares that the protection
against corporal punishment, which extends to other citizens in other
walks of life, should include children while they are under the
control of the public schools. Children of school age are at the
most vulnerable and impressionable period of their lives and it is
wholly reasonable that the safeguards to the integrity and sanctity
of their bodies should be, at this tender age, at least equal to that
afforded to other citizens."
49001 specifies in what circumstances a teacher would be justified in using physical force against a pupil. It allowed:
"...An amount of force that is reasonable and necessary for a person employed by or engaged in a public school to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to persons or damage to property, for purposes of self-defense, or to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects within the control of the pupil..."
With the enactment of 49000/49001, California became the 9th state to prohibit violent punishment of school children.
Currently, that prohibition applies in 28 states. As each new state embraces this reform, the United States moves closer to the standard that prevails, and has prevailed for many decades, throughout the developed world.
Subsequently, the California legislature amended the education code by adding section 44807, which states:
"...A teacher, vice principal, principal, or any other certificated employee of a school district, shall not be subject to criminal prosecution or criminal penalties for the exercise, during the performance of his duties, of the same degree of physical control over a pupil that a parent would be legally privileged to exercise..."
The effect, if not the intention, of 44807 is to nullify the protection afforded by 49000/49001. It degrades the minimum standard for teacher behavior to the pre-1987 level.
Since teachers are once again, under 44807, permitted to act in loco parentis, it behooves us to reexamine the standard that applies to parents:
But bruises are a perennial point of contention. Exactly where between pale pink and deep purple is the threshold at which "spanking" (which is legal) becomes child abuse (which is not)? The answer is in the eye of the beholder. It varies from county to county, police precinct to police precinct, D.A.'s office to D.A.'s office, courtroom to courtroom.
- Hitting children is okay.
- The use of sticks, boards, belts or even fists against children is okay.
- The important thing is, parents must not leave evidence such as visible injuries that would call attention to what they've done to the child. No evidence = no abuse.
To complicate matters, bruises are transient. They're either deepening or fading. And a bruise on a fair-skinned child will appear different from a bruise on a dark-skinned child, even though both may have resulted from identical events.
And there are some punishment-related physical injuries, even life-threatening ones, that leave no readily visible signs.
Evidence of child abuse is not assessed according to any established scientific criteria. Typically, the first line of investigation is done by police officers and social workers who not only lack specialized forensic training but also bring to the task personal belief systems that are deeply rooted. What one investigator sees as abusive, another sees as good discipline. What one deems serious, another dismisses as trivial. Where one takes action to protect a child from further abuse, another, in similar circumstances, reports "unsubstantiated" or may even side with the abuser. For the most part, the treatment of children harks back to an era not very long ago when a husband was within his rights to reasonably physically punish a disobedient wife. "Just be careful not to break anything," the authorities cautioned.
Now, thanks to 44807, the legal no-man's-land that applies to the treatment of children by their parents applies to the treatment of pupils by their teachers. Solano County District Attorney Michael W. Paulson, for example, has cited 44807 at least once that we are aware of to justify his inaction against a school teacher who witnesses claim assaulted and battered a pupil. Paulson's letter to the victim's mother can be read online at www.nospank.net/paulson.jpg and the entire account, "Why doesn't the law work to protect my child at school?" can be read at www.nospank.net/antwon.htm.
In conclusion, we assert: Education Code 44807 is bad law.
We believe teachers should be held to a higher standard -- one that reflects their training as professionals and justifies the trust that parents place in them. Education Code section 44807 does neither. Therefore, we, the undersigned, respectfully urge its prompt repeal.
- It's regressive.
- It conflicts with other parts of the Education Code.
- It insults the best teachers by favoring and shielding the worst.
- It degrades the teaching profession by making it a magnet and safe haven for the unfit.
- It sets a bad example for parents and other caretakers of children.
- It provides a smokescreen for child abusers.
- It teaches children a dangerous lesson by showing them that violence is the way to solve problems.
S I G N A T O R I E S
Yvette Smith, mother of a child abused at school, Antioch, CA
Jordan Riak, Exec. Dir., PTAVE, Alamo, CA
Jerry Townsend, School Psychologist (Ret.), Woodland, CA
Al Crowell, Marriage and Family Therapist (Ret.), San Francisco, CA
Antoinette Carter, MA, Correctional Educator (Ret.), Roseville, CA
Bonnie Burstein, Ph.D, Dir. of Psychology Training, Los Angeles Harbor College, Wilmington, CA
Stanley Kripner, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Saybrook Graduate School, San Francisco, CA
Alan DeWitt Button, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Fresno State College, Co-founder, with the late Adah Maurer, of EVAN-G (Ret.), author of The Authentic Child, Fresno, CA
Mitch Hall, Dean of the School of Humantities, New College of California, San Francisco, CA
Earl Katz, Executive Director, Public Interest Pictures, CA
Joel Federman, Ph.D., Director of Research, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, San Francisco, CA.
Ruth Beaglehole, Director, Center for Nonviolent Education and Parenting, Los Angeles, CA
Harvey Shrum, Ed.D., Re-Entry Coordinator, Folsom State Prison, CA
Phyllis Kozlen, Marriage and Family Counselor, Sacramento, CA
Shirley Deininger, Psychotherapist, Los Angeles Harbor College Life Skills Center, Wilmington. CA
Scott Tyler, First grade teacher, San Marino, CA
Rose Sheppard, R.N., Obstetrics, Well-Baby Nursery, San Francisco, CA
Astrid Heppenstall Heger, M.D., Executive Director, Violence Intervention Program, LAC+USC Medical Center, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, University of Southern California
Marti Glenn, Ph.D., Founding President of Santa Barbara Graduate Institute; Founding Clinical Director and current board president of the Center for ReUniting Families; Founding Academic Dean at Pacifica Graduate Institute; CA
Eva Kataja, M.A., Marriage and Family Therapist, Los Angeles, CA
Enola Cook Davis, Child development teacher, Vallejo, CA
Angela Johnson Rodgers, R.N., Vallejo, CA
Julie Levine, MSW, Julie Levine and Associates, Health and Social Services Consultant
Policy Chair, Coalition For Community Health, Los Angeles, CA
Madeline Taylor, Ph.D., M.F.T., private practice in Santa Monica; psychotherapy instructor at Ryokan College, Los Angeles, CA
Robert Silvey, Author, Berkeley, CA
Jean Liedloff, Author of The Continuum Concept, Sausalito, CA
Stephanie L. Mann, Crime and Violence Prevention Consultant,
Street Safe Kids, Program Director, www.compeace.org, Oakland, CA
Viviane Oglevie, M.F.C.C, Newport Beach, CA
Steven B. Oglevie, M.D., Newport Beach, CA
Aletha Solter, Ph.D., Developmental psychologist and author of three books for parents and educators. Founder and director of the Aware Parenting Institute, an international organization promoting non-punitive discipline, Goleta, CA
Paul Fleiss, M.D., Pediatrician, author, Los Angeles, CA
Marc Pilisuk, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of California,
Professor, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, CA
Marilyn Fayre Milos, RN, Founder and director of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC) and coordinator of the International Symposia on Circumcision, Sexual Mutilations, and Genital Integrity, CA
Michael Durfee M.D., Chief Consultant - ICAN National Center on Child Fatality Review, Los Angeles, CA
Charles Merrill, Ed.D., Professor of Psychology, Sonoma State University, CA
Victor Daniels, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Sonoma State University, CA
Gail S. Goodman, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of California, Davis, CA
Ann M. Ulibarri, M.A., MFTI, Healthy Partnership, Fairfield, CA
Jeff Idelson, Psy.D., Psychotherapist, Psychology Instructor - Diablo Valley College, CA
Boyer August, Ed.D., Marriage, Family and Child Therapist; Director, Center for the Protection of Human Rights in Education, Hayward, CA
Billy Brimmer, MSW, Social Worker, Berkeley, CA
Mike Males, Ph.D., Senior researcher for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal
Justice, teaches sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, CA
Robert Reynolds, Vice President, National Youth Rights Association, Santa Cruz, CA
Zach Hobesh, President, Berkeley Chapter National Youth Rights Association, Berkeley, CA
Danielle Grijalva, Director, Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students, Oceanside, CA
Leonard Duhl, M.D., Professor Emeritus, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, CA
Theresa Focardi, PTA Member/Health and School Safety Committee Member, B.S. in Environmental and Occupational Health, Cal State Northridge, Redondo Beach, CA
Dawn Alley, Ph.D., Forensic psychologist, San Diego, CA
Paula LeDoux-Christison, Licenced marriage and family therapist, "Master Social Worker" with the Family Investigative Response Team, Vacaville, CA
Contact Jordan Riak at firstname.lastname@example.org