A Letter to Governor Bush
by Jordan Riak

[On PTAVE stationery]

October 27, 1997

Shirley M. Green,
Director of Correspondence and Constituent Services
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428 Austin, TX 78711

Dear Ms. Green:

Thank you for your response of October 21, 1997 on behalf of Governor Bush. You say: "Children are our most precious resource, and they must be protected. The Governor is sickened by violence against children." That's encouraging to hear. Unfortunately, words alone do not protect children. When one considers the fact that gross physical mistreatment of some children in some Texas schools is legal, systemic and unopposed, the Governor's personal abhorrence to violence against children is of little value. All it does is establish his credentials as a kind-hearted man who wishes no harm to kids.

You say that "most Texas schools do not use corporal punishment." What is your point? If corporal punishment is a good thing, then the schools that don't use it are remiss and their children are being deprived. If it is a bad thing, as most of the civilized world agrees it is, then why isn't it prohibited statewide?

Perhaps your claim that scholastic buttocks-beating occurs only in a minority of Texas schools is intended to soothe us. Indeed, a minority of Texans drive drunk, a minority of Texans batter their spouses, and a minority of Texas banks experience armed robbery. But who would pretend that nothing needs to be done about such crimes because they only affect a minority? You seem to view schoolchildren as produce being delivered to market and that it is acceptable for a certain percentage to be damaged in transit and have to be discarded. No, children are not tomatoes or heads of lettuce. They are not expendable in any proportion.

You boast about "aligning authority at the local level" even though, in realistic terms, that means allowing the continued brutalization of schoolchildren. This excuse for abrogation of moral responsibility has been offered us from every level of government from the White House to the schoolhouse. It seems to us that our nation's professed concern for abused children stops short of offending or inconveniencing their abusers.

If a Texas school district decided to cut the cost of new construction by using outhouses instead of indoor plumbing or by permitting male-only enrollment beyond the 8th grade, there would be a swift, high-level response. We'd see something like a replay of the recent widely reported incident in which President Clinton aggressively intervened on behalf of the nation's schoolchildren after tainted strawberries showed up in a school lunch room. But when someone raises the issue of children being battered in their pelvic area with wooden boards, there is only pious talk about giving the local folks "more freedom to innovate," etc. I think it is time someone reminded Governor Bush, and all other faint-hearted politicians, that "local control" also was slavery's and racial segregation's best friend.

Finally, I must remind you that the main point of my June 27th letter to the Governor was to ask what advice he has for a parent who objects to this form of pediatric violence by teachers, and fears for her child's safety at school. My question remains unanswered. Your letter ignored it completely.

Jordan Riak, Executive Director

Michael A. Moses
David Anderson
William Modzeleski
Hillary Rodham Clinton

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