An Open Letter to Catholic Educators
in Australia and New Zealand

By Jordan Riak and J. M. Wright
Published in The Catholic Weekly, June 21, 1981, Australia, followed by "MEMO TO STAFF from Brother McIntosh," a memorandum from the school administration to the teachers at a Catholic boys' school in a Sydney suburb, April 15, 1981.
Corporal Punishment in Schools:
An Open Letter to Catholic Educators
in Aust and NZ

It is the present practice of most Catholic schools in Australia and New Zealand to insist on their assumed right to administer corporal punishment to students irrespective of parents' wishes.

In November 1980, the European Commission on Human Rights determined that Britain was violating human rights (under Article 2 of the European Convention) in allowing children to be given corporal punishment against their parents' wishes.

A similar view is suggested in The Declaration on Christian Education of the Second Vatican Council, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in October, 1965. It was there stated that parents "...must be recognised as the primary and principal educators..." (para. 3).

The present practice, therefore, appears inconsistent with international conceptions of human rights, and with the Vatican's stated views on the rights and responsibilities of parents.

Many Catholic patents are faced with a dilemma. They seek a religious education for their children but cannot accept that violent punishment, or the risk of it, is a legitimate part of the process. We do not know how many Catholic children have been educated outside the Church for this reason.

There appear to be compelling reasons for the establishment of a policy forbidding the deliberate infliction of pain as a normal sanction in Catholic schools. In most advanced nations, school children enjoy greater--not lesser--protection against violation of their basic human rights.

Accordingly, in nearly all countries, corporal punishment in schools has been forbidden by law. It should be noted that Catholic nations have played a leading role in educational reform, with Poland, Luxembourg. Italy, Belgium, Austria and France abolishing corporal punishment of schoolchildren in 1783, 1845, 1860, 1867, 1870 and 1881, respectively.

We urge you therefore, with regard to corporal punishment and similar degrading sanctions, to consider most carefully their effects on the young--particularly the influence that aggressive adult behavior is apt to have on children's developing values.

Furthermore, we urge you to give due respect to the rights of those parents who seek a religious, but non-violent, educational environment for their children.

JORDAN RIAK. Co-ordinator, PTAVE, Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education, Double Bay, N.S.W. 2028. Australia*

J.M. WRIGHT, Member, CAVE, Collective Campaign Against Violence in Education, Otara. New Zealand

* NOTE: This Australian address for PTAVE is no longer valid.

FROM: Br. Peter Mc Intosh
15th April, 1981.

Last week literature from an organisation calling itself "Parents and Teachers Against Violence" appeared in all staff members' pigeon holes. Some mistakenly thought this came as official correspondence from the Principal and were somewhat upset.

More material appeared in the Staff Room this morning and some staff members suggested that I should inform staff that it is being circulated without any reference to the School Authority.

I would point out to staff that I know this organisation and have met and listened to the leader in an official capacity last year - I was not impressed. What has happened here is typical of the manner in which this organisation conducts its so-called crusade.

The policy of the College here is that teachers are not allowed to use corporal punishment on pupils without proper authorisation. Corporal punishment is not forbidden in the school and can be used if a teacher and the administration feel it is necessary - a strap may be used on a student's hands.

I should also point out that if teachers wish to distribute material it should be cleared with the Administration.

If staff members feel as I do they will be looking forward to the Easter Break. I wish all staff members a happy Easter and a restful holiday.

Yours sincerely,

NOTE: **PTAVE received a photocopy this memo from the same teacher who was responsible for salting staff areas with our literature and who reported to us from time to time on the horrendous mistreatment of some of the boys at the school. At the time of this writing, corporal punishment of schoolchildren is illegal in New Zealand and in nearly all of Australia.
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