A Teacher Writes to Her Senator About "Teacher Liability Protection"
Regina M. Fathman's letter to Senator Voinovitch, April 24, 2001
April 24, 2001
Senator George Voinovitch
Re: Elementary and Secondary Education Act & S.316
Dear Senator Voinovitch:
I am writing my first-ever letter to a legislator, and I write as a teacher at Marysville [Ohio] High School where I have been teaching math for the past 23 years. I also write as the mother of four children, and the soon-to-be grandmother of one.
This week, the renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is up for a renewal vote in the Senate. This is pretty standard fare, except that in the last week or so S.316 was quietly folded into this legislation. The provisions of S.316 are terrible for our children. This so-called "teacher liability protection act" would give me, a teacher, immunity from federal civil or criminal liability for any harm I do to children if I simply state that the harm was caused while I was "maintaining discipline." So, I could pick up a board and whack away at children, damaging tailbones, inflicting bruises or slap faces scratching skin skin with my fingernails and no one could do anything about it. Yes, corporal punishment is still allowed here in Ohio schools. The purpose of S.316 is to allow corporal punishment to be used unchecked, untempered by any fear of the consequences.
This is bad, ill-conceived legislation not needed by teachers. My own national professional organization, the National Education Association, has been on record since 1977 asking for an end to corporal punishment. The teacher associations are not asking for this bill. We're professionals, we don't need it. The bill was drafted based on very poorly done research and only sends the wrong message to educators, children, and families.
Please consider introducing an amendment to delete the provisions of S.316 that were folded into the ESEA bill, or vote against the bill as a whole. Even better, let's amend the bill to delete the S.316 language, and add language that eliminates corporal punishment from our schools altogether. Did you know that school corporal punishment has now been banned by every country in Europe, South America, Central America, Japan and China? Even a scattering of nations in Southeast Asia and Africa now have bans. It embarrasses me as a teacher that we still allow this outmoded practice, and that the Senate is poised to take the backwards step of enshrining the hitting of children by exempting my colleagues from the normal protections afforded children under existing laws.
Regina M. Fathman
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