STATE OF TEXAS
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
February 27, 2000
Mr. Jordan Riak
Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education
Post Office Box 1033
Alamo CA 94507-7033
Dear Mr. Riak:
Thank you for your letter about school discipline and the copy of one parent's letter about her daughter's experience at school. I understand that the discipline policy of the school in question is distressing to you and others. School should be a safe place where we instill in our children a love for learning.
Although I appreciate the sentiment that prompted your letter, my office has no authority over local school decisions. I encourage parents to work with school administrators and members of their local school board to find a solution. Most school districts require parents to follow a local grievance process, which includes an appeal to the principal, the school board, and the superintendent. All three levels of an appeal must be documented in writing.
If a parent follows the school's grievance policy and is still unable to resolve the matter locally, the Division of Complaints Management at the Texas Education Agency provides mediation for concerned parents and school districts. You may advise Texas parents to contact Mr. Ron Rowell, director of the division, at:
Thank you for letting me know your concern about this issue. I hope this situation can be worked out to everyone's satisfaction.Texas Education Agency
1701 North Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701-1494
GEORGE W. BUSH
Post Office Box 12428 Austin, Texas 78711 (512) 463-2000 (Voice) 475-3165 (TDD)
PARENTS AND TEACHERS AGAINST VIOLENCE IN EDUCATION
P.O. Box 1033, Alamo, CA 94507-7033
March 9, 2000
Hon. George W. Bush
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711
Dear Governor Bush:
Thank you for your prompt response. We are aware that this is perhaps the busiest time of your life, so we are especially appreciative that you've taken the time to answer.
Like most others in your profession, you are not known for shyness when it comes to voicing your theories about all that you see wrong with public education. Because of your status, those freely-expressed opinions have a powerful influence on public opinion and ultimately on public policy. However, there appears to be a strange inconsistency in your conduct, and that is what prompts us to write to you again.
When it comes to the deliberate battering of schoolchildren by teachers, which some Americans would characterize as "teacher violence," you become uncharacteristically silent. You explain that your office has no control over "local school decisions." When somebody decides to beat a schoolchild, that, by definition, is a local decision. But the policy condoning such behavior is established by the state. How does one reconcile your apparent inability to address systemic teacher violence in your own state with your ambitious plans for reforming the nation's schools? Your silence with regard to the former substantially diminishes your credibility with regard to the latter.
No matter that paddled children number approximately 118,700 per year in the schools of Texas, and nearly half a million annually in all 23 states that allow the practice... No matter that such treatment is deemed entirely counterproductive by leading educators and child development authorities, you treat the topic gingerly, as though it were some kind of sanctuary or forbidden area.
Perhaps an acknowledgment on your part that Texas schoolchildren are being abused would be tantamount to an admission that abusers are working freely within the school systems. And such an admission would raise questions about why nothing has been said or done about it before now. But you avoid this outcome by deferring to a low-level authority where (hopefully) one victimized family can resolve one complaint against one school. Your expression of hope that "this situation can be worked out to everyone's satisfaction," is a mere gesture, a sympathetic nod in all directions, and is deeply insulting to the victims. In effect, you have shooed them off your doorstep telling them that your office is off limits for discussion of their problem and that they must fend for themselves.
Paddling Injuries (Humble, Texas, 2/23/00)
This is unacceptable. Child abuse is never off limits and nobody is exempt. Indeed, it may force some folks to move beyond their political, social and personal comfort zones, but it is not off limits. It is central. When people in positions of authority ignore the mistreatment of children, they commit the most serious sin of omission. That omission--the abandonment of children to the care of dangerously incompetent caretakers--constitutes a far more insidious menace to public safety and well-being than all other problems combined.
Yesterday we received in the mail a photograph showing a paddling-related injury of a 10-year-old Texas child. We've enclosed a copy for your edification. Ironically, this picture of what was done to a child in the name of "discipline" is not a good picture for any child to see.
Jordan Riak, Executive Director