March 21, 2000
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
OFFICE OF ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
MAR 21 2000
Mr. Jordan Riak
Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education
P.O. Box 1033
Alamo, California 94507-7033
Dear Mr. Riak:
Thank you for your letter to Secretary Riley on behalf of a parent whose high school student is enrolled in the Texas public school system. Your letter was forwarded to my office for a response.
I read the letter you attached from a parent who is concerned about "paddling" as a disciplinary practice by school officials in the state of Texas. I also read your and the Associate Vice Principal's responses posted on the Project NoSpank website, sponsored by Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE). As you and the Associate Vice Principal have stated, corporal punishment in schools is a legal disciplinary action that can he taken by a school in response to a violation of school policy. It is unfortunate that the parent was not aware of the practice of corporal punishment in her daughter's school. It is important for parents to know and understand school policy, particularly as it relates to the discipline of their children while in school.
Although we do not condone "paddling" as a way to discipline children in schools, we do believe that every school should have a discipline policy and that the policy should be fairly and consistently enforced. Of course, these efforts will not be effective unless local education agencies work closely with students, parents, and other community organizations in the development of disciplinary policies and practices which are consistent with community expectations and supported by the community. For your information, I have enclosed a portion of our reauthorization proposal for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that details some of the additional elements that we believe should be part of a sound school disciplinary policy.
With regard to the parent's specific concerns about the issue of "paddling" in schools, I must inform you that this matter must be resolved at the State and local levels. While we share your and the parent's concerns, issues related to discipline and standards of conduct are, for the most part, under the control of State and local officials and, by law, are not issues in which the U.S. Department of Education may be involved.
I would urge you and your constituents, and the parent, in this case, to continue to try and work out a solution with the principal, superintendent, and school board. I understand that the parent's letter and your response to the daughter's situation were also forwarded to Texas' Chief State School Officer, Dr. Jim Nelson, who would be another appropriate source for sharing any concerns regarding corporal punishment in Texas's schools.
Indeed, we recognize that school discipline, particularly with respect to suspensions and expulsions, has become an area of growing concern. In light of issues related to the need for alternative school discipline strategies, we are targeting funds to examine better ways to address student discipline in schools. For more information about this Federal discretionary direct grant program and other related programs and initiatives, please feel free to visit our website at:
I sincerely hope this information is helpful to you and the parent in this situation. If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us at (202) 260-3954.
Director, Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Program
400 MARYLAND AVE., S.W. WASHINGTON, D.C. 20202