Daily Herald-Tribune, March 21, 2000
(Canada) Corporal punishment used as deterrent in Peace Wapiti
By Ellen Lawrence
Peace Wapiti school board officials insist corporal punishment is used as more of a threat than anything, and that parents make the final decision whether or not their child will receive the strap. After a handful of parents called the Daily Herald-Tribune saying they knew of instances where a child in the Peace Wapiti school district had been strapped in the past two years, Peace Wapiti Supt. Gerry Mazer polled the district's 21 elementary and secondary schools to see exactly how many students had received corporal punishment.
"The board hasn't considered abolishing it," he said, noting the district's colony and virtual education schools were omitted from the survey. "Some principals have said they would like to see it kept there even though they've never used it." Out of the district's 21 schools, seven students were strapped in the past five years, and five of those incidents occurred in the past two years.
Ten schools had no record of ever administering the strap.
This comes after the school board recently agreed to change its policy on corporal punishment when it received letters from parents who asked for its review or, in some cases, its complete elimination. Under the old policy, a principal about to apply the strap was only required to inform the parent prior to the impending punishment, not seek out permission. Now, the principal must ask for permission and provide the parent a list of alternative means of punishment, such as suspension or increased school work load.
According to policy, principals are required to keep records of instances, but are not obligated to report them to the superintendent. Peace Wapiti school board chairwoman Lynne Phillips continued to support the decision to keep corporal punishment in the schools because for some students, the education system is the only place where rules are put in effect for the kids who need structure. "This cannot be done without parent permission," she insisted, adding, in effect, Peace Wapiti school principals are only the administrators of the strap and the parents are the decision-makers. "The times we've had to use it the parents have given us permission. In fact, some have even requested that it be given."
Corporal punishment is allowed in schools across Canada under section 43 of the Criminal Code, which states "every school teacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances." In Alberta, 26 of the 65 school boards have banned corporal punishment. Corporal punishment has also been banned in the Grande Prairie Catholic and Grande Prairie Public school districts.