There has recently been a focus in the news regarding Union County school system using Corporal Punishment as a discipline option. As a resident of Union County I am appalled and outraged that this archaic practice is even an option. It is hard to imagine that we are in the year 2005 and the school system is permitting to use this practice. Corporal punishment in the school system has been abolished in majority of industrialized nations around the world except for 22 states in US and one rural territory in Australia. If we look at the research and professional organizations like the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Association of State Boards of Education and Elementary School Principals, National Mental Health Association and the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse to name a few. All have public statements that clearly support the ban of corporal punishments in the school system. So my question is, what evidence does the Union County School System have to support the use of this practice?
As a professional Social Worker and a parent of two children, I have many concerns with this practice and I will only touch on a few major points. What happens for a child who is currently experiencing severe abuse at home? Usually, a child may share this abuse with a school personal, with someone they trust. This is when a professional will file a report and Social Services can intervene. But, why would this child share anything if they have witnessed, heard of, or experienced "paddling" or corporal punishment. Maybe they would conclude that this is normal because it occurs at home and at school. Well, it is not normal and our schools should not in the business of doing any physical harm to any child.
In addition, corporal punishment is applied arbitrarily and is shrouded with subjectivity. It is used disproportionately on children with a whole range of issues ranging from low achievement to learning disabilities. What is sad is that this discipline method teaches our children nothing. What it does teach and model is that violence is an acceptable response to conflict and that it is appropriate to inflict physical harm to another. This is not the solution. All our efforts should be focused on teaching different strategies of conflict resolution, how to work through problems and that using any form of violence is not acceptable. We as adults understand that every action has a consequence. Well the school system needs to understand that their actions have consequences too. It is time that Union County Schools address their actions and adopt discipline policies that are effective and do not hurt our children!
Gail Langton-Dunlop, MSW & Parent
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