Texas must stop school spanking
EDITORIAL, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, February 10, 2000

We are at a time when almost every industrialized nation in the world forbids hitting schoolchildren. The last holdouts include Canada, one state in Australia, and 23 states in the United States.

Ten nations have outlawed physical punishment for children and 14 other nations have pending legal reforms to protect children from physical violence.

But not in the United States, where the myth that hitting children is good for them still continues and where the perceived right to inflict violence upon children is deeply entrenched.

We consider wife-beating to be domestic violence and child-beating to be discipline. Schools within these 23 states are the only U.S. institutions that legally permit striking another person.

Throughout history, we have raised our moral standards. We have outlawed physical punishment for employees, domestic servants, spouses, military recruits, prisoners, criminal suspects, and mental patients. Corporal punishment was banned in military schools in the 1960s.

It is time for Texas to break with tradition, raise our moral standards, and end physical punishment in our schools.

Legal or illegal violence against children is associated with delinquency, educational failure, depression, spouse abuse, and increased aggression. There are records of students being beaten to death, suffering permanent back injury, sciatic nerve disorders, recurrent headaches and emotional problems. Striking someone with a board and causing intentional pain or injury is, by definition, abuse and a violent act.

From 45 years of research, we know that hitting children breeds fear, anger, a pro-violence attitude and resentment of authority. No one argues the short-term effectiveness of hitting children to change behavior. Anyone can be beaten into submission. However, a positive permanent behavioral change requires a change of heart. It must come from self-discipline and not from fear of retaliation.

There is no scientific literature today which supports hitting children. The data show repeatedly that schools that permit physical punishment have poorer academic achievement, more vandalism, greater truancy, pupil violence and higher dropout rates.

Gov. George W. Bush and other state officials claim to be sickened by violence against children. This stated concern is of no value to the 118,701 students beaten in Texas schools during the 1996-97 school year (latest data available from U.S. Department of Education - based on voluntary reporting). Our state talks of maintaining authority at the local level, yet local control was also the argument used to justify wife-beating and slavery.

Principals and trustees of school boards in Texas and throughout the nation that have banned physical punishment, state that academic excellence can hardly be achieved in a coercive and intimidating environment where children are physically punished. Our schools need to be a place of joyful learning, where students feel safe and free from threats. For many schoolchildren, their homes are not a safe and secure place; so let our schools be the one safe place for these children - where there is no threat of being struck.

Texas schools receive federal funds for violence prevention. Efforts to counter school violence are meaningless when there is sanctioned violence against students. Our youth will not take seriously the idea of nonviolent conflict resolution, while their adult role models continue to use aggression in relating to others.

Hitting proponents often cite Biblical references to defend their perceived right to inflict violence upon children.

Among all the great world religions, there is the universal ethic of treating others the way you would want to be treated. Why do we scrap this ethical principle when it comes to children?

The Texas Legislature and Texas school districts can show their visionary leadership by breaking through the status quo to end physical punishment in schools and let Texas get in step with the rest of the industrialized world. Then, perhaps, the other 22 states will follow Texas' example of leadership and we will all reap the benefits.

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