This past summer, the school districts of Nashville, Tennessee and Mobile, Alabama joined thousands of school districts across the country and world-they banned school corporal punishment.
In November 2003, in preparation for a democracy, the Kurds ended all school corporal punishment. On January 30, 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada banned corporal punishment in all schools. In a few months, India, the second most populated country, is set to abolish all school corporal punishment. In March 2004, the Pennsylvania State Legislature is expected to ratify a regulatory ban that will make it the 29th state in the US to outlaw school corporal punishment.
Every developed, industrialized country in the world and many developing nations in Asia and Africa have made the violent punishment of schoolchildren illegal. The abusive practice of school paddling has been thrown out by every large city school board in Texas, except Dallas. And last week, the Dallas Morning News reported that only 2% of DISD parents approve of student corporal punishment. The students in Southeast Texas are the same as those everywhere and surely, our teachers are just as capable of educating without hitting as those anywhere else. Yet, we lag far behind every developed nation on Earth in not yet prohibiting the outmoded and harmful practice of student corporal punishment. The theme of the recent Educational Summit held by the Beaumont Independent School District was "Education is Changing." Most of our area school districts have not changed yet in regard to banning school corporal punishment. In BISD alone, there have been 994 students reported paddled for the current school year.
It's time for our area school administrators and boards of trustees to do their homework, consider the facts and research on corporal punishment and adopt the vastly improved methods of discipline that work, without needing to spend a nickel. Dozens of professional organizations in the US, many to which our school leaders belong, call for an end to all corporal punishment in schools because of the known physical and mental health dangers and because the research shows that it doesn't work and creates more anti-social behavior. Among those are the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Education Association, National School Board Association, National PTA, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Bar Association and the National Association of School Psychologists.
Research conducted by opponents and proponents alike, shows clearly that the states that have banned school paddling altogether and use positive discipline measures achieve far greater academic successes and have less social pathologies than those states that still use school paddling. According to the Association of School Psychologists, research has proven that positive discipline techniques improve safety and create positive outcomes for all students.
High paddling school districts have higher rates of poor academic achievement, dropouts, juvenile delinquents, incarceration and spouse abuse. We also know that there is a strong link between paddling and aggression and anti-social behavior against other children at school. Despite the evidence, there are educators and legislators in paddling districts who defend student corporal punishment, hiding behind tradition. (The paddle, in fact, was part of the slavery tradition. It was used originally to beat slaves). Proponents state that paddling maintains the discipline necessary to create educational achievement. Yes, there are students who conform outwardly due to fear of corporal punishment--they are being obedience-trained and that isn't education. They are learning bullying tactics and the use and abuse of power. Some of them will put those lessons into practice at the earliest opportunity. Supporters state that where paddling has been banned, discipline and educational achievement have suffered. We know from research that in fact, the opposite is true. Educational policy needs to be based on research and informed thinking not popular anecdotes. School officials who allow paddling, knowingly put students at risk emotionally and physically and at an unnecessary disadvantage. This is a dereliction of their duty.
Today, in the entire free developed world, 21 states in the U.S. stand alone in allowing the violent punishment of school children. The largest school districts in the nation and thousands of others here and throughout the world educate students successfully without hitting and use positive discipline strategies that work. Nowhere is school corporal punishment making a comeback.
The U.S. Department of Education states that a school's discipline policy should be fair and equitable for all students. One that allows for some students to be beaten at the discretion of some school officials is not such a policy. Although some school districts give parents the right to refuse corporal punishment for their children, under current Texas law, school districts do not have to honor their request. It is not enough to sign a waiver and "opt out" of school paddling for one's children. Parents, grandparents and legal guardians should ask legislators and school officials to protect all schoolchildren in Texas. Our area superintendents and trustees can join the state, national and worldwide trends by voting against this model of violence. Texas could become the 30th state to outlaw school corporal punishment and all of us would benefit.
Isabelle Allgood Neal is a Beaumont resident and a Board Member of Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education, a national non-profit child advocacy organization (www.nospank.net) and part of the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools (www.stophitting.com)
HAVE YOU BEEN
TO THE NEWSROOM?