The New York Times: Paddling Equals Child Abuse
Readers' Opinions: Three letters to the editor, May 5, 2001

To the Editor:

Re "Lawsuits Touch Off Debate Over Paddling in the Schools" (front page, May 3):

I teach fourth and fifth graders in one of the many school districts that do not permit the abuse of children in the name of discipline. There is no question that some children test classroom limits repeatedly or annoy other children. But a teacher who doesn't rely on paddling, or the threat of it, has many tools for disciplining them.

Most teachers I know use a combination of working with parents, natural consequences and rewards for children who follow the rules. I have seen children cry about missing a recess or struggle to write an essay on the behavior they need to change. I've also seen them learning to be proud of themselves with encouragement.

Teachers and administrators in schools that continue to beat children need to return to school themselves to learn new ways of disciplining children.


Berkeley, Calif., May 3, 2001

To the Editor:

The persistence of corporal punishment in the schools (front page, May 3) is troubling on several accounts: it runs counter to the recommendation of most national groups of doctors, psychologists, lawyers and educators; it provides a sanctioned outlet for the anger and frustration of teachers and administrators who may be prone to personalize the punishment; it corrupts the idealism of young teachers, breaking their spirit as they enter the profession; and it perpetuates a documented discrimination against minority students, who tend to get paddled more often than their white classmates.

As your article points out, courts have been reluctant to champion children's rights in this area. Surely the Bush proposal to further limit educators' liability will place children in even greater jeopardy.


Cambridge, Mass., May 3, 2001

The writer, a lawyer, is the co-author of a book about corporal punishment in the schools.

To the Editor:

Justice Louis Brandeis said: "Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill it teaches the whole people by example."

Everyone has an absolute right to the integrity of his person. It is no longer permissible to beat wives, servants, psychiatric patients, suspects under interrogation or even convicted felons. Until our lawmakers accept the moral responsibility for protecting schoolchildren from violence (front page, May 3), they will be the models for violence.


Alamo, Calif., May 3, 2001

The writer is executive director, Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education.

[See original, unedited version of the above letter at]


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