A mother writes to PTAVE
March 2, 2000
Today was a learning experience for me. You see, I relocated to the state of Tennessee in November. My two children were enrolled in a school here. It wasn't long before the kids came home in total shock. They were telling me that "Paddling" was acceptable and allowed here, and that screaming and cursing at children was allowed, and that physically grabbing children was also allowed. Needless to say, I was more than shocked.
We came from a place which abolished any form of corporal punishment a long time ago. Schools began to practice non-violent methods of discipline. Parents were included in the process to help them learn and understand the effects of physical, verbal, and mental abuse. I was always under the impression that all advanced societies were being properly informed, and were practicing non-violent discipline. I never realized how wrong I was until I moved here.
Society has a way of stereotyping people based on where they live. Growing up, I learned that forming an opinion of a person based on their location was basing an opinion out of ignorance. The typical stereotype for Southern Americans has always been "hillbillies". Viewed as simple people, uneducated, backwards. As much as I would like to dismiss society's stereotype, I can't. I also can't say that all people here match the stereotype. I have met some exceptional people here who are highly educated, successful, and who promote a positive image of their state. Unfortunately this image does not extend to the schooling system.
This week my nine year old child came home in tears. One of his teachers yelled and cursed at him, threw a book at him, and physically grabbed and shook him. This was not the first incident.
In order to effectively communicate with the school about this incident, I contacted the Superindent's office to familiarize myself with the rules of this state. I spoke with the staff lawyer. The information I received left me numb. Corporal punishment (paddling) is accepted and used here. Verbally abusing children is also acceptable. Physically grabbing a child is also acceptable. Each incident is assessed on an individual basis. The teachers here have the authority to deal with children as they see fit, based on the incident. In my child's incident, he rolled his eyes in boredom.
My husband and I will be meeting with the school to discuss this, and to see specifically what is acceptable. My gut feeling here is our meeting won't amount to much.
It is truly sad that such an advanced society still practices primitive discipline. On the news this week, we heard that a 6 year old child shot another 6-year-old child to death in a school. The saddest part of this is that people are asking, "how could this of happened?" It is beyond me that anybody could even question why such things occur. Of course, in an area where corporal punishment is accepted and practiced, violence is the standard way of solving problems, and ignorance predominates.
I truly hope that one day, society as a whole, will be educated on the long term damage caused by abuse. I commend you on your efforts, and look forward to receiving your postings.
PTAVE's letter to the authorities and the experts
[Sent snail mail on PTAVE stationery]April 24, 2000
Please find enclosed a copy of a letter from Ms. L. to this organization, received March 2, 2000. We are using the letter with her permission. At her request, we have blocked her name and email address. She says that she is concerned that if her comments about the school are publicized in a way that reveals identities, her children could be retaliated against or put at a disadvantage. And, as a newcomer in the community, she does not want to be labled a "troublemaker."
Please read the enclosed letter.
Our question to you is simple and can be answered with very few words. What advice, if any, would you have for a dear friend or relative who is about to enroll their child in a school where whacking children on the pelvic area with a piece of wood is routine and condoned?
For your information, 43,921 students or 4.7% of the student population were "paddled" in the schools of Tennessee during the 1996-97 school year according to the Office for Civil Rights l997 Elementary and Secondary School Civil Rights Compliance Report. Since that number is based on voluntary self-reporting, the true number is much higher.
We are also sending this query to others in positions of authority and influence. Their responses and yours will be published on our Web site, "Project NoSpank" at www.nospank.net. We are doing this as a service to our readers, many of whom visit the site for precisely this kind of information. If you wish to examining the list of recipients and read their responses, log onto www.nospank.net/tenn.htm and scroll to the bottom of the page.
Thank you for your kind attention. If you prefer to respond by email, please write to email@example.com
Recipients of PTAVE's letter and their responsesThe list below is of persons who have received, or are soon to receive, the preceding letter.
As answers arrive, we'll post them here, linked from their authors' names. The absence of a link indicates that the person either hasn't received our correspondence, or has received it but hasn't responded.
Responses may be slow in coming. Check back here from time to time to see what comes in.
William Modzeleski, Director, Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program, United States Department of Education, Washington, DC 20202
Mark Ginsberg, Ph.D., Executive Director, National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), 1509 16th Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20036-1426
Vice President Al Gore, c/o Gore 2000, P.O. Box 23250, Nashville, TN 37202
Marian Wright Edelman, Director, Children's Defense Fund, 25 E Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
Mr. Richard Riley, U.S. Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education 400 Maryland Avenue S.W., Washington, DC 20202
Jonah Edelman, Executive Director, Stand For Children, 1834 Connecticut Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20009
Tennessee Senate Education Committee
9A Legislative Plaza, Nashville, TN 37219
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