April 19, 2000PTAVE's letter to Governor Bush
I would like 25 copies of this [Corporal Punishment Exemption] form. But what I really need to know, is will this form work in the state of Texas??? If it will not, then, do you have a form that will?
R.B., Wichita Falls, Texas
April 19, 2000
What are the rights of parents in the state of Texas against schools using corporal punishment? I have a 6 yr old son in kindergarten who was paddled last week for using a cussword. I had already told them verbally and sent a letter to school, via my son, to the principal, stating that corporal punishment was not to be used on either of my sons. The principal didn’t open the letter until Friday, when I went to the school to find out what had happened and why my son had been paddled against my wishes. This principal stated that the state of Texas and this school district allowed him to do such things, even when the parent did not want corporal punishment used, and had put it in writing. How is this so??????? I would appreciate any help that I can get. The superintendent backs the principal up, and I have no clue where to start. I was given this organization as a place to start, but I want something done with this school district.
R. B., Wichita Falls, Texas
April 19, 2000
Yes you can use my name and address in a letter to the government officials. This needs to stop!!! Some of the parents around here thought that if they didn’t sign the form on the handbook, that it meant that corporal punishment would not be used on their kids. This assumption is obviously wrong. And thank you for the information.
R.B., Wichita Falls, Texas
May 16, 2000
George W. Bush, Governor
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711
Dear Governor Bush,
Please find enclosed copies of the following: a) three letters to us from a mother of a schoolchild in Wichita Falls, b) PTAVE’s Corporal Punishment Exemption Form, and c) a letter to us from James R. Hine, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services.
In past correspondence to you and other Texas authorities, we requested advice on how Texas parents could protect their children from violent treatment at school. The responses we received described how parents might lodge a complaint if they believed their children had been excessively or unfairly punished. Clearly, these answers failed to address our question. Reaction is not prevention.
We can’t claim to know why our question was ignored, but we suspect that officials' and bureaucrats' preference for dealing with problems as though they were isolated, unique occurrances rather than systemic ones, applied here. The isolated event is easy to minimize and dismiss; the systemic problem, not so easy. As for the substitute answers we were given, they are, from a practical standpoint, almost entirely useless.
In his letter to us of April 5 about the case involving the daughter of Ms. M_____, James R. Hine, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, cites the definition of abuse in Texas Family Code 261.001. Mr. Hine says, “While it is very regrettable that the young woman suffered pain and minor harm from the paddling, the effects described do not, in our judgment, rise to the level of abuse as defined by Texas law.”
It seems Mr. Hine, like the authors of the Texas Family Code 261.001--a masterpiece of vagueness and ambiguity, in our judgment--has much more to say about what abuse isn’t than about what it is. A parent is left to conclude, logically, that unless her child were injured to the point of requiring emergency medical attention, abuse in the legal sense has not occurred. There would be little point in lodging a complaint. No doubt the Texas Education Agency receives very few complaints.
In your letter to us of February 27, you stress that every stage of the complaint procedure must be documented in writing. That requirement discriminates against parents who are illiterate, semi-literate, or who may feel intimidated by the formality of the procedure. It makes no provision for when the child’s mistreatment at school meets the legal standard for abuse, but the parent, for any reason, fails to act.
The enclosed letters from the Wichita Falls mother brings us back to the question of prevention which is still unanswered. She says that her child was paddled in spite of her written request to the principal that her children not be corporally punished. This mother has since requested and received copies of our Corporal Punishment Exemption Form. But, in light of her recent experience, she is skeptical about its effectiveness.
She asks: “But what I really need to know, is will this form work in the state of Texas???”
May we reassure her that her second request to her school that her children not be paddled will be honored? May we also tell other Texas parents who contact this organization for help and advice that they may expect schools to respect their wishes in this regard?
Are you prepared to support the moral authority of parents who want to prevent their schoolchildren from being battered in the pelvic area with pieces of wood? If you can give us that assurance, we will happily convey it to those families.
Thank you for your attention. We look forward to your response.
Jim Nelson, Commissioner, Texas Education Agency
James R. Hine, Executive Director, Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services
David Anderson, Chief Counsel, Office of Legal Services, Texas Education Agency,
Mr. Richard Riley, U.S. Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education
William Modzeleski, Director, Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program, United States Department of Education
Rep. Paul Sadler, Chair, House Committee on Public Education
James Crow, Executive Director, Texas Association of School Boards
Senator Teel Bivins, Chair, Senate Committee on Education
Chase Untermeyer, Chair, State Board of Education
David Bradley, State Board of Education District 7
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