Toxic Schools of Texas
Jordan Riak

2000 Copyright waived

“To me the worst thing seems to be for a school principally to work with methods of fear, force and artificial authority. Such treatment destroys the sound sentiments, the sincerity and self-confidence of the pupil. It produces the submissive subject. . . It is comparatively simple to keep the school free from this worst of all evils. Give into the power of the teacher the fewest possible coercive measures, so that the only source of the pupil's respect for the teacher is the human and intellectual qualities of the latter.”
Albert Einstein1

“. . . Yet such is the temper and moral culture of teachers themselves that it is exceedingly unsafe to leave too wide a discretion in their hands. The nature even of instructors of youth is fallible, and there is a kind of intoxication in the exercise of unlimited power, though it be only over little boys and girls, that it may wisely be checked and controlled.”
Editorial, The New York Times, January 22, 1871

“. . . And if we do not take more care of the character of the teachers and instructors we choose, I blush to think how shamefully such contemptible fellows will misuse their rights.”
Quintilian, circa 95 A.D.2

Schools are a faithful mirror of society. Observe a school in session, and you will learn much about the community, its loves, hates, fears, habits and hopes. But schools are more than merely a passive reflector. They exert a powerful influence. They can cultivate the best characteristics of a community, or they can reinforce its worst. If they're not doing the one, they are doing the other. They cannot be neutral. They empower or they stifle; they educate or they perpetuate ignorance disguised as education. As an extension of government into the lives of children, schools set the intellectual and moral agenda for those children in countless ways, the effect of which reaches far into the future. That's the reason teachers are rigorously trained, tested and certified by the state. That's why, when they take charge of children, they are expected to conduct themselves as professionals, exemplars and role models.

Many meet that standard. Many strive toward it and, with hard work and proper support, arrive at it. But there are also teachers and administrators who do to children what no college or university has taught them to do: harass, humiliate, demean, degrade, intimidate, manhandle and batter. In addition to the harm they do to children, the perpetrators of such practices have an insidiously corrupting effect on their colleagues, especially on inexperienced teachers who are just entering the field.

Abusive behavior by educators is rarely acknowledged. Such behavior, moreover, is defended and even applauded in some quarters, and the harmful effects on children are almost universally overlooked.

Why have we turned our attention to Texas? According to the Office for Civil Rights l998 Elementary and Secondary School Civil Rights Compliance Report, Texas batters a larger number of schoolchildren than any other pupil-battering state. During the 1997-98 school year, 81,373 Texas schoolchildren were forced to submit to having their buttocks beaten with wooden boards. That’s 2.07% of the total enrollment during that period. Other states, of the 23 that allow pupil beating, have higher percentages, but Texas harms more children.

No one can calculate the number of children in Texas who are exposed to the effects of witnessing such violence against their peers, or quantify the psychologically destructive effects of living in daily fear of it. No one can assess the amount of social damage that results from behaviors and attitudes modeled in classrooms where physical battery is a routine management technique. That's why we've made the public education system of Texas the focus of this discussion. More children are battered under its authority than under the authority of any other comparable agency in any developed, democratic nation. As the letters transcribed in the following pages will show, the toxic schools of Texas are untouchable behind their bulwark of skillful obfuscation, habitual buck passing, silence and denial.

Top Ten Pupil-Battering States
1997-98 School Year

1 Mississippi 10.1% 49,859
2 Arkansas 9.2% 40,811
3 Alabama 6.3% 45,610
4 Tennessee 4.0% 36,477
7 Oklahoma 3.0% 18,581
8 Louisiana 2.7% 19,986
6 Georgia 2.13% 27,759
5 Texas 2.07% 81,373
9 Missouri 1.1% 9,717
10 New Mexico 0.9% 2,935

Source: Office for Civil Rights l998 Elementary and Secondary School Civil Rights Compliance Report


PTAVE’s letter to Texas Medical Association Blue Ribbon Panel on Family Violence. The Panel never answered.

June 12, 1997

Dear Panel Members,

When I first heard of the incident of child abuse which I will describe now, I thought it was a rare, isolated case. But several recent communications from parents of schoolchildren in Texas would suggest that such incidents are all too common. First let me tell you about Alicia--a schoolchild who attended school, not in your state, but in California in a suburb of Los Angeles.

Alicia was a quiet, well-behaved student, always eager to please her teachers. She had a medical condition, which her father described as "kidney reflux." The physician who was caring for Alicia had informed both her and her parents that it was imperative that she never attempt to forcibly retain urine. Alicia's school principal was made aware of her medical condition, as were her teachers. I learned about Alicia when she was hospitalized with a serious, urinary tract complication which apparently was induced by events at school. Her teacher had a policy of adding to the "bad list"--a list of names displayed on the blackboard--the name of any child who asked to go to the bathroom during class time. Alicia's dread of having her name appear on the "bad list" nearly resulted in the loss of a kidney. In response, her family hired a lawyer and was preparing to sue the teacher and the school district.

Lawyers for the other side, however, uncovered certain facts about Alicia's dad's past which, if publicized, would have damaged his reputation in the community and caused profound embarrassment to his family. The suit was withdrawn. Now let's talk about Texas.

Please consider the following:

1) A Houston school principal has a practice of requiring students wishing to go to the bathroom to first recite the names of all the presidents of the United States. Students who can't do it, aren't allowed to go.

2) A schoolchild in a small town near Austin has a condition similar to Alicia's. His mother felt it necessary to removed him from school for his protection and teach him at home because the school refused to allow him to urinate when he needed to.

3) A Dallas teacher responded to a boy who ask to be excused to go to the bathroom by requiring him to bend over, grab one ankle with his hand and protect his genitals with the other and receive a battering to the pelvic area with a wooden board.

4) A schoolchild in Floresville, Texas has a degenerative disk disease of the cervical spine and suffers periodic back pain. He was punished at school by being beaten on his pelvic area with a wooden board with such force that he limped for several days.

5) A 12-year-old schoolchild in Houston was forcibly held down by one male teacher so that the school principal--a 250 lb. former professional athlete--could repeatedly batter his buttocks with a wooden board. (This is the same school principal cited in Item 1 above who requires recitation of presidents.) For the edification of interested panel members, I am enclosing multiple copies of a photograph showing the injuries this child received during the beating.

As you probably already are aware, the above incidents do not constitute violations of law. The question of abuse by teachers rarely arises in Texas because the law permits school personnel to use anything short of lethal force against a child. Technically, that means a schoolchild would have to be dead before a violation of law would be evident. As a further shield for school-based child abusers in Texas, parents are prohibited from filing civil suits against persons responsible for school-punishment-related injuries.

The purpose of this letter is not to ask you about matters of law or education policy, which are issues that may be outside your area of expertise and are apparently outside your mandate as members of this panel. However, it seems only reasonable that if you take seriously the child's experience of violence in the home, you would have to take equally seriously the child's experience of violence in the school. As you are well aware, a child's physical and emotional well-being are tied to the child's entire life’s experience, of which school is a major part. So, we ask you: what advice can you give parents of schoolchildren in Texas who are fearful about the forms of pediatric violence described above? If any one of the children discussed in this letter were a patient of yours, what advice would you offer?

As a public service, we are placing a copy of this letter and a copy of your response on our site on the World Wide Web, "Project NoSpank" at Thank you for your kind attention.

Jordan Riak, Executive Director

A letter to PTAVE from a Texas mother

March 18, 2000


My 9 yr. old son was severely beaten by his principal at his school a year ago to the point of running a fever for 3 days afterwards and was all but being split wide open. The sheriff that took pics. Were sickened by the extent of brusing and ruptured blood vessels as anyone else that sees the pics. As a parent I would of been locked away for the very same thing that this monster with authority seems to be getting away with. The last thing I see before bed is my sons bottom bruised so severely I vomited when I first saw the "MARKS". My son is having problems with his new school, has little or no self-esteem. We were given no choices, 3 licks, 3-day suspension or transfer him to another school. All of this for a honor roll student, the suspension would of moved him off of the honor roll (this was very important to him and expressed in tears over this)...Failed to realize the extent of the "licks" until it was to late..The nightmare lives on. Am interested in any feed back that you can give me, for I am a parent that has lost hope and let her child down and will have to live with it the rest of my life.

Sincerely, S.G.
Greenville, Texas

A letter to PTAVE from Ms. M_____
January 2, 2000

I recently moved my family from New York to a suburban town in Texas. The schools are said to be very good and have ample budgets and very nice facilities. The teachers and principals seem very interested in the students and helpful.

Everything seemed to be going great with the school until several weeks ago when my 17-year-old daughter--a straight-A student--announced that she had been "paddled" in the vice principal's office. I had never even heard of this practice before. Apparently, my daughter was a little more than five minutes late for first period due to car trouble. This is considered skipping a class (anything over five minutes) and she was given the choice between being suspended from the school and paddled. Because of her grades and involvement in activities she did not want to miss (tennis team), she chose the paddling--as apparently most students at the high school do. As I understand what happens, all students who have gotten in trouble on a particular week are sent to the vice principal's office during 7th period on Friday and receive a "paddling." There are over 2000 students at the school and the week my daughter got in trouble there was a line of 22 students (12 boys and 10 girls) outside the office awaiting their "swats."

Girls are paddled by a female coach who has been designated as the "paddler" for girls. This coach is a former college athlete and nearly six foot tall and 200 pounds. My daughter is 5'1" and 100 pounds. She was made to bend over a bench and stick her bottom in the air. She was then given a lecture, followed by 5 very hard "swats" with a 30" board ("paddle"). She was in tears by the time the punishment (witnessed by the male vice principal) ended. When she got home several hours later her buttocks were still bright red and you could see the outline of the paddle on her skin. Although there was no bruising, she had difficulty sitting down over the weekend.

After hearing of this, I couldn't believe that it was legal. I found your website on the internet and am writing to find out if there is anything that can be done? Can this practice of "paddling" really be legal in Texas?

People here treat it very casually as if it is a tradition and no big deal. My daughter's friends say they have received this punishment and that they don't think it is that big of a deal! I can't believe it! Is there anything that can be done?

Ms. M_____

PTAVE’s response to Ms. M_____
January 6, 2000

Dear Ms. M_____ :

The short answers to your two questions, "Is it legal?" and "Is there anything that can be done?" are "yes" and "no."

Buttocks-beating in Texas schools, as in the schools of 22 other educationally backward states, is perfectly legal. Paddlers are vigorously protected by the legal, educational and social establishments.

Can a parent do anything short of transporting her child to a more civilized school environment? That all depends on the stamina of the parent and of the child. Few people are physically, emotionally and economically prepared to engage in a protracted struggle with their school system. And few children are able to withstand the social cost that results from being at the center of such a struggle--nor should they be expected to. Schools will show no mercy when it comes to protecting their perceived interests, and they have the child, i.e., the child's present happiness and future educational prospects, in the palm of their hand.

In the past, I have urged parents to fight the good fight against the outrageous, obscene, immoral, unprofessional practice of "paddling," and I've tried to give them the necessary advice, tools and backup, to the extent that I am able. Some have fought bravely--for a while. Before long, most of them came to the conclusion that there is more to life than engaging in endless, fruitless, circular debates with school administrators (many of whom are well-practiced at this game) and invariably their children begged them to "drop it." Some of the parents I've known managed to work out a compromise with their school. Some withdrew their children and taught them at home or found schools that were more respectful of their children's humanity. Some packed up and moved to non-paddling states. Spend a bit of time on Project NoSpank at Especially see:

"Rape: Lesson No. 1" at,
"Testimony of Shelly Gaspersohn" at,
"Texas: No justice for schoolchildren" at,
"Behind the closed door of one Dallas middle school classroom" at,
"Talking to Texas" at, and
"Teachers Beating Students in Dallas," at
After you've read those files, you'll know what you are up against.

Speaking as a grandparent, I would not leave my granddaughter in the care of paddlers any more than I would leave her in the care of child molesters, pedophiles or sadists. I consider any act whereby an unwilling victim is subjected to painful trauma inflicted on his or her pelvic area to be an act of sexual sadism. (I couldn't care less how perpetrators characterize the event.) Even if I knew absolutely that the child would not be targeted, I would not want her to be in an environment where such practices are considered "no big deal." To me it's a very big deal. I would not want her to (eventually) date boys who were reared in such an environment, and perhaps, one day, marry one.

Here is what I propose. I will copy your letter, withholding your identity, and forward it to academics in education departments of various colleges and universities in Texas. I believe they have a special obligation in this regard. They should be prepared to accept at least part of the responsibility for the gross unprofessionalism of many who have passed through their institutions with little apparent benefit and were certified as teachers. I will invite them to advise me how to answer you. I'll remind them that more than 3% of Texas schoolchildren are forced to submit to a pummeling on their buttocks with wooden boards by their teachers in a typical school year, and therefore your daughter's experience cannot be dismissed as a rarity. I'll also invite Texas Governor Bush, who has been outspoken on the subject of education reform, to speak to this issue. Since all the other presidential hopefuls also list education reform, and especially "school violence," as priorities, they too should welcome the opportunity to express themselves on this subject. And surely the Texas Education Department will be able to offer you some good advice. We'll ask President Clinton (again). And Hillary Rodham Clinton. Let's see what sage advice comes in. I'll send you copies of everything. And, of course, I'll post their responses on Project NoSpank so that what they say, or their silence, will become part of a permanent public record.

Jordan Riak

In the following transcription of The Vice Principal's letter to Ms. M_____, "your daughter" has been substituted for the student's name and several other minor word changes have been made in order to preserve the anonymity of the parties. PTAVE’s copy of the letter shows the date on which we received the emailed copy, but not the date of the original. We believe the original was mailed in December of 1999.

Dear Ms. M_____:

I have received your letter regarding the disciplinary measures arising out of your daughter's violation of the Student Code of Conduct. I must say that many of your concerns reflect a lack of information and/or understanding of the discipline policies of district, as well as some of the facts surrounding her referral to my office. There are several points which I would make in response to your letter. First, corporal punishment is legal in Texas and has been widely used for decades. Each district is given the responsibility to formulate its own policy with regard to corporal punishment. The policy of this district is contained in the student handbook that is provided to all parents and students in the district. Virtually all parents support our efforts to maintain discipline in the schools and complaints regarding our polices, including corporal punishment, are very rare.

Second, you do not seem to be fully aware of the circumstances surrounding your daughter's referral to my office. You are correct that your daughter was in excess of five minutes late for her first period class on December 3, and that this is considered truancy under district policy. However, this is hardly the entire story. Your letter is the first we have heard of any "car trouble" as the cause of the truancy. In fact, your daughter was carpooling with several other students (tennis teammates) and the group stopped to eat breakfast before school. As a result of this detour, the vehicle she was driving ran out gas and the group had to push it some two blocks to a service station. (While the car was being filled with gas, one of the students purchased tobacco and beer which were to be consumed at a team "party" over the weekend.) This is what delayed their arrival to school. Four other students riding with your daughter have indicated that this is what happened (they were also referred to my office and received corporal punishment).

Moreover, I would point out that to avoid arriving at school even later on the morning of December 3, Your daughter parked the vehicle in a space expressly reserved for faculty and staff. A review of our computer parking records revealed that you daughter had five prior parking violations (three for parking in the teacher's lot), and that the tickets associated with these violations were unpaid.

The student handbook and district policy provide that each parking citation that is not paid or appealed within ten days results in a Level One violation of the Student Discipline Code that may result in corporal punishment. Given your daughter's five (5) independent violations (in addition to her truancy), she was actually given a fairly lenient punishment--largely because of her otherwise outstanding record. As I think you know, your daughter was given the choice between five days of internal school suspension and corporal punishment consisting of five swats. She chose the latter.

I would point out that at high schools in the district, the only violation of the Student Code of Conduct that gives rise to corporal punishment without election by the student is fighting. In all other cases, the student is given the option of corporal punishment in lieu of other penalties such as detention or internal school suspension. Many students choose corporal punishment, as did your daughter.

I would also point out the your daughter's paddling was administered in accordance with the district guidelines for grades 9 to 12. The guidelines provide that the punishment will be administered to the student's buttocks with a wooden paddle of approved dimensions, by a staff member, and outside the visual presence of other students. The guidelines also provide that female students will be paddled by a female staff member. All of these guidelines were followed in your daughter's case.

The guidelines provide that the maximum number of swats that may be administered to a student per school day is five. It is not all uncommon students in the 11th and 12th grade to receive five swats, and as indicated above, this was fairly lenient in your daughter's case, given that she engaged in five violations of the discipline code which could have given rise to five independent referrals to my office.

Your daughter's paddling was not more severe than literally thousands that have been administered in the high school during the time I have been Vice Principal. As you acknowledge in your letter, it did not result in any bruising or other significant marks. Our records show that this year 186 students--105 boys and 81 girls--have been paddled and your complaint is the first we have received.

Virtually all parents are extremely supportive of our efforts to maintain discipline in the school so that it can be a place of learning. I have taught at schools in other states where corporal punishment was not an option, and as a result maintaining order was much more difficult-- if not impossible. (I would note that since your daughter's referral to my office, she has not received any parking tickets or been late to any classes, first period or otherwise.)

We take pride in the fact that our school has not degenerated into a "circus" as have others, and hope you will support us in our efforts to maintain a positive and productive environment where your daughter and others can maximize their academic potential, without unnecessary disciplinary distractions. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me by letter or phone.

Sincerely yours,
Vice Principal

Governor Bush’s response to PTAVE’s correspondence regarding Ms. M_____
February 27, 2000

Dear Mr. Riak:

Thank you for your letter about school discipline and the copy of one parent's letter about her daughter's experience at school. I understand that the discipline policy of the school in question is distressing to you and others. School should be a safe place where we instill in our children a love for learning.

Although I appreciate the sentiment that prompted your letter, my office has no authority over local school decisions. I encourage parents to work with school administrators and members of their local school board to find a solution. Most school districts require parents to follow a local grievance process, which includes an appeal to the principal, the school board, and the superintendent. All three levels of an appeal must be documented in writing.

If a parent follows the school's grievance policy and is still unable to resolve the matter locally, the Division of Complaints Management at the Texas Education Agency provides mediation for concerned parents and school districts. You may advise Texas parents to contact Mr. Ron Rowell, director of the division, at:

Texas Education Agency
1701 North Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701-1494
(512) 463-9290
Thank you for letting me know your concern about this issue. I hope this situation can be worked out to everyone's satisfaction.

George W. Bush

PTAVE’s reply to Governor Bush
March 9, 2000

Dear Governor Bush:

Thank you for your prompt response. We are aware that this is perhaps the busiest time of your life, so we are especially appreciative that you've taken the time to answer.

Like most others in your profession, you are not known for shyness when it comes to voicing your theories about all that you see wrong with public education. Because of your status, those freely-expressed opinions have a powerful influence on public opinion and ultimately on public policy. However, there appears to be a strange inconsistency in your conduct, and that is what prompts us to write to you again.

When it comes to the deliberate battering of schoolchildren by teachers, which some Americans would characterize as "teacher violence," you become uncharacteristically silent. You explain that your office has no control over "local school decisions." When somebody decides to beat a schoolchild, that, by definition, is a local decision. But the policy condoning such behavior is established by the state. How does one reconcile your apparent inability to address systemic teacher violence in your own state with your ambitious plans for reforming the nation's schools? Your silence with regard to the former substantially diminishes your credibility with regard to the latter.

No matter that paddled children number approximately 118,700 per year in the schools of Texas, and nearly half a million annually in all 23 states that allow the practice... No matter that such treatment is deemed entirely counterproductive by leading educators and child development authorities, you treat the topic gingerly, as though it were some kind of sanctuary or forbidden area.

Perhaps an acknowledgment on your part that Texas schoolchildren are being abused would be tantamount to an admission that abusers are working freely within the school systems. And such an admission would raise questions about why nothing has been said or done about it before now. But you avoid this outcome by deferring to a low-level authority where (hopefully) one victimized family can resolve one complaint against one school. Your expression of hope that "this situation can be worked out to everyone's satisfaction," is a mere gesture, a sympathetic nod in all directions, and is deeply insulting to the victims. In effect, you have shooed them off your doorstep telling them that your office is off limits for discussion of their problem and that they must fend for themselves.

This is unacceptable. Child abuse is never off limits and nobody is exempt. Indeed, it may force some folks to move beyond their political, social and personal comfort zones, but it is not off limits. It is central. When people in positions of authority ignore the mistreatment of children, they commit the most serious sin of omission. That omission--the abandonment of children to the care of dangerously incompetent caretakers--constitutes a far more insidious menace to public safety and well-being than all other problems combined.

Yesterday we received in the mail a photograph showing a paddling-related injury of a 10-year-old Texas child. We've enclosed a copy for your edification. Ironically, this picture of what was done to a child in the name of "discipline" is not a good picture for any child to see.

Jordan Riak, Executive Director

A letter from James R. Hine, Executive Director Texas Department of Regulatory and Protective Services, in response to PTAVE’s correspondence regarding Ms. M_____
April 5, 2000

Dear Mr. Riak:

This is in response to your recent letter about a concern you received from a parent who had recently moved to Texas. Ms. M____ had strong negative feelings about her 17 year old child being paddled at school. You indicated that Ms. M____ needed practical advice on how to protect her child from violent abuse at school and volunteered to forward any advice we could give to her immediately.

As you suggested, we reviewed the information on your web site about this situation and the responses already provided by school, state and federal officials. These officials have provided quite a bit of information and guidance about Texas law related to school personnel paddling children and about school and state agency grievance procedures Ms. M____ could use to protest the paddling.

The Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services is the state agency charged by law to receive and investigate reports of child abuse and neglect. This includes situations when the alleged maltreatment was committed by school personnel or volunteers. The legal definition of abuse, found at Texas Family Code 261.001, includes the following:

"Physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child, or the genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child, including an injury that is at variance with the history or explanation given and excluding an accident or reasonable discipline by a parent, guardian, or managing or possessory conservator that does not expose the child to a substantial risk of harm."
Ms. M____'s letter said that the paddling caused the young woman to cry, her buttocks to still be bright red after several hours, an outline of the paddle to appear on her skin, and caused her to have difficulty in sitting down over the weekend. The paddling did not cause bruising. 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 arise to the level of abuse as defined by Texas law.

If a parent suspects that their child has been abused or neglected by school personnel or volunteers, Texas law requires the parent to report this. A parent may report abuse to local law enforcement or our statewide child abuse hotline. The number of the toll-free hotline is 1-800- 252-5400 for calls from Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

If we can be of further help, please let us know.

Sincerely, James R. Hine
Executive Director
Texas Department of Regulatory and Protective Services

The following PTAVE letter to Governor George Bush inquires specifically about his proposed Teacher Protection Act. In his response of May 25, 2000, Governor Bush outlined his plans for education reform, point by point, but omitted any mention of the Teacher Protection Act. That letter can be read online at

February 9, 2000

Bush 2000
P.O. Box 1902
Austin, TX 78767

Dear Gov. Bush:

Outlining your educational platform in New Hampshire last November, you advocated a federal "Teacher Protection Act" which would shield teachers and school officials from discipline-related "junk lawsuits" (to use your term). This proposal brings to mind a recent court case from your own state of Texas, which was ruled upon during your tenure as governor. On May 4, 1993, eight-year-old Mark Ramirez arrived late to class at Bruce Elementary School in Houston. For this infraction, he was beaten on the buttocks so severely that he soiled his clothes and was left with visible bruises. His mother, Alice Ramirez, was summoned by the school nurse to come take him home.

Mrs. Ramirez sought redress for her son by suing the teacher and the school district for assault and gross negligence. State District Judge William Bell, however, summarily threw the case out. Explaining his decision, he told attorneys, "It's silly to be wasting our time and taxpayer's money. We can have people running down here to sue every time there's a spanking." (source: Houston Chronicle, 8/10/96). In addition to dismissing her case, Judge Bell fined Mrs. Ramirez $15,000 for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

Would the ruling of this Texas judge be consistent with the legal standard you seek to impose on the judiciaries of every state? Would your proposed Teacher Protection Act extend this degree of legal immunity to teachers and school officials across the nation?

Tom Johnson,
Special Projects Coordinator
Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education [PTAVE]


In 1941, Columbia University published Corporal Punishment: A Social Interpretation of its Theory and Practice in the Schools of the United States., by Herbert A. Falk. It is doubtful that this excellent book was read or even noticed by anyone outside its author’s circle of colleagues and students. It was immediately forgotten and has remained forgotten. A copy made its way to the PTAVE library courtesy of a supporter who found it in a garage sale. The penned inscription reads, “To Mark Crosier--Friend and co-worker--Herbert A. Falk.”

The period preceding 1941 surely qualifies as “the good ol’ days” to many who warm to that phrase. Fresh whole milk was delivered in glass bottles to our doorsteps, marriage was for life, moms were happy at home tending their domestic responsibilities, membership in the Ku Klux Klan was still respectable, and across the Atlantic, social engineers of the Third Reich were putting the final touches on their plans for the Final Solution. Meanwhile, at Columbia University, Professor Falk was writing this:

. . . [T]he abolition of corporal punishment is contingent on a more intelligent and better-trained and better-selected teacher. A teacher who is emotionally balanced, who understands that education is a process whereby the individual recreates himself by engaging in what to him are meaningful experiences, and who is capable of guiding activities emerging from the children’s individual interests along educationally fruitful lines will surely find no need for resorting to the infliction of pain as a means of school control. Legislation, public enlightenment, and an intelligent teaching profession are mutually complementary factors in the abolition of corporal punishment. An enlightened public opinion will make prohibitive legislation possible and its execution effective. Legislation will habituate the public to an educative process not based on force. An intelligent and well-trained teaching profession will reconstruct education along lines which do not tolerate the use of coercion, thus reinforcing enlightened public opinion and in turn being reinforced by it.3


We anticipate that some teachers will dismiss this publication as an indiscriminate swipe at the teaching profession, as “teacher bashing” or “Texas bashing,” or both, or worse. Nothing could be further from our intentions. To those who feel they have been unfairly labeled, we make the following solemn promise. When we receive word that the last licensed paddler in Texas has been disarmed, we will withdraw this publication. Not a single copy will be printed or delivered after that time. Hopefully, we will be asked to fulfill that promise soon.

We believe that the teaching profession, which includes the teachers of teachers, is uniquely positioned to assert its moral authority in demanding that every paddling state--23 at the time of this writing--join the rest of the civilized world in protecting schoolchildren from legalized battery. To do less is a cowardly abrogation of moral responsibility. The debate about corporal punishment is closed. The incompetents, the bullies, and the sadists within the school systems of Texas and elsewhere, who since time immemorial have been as snug as alcoholics in a brewery, must be advised to pack up their weapons and move on. Their services are no longer needed.

As the image of the teacher shifts from that of drill sergeant, riot policeman and parole officer to one of role model, mentor and enabler, those whose personalities are incompatible with the new standard will naturally choose to earn their livings in other fields. If they don’t, the choice will be made for them. As a new crop of children is exposed to a superior crop of teachers, the long-term effect will be, among other good outcomes, the cultivation of a superior crop of future candidates for the teaching credential. In this more enlightened setting, the teaching profession will begin to receive the respect it is due. Teachers will be foremost among the beneficiaries of reform. Now is the right time to act. Texas is an ideal place to begin.

1.Albert Einstein, “On Education,” in Out of My Later Years, New York: Philosophical Library, Inc., 1950. p. 33.

2. Marcus Fabius Quintilian, The Institutio Oratoria of Quintilian, H. E. Butler, trans., Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.: 1969.

3. Herbert Arnold Falk, Corporal Punishment: A social interpretation of its theory and practice in the schools of the United States. New York: Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1941. pp. 146-147.

Appendix A.

A letter to PTAVE from Jeff Charles

July 22, 2000

Hi Jordan,
I know you are closing in on your booklet, so I pass these thoughts along for your use.

The most common subterfuge is when elected officials support paddling by citing "local control" of schools. They often state that the "big government" should leave education to those closest to the community. This appeals to many folks who don't like a lot of government generally, and it has a ring of truth without directly supporting paddling. The deception is that "local control" applies to the schools’ "right" to paddle students while tying the hands of everyone else.

Parents, for example--the ultimate "local control"--do not have the right to prevent school personnel from beating their child. Their right has been taken away by the state. Clearly, no "local control" there. Also, local child protective services do not have the right to investigate child abuse complaints arising from school beatings. Even when a child goes to a doctor, who legally must report child abuse, state law prevents the reporting of abuse at school! I’m talking here about legal child abuse with severe bruising as a result of battering. Finally the local courts do not have any right to hear a case brought by the parent of a child paddled at school even if it is an obvious case of abuse. Again, we see the heavy hand of the state, but nobody seems to be complaining about the intrusion of big government into the affairs of the community!

In fact, "Local Control" applies only to paddlers’ rights, while taking away the rights of students, parents, judges, doctors, and child protective services. As it’s packaged in Texas, “Local Control,"should be renamed "Child Abusers’ Freedom to Batter Without Oversight or Recourse Policy,” for that is what it does, and nothing lse.

Most folks assume that the 1977 Supreme Court case Ingraham v. Wright gave schools free reign to paddle--but the court did say the right to due process in the US constitution was called into play with paddling, and in a 5-4 decision allowed paddling to continue only because "after the fact" lawsuits served the due process function, even though the damage to the child would already have been done. Since then, Texas and other paddling states have taken away parents and children's right to sue, and now are operating outside the Supreme Court's blessing. Unbelievably, one mother was fined $15,000 by a Texas judge for merely bringing such a suit on behalf of her badly-bruised child. Without a doubt, this has had a chilling effect on the parents of other injured schoolchildren.

Jeff Charles

Appendix B.

Appendix C:


1. No child shall be subjected to cruel, degrading or humiliating treatment.

2. No child shall be corporally punished or otherwise subjected to the deliberate infliction of physical pain as a means of control or for reasons of punishment.

3. No child shall be deliberately denied the fulfillment of his or her fundamental bodily needs, including but not limited to the need for:

a. nourishment
b. rest
c. warmth
d. cleanliness
e. movement
f. waste elimination
g. essential medical care


DAVID BAKAN. Slaughter of the Innocents. Boston: Beacon Press, 1971

SUSAN H. BITENSKY. "Spare the Rod, Embrace Our Humanity: Toward a New Legal Regime Prohibiting Corporal Punishment of Children". University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, Volume 31, Issue 2, 1998.

HERBERT ARNOLD FALK. Corporal Punishment: A social interpretation of its theory and practice in the schools of the United States. New York: Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1941.

IAN GIBSON. The English Vice. London: Duckworth, 1978.

JAMES GILLIGAN. Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1996

PHILIP GREVEN. Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse. New York: Random House, 1991.

IRWIN A. HYMAN. Reading, Writing and the Hickory Stick: The Appalling Story of Physical and Psychological Violence in American Schools. Boston: Lexington Books, 1990

__________, Case Against Spanking: How to Stop Hitting and Start Raising Healthy Kids. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1997.

IRWIN A. HYMAN and PAMELA A. SNOOK. Dangerous Schools: What We Can Do About the Physical and Emotional Abuse of Our Children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1999

AARON KIPNIS. Angry Young Men: How Parents, Teachers, and Counselors can Help "Bad Boys" become Good Men. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1999.

MIKE A. MALES. The Scapegoat Generation: America's War on Adolescents. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1996.

KARL MENNINGER. The Crime of Punishment. New York: The Viking Press, Inc., 1966.

ALICE MILLER. For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child Rearing and the Roots of Violence. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983. (PTAVE strongly recommends all Alice Miller’s works.)

__________. Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society's Betrayal of the Child. New York: New American Library, 1984.

__________. Breaking Down the Wall of Silence. London: Virago, 1990.

ASHLEY MONTAGU. Ed., Man and Aggression. London: Oxford University Press, 1968.

MURRAY A. STRAUS. Beating the Devil out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families. New York: Free Press, 1994.

FELICITY DE ZULUETA. From Pain to Violence--The Traumatic Roots of Destructiveness. Northvale, New Jersey; London: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1994

In acknowlegdment of your $5 tax-deductible donation to Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE), we’ll send you three copies of this booklet. Write PTAVE, P.O. Box 1033, Alamo, CA 94507-7033. Be sure to specify “Toxic Schools of Texas” and give your full return address clearly printed. Persons requiring larger quantities may call (925) 831-1661 to make those arrangements.

PTAVE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in California in 1983. E.I.N. 94-2884062

Misc. online reading regarding Texas
This section is not included in the print version of "Toxic Schools of Texas." “Texas--29 kids in 2 1/2 years died in state's care-- 2 stopped breathing while restrained recently,” Kelley Shannon / Associated Press, Dallas Morning News, April 18, 2000 DeSoto, “Texas: Police couple charged with beating, child sexual abuse,” The Lubbock Avalanche - Journal, April 13, 2000 “Two Texas Cops Accused of Torture,” by The Associated Press, The New York Times, April 12, 2000 “Abuse alleged--Mom may sue church-run Texas youth home,” By Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 11, 2000 “Texas Probes "Restraint" Death of Young Patient, By The Associated Press, New York Times, February 8, 2000 “Abused teen to stand trial as an adult in murder case,” By Matt Flores, Express News (San Antonio, Texas), October 5, 1998 “Survey details child abuse growing in Texas,” By Michael Graczyk, The Associated Press, Aug. 22, 1998 “Eleven-Year-Old On Trial,” LYCOS--Texas News Summary, June 1, 1998 “Texas Supreme Court ruling favors the Bad Samaritan,” Texas State News, May 22, 1998 “Texas Rep. Jim Pitts hopes to protect condemned 11-year-olds awaiting execution from contact with hardened criminals,” By Peggy Fikac, The Associated Press, April 8, 1998 “The Boom Boom Method” by Lisa Gray, Research assistance by Lauren Kern, Houston Press, April 24, 1997. “Texas law shields violent teachers, punishes victims,” The Associated Press, August 11, 1996

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