HCS Board Meeting, 8/4/11. Thank you, Dr. Wardynski for Taking a Stand Against Corporal Punishment

Dr. Casey Wardynski, the new superintendent of the Huntsville [AL] City Schools,  proposed at the School Board meeting this evening that corporal punishment be eliminated within the system. I guess this will be put to a vote next meeting.

Thank you, Dr. Wardynski.

Continue reading “HCS Board Meeting, 8/4/11. Thank you, Dr. Wardynski for Taking a Stand Against Corporal Punishment”

the “unverified crud” in the “dramatic diatribe” of an “unread elitist”

“An Independent” didn’t  care for my last post, “Obama’s Back-to-School Address: All Responsibilities and No Rights,” writing:

 DON’T tell people to treat teachers as some kind of perverse violent evil force, out to get my kids (which is what you ARE saying, whether you think so or not).

Fine, I won’t. And I didn’t. I don’t suppose it will do much good for me to say that I wasn’t writing about teachers, since “An Independent” presumes to know what I’m thinking, even if I don’t, but for the record, the word teachers appears just once in my “dramatic diatribe,” couched between parents and principals. And not that it matters, but I believe that teachers are grossly underpaid for doing perhaps the most important job going. I should know. Both my parents were public school teachers. But that’s just my opinion.

Moreover, teachers don’t make policy. Maybe they should, but they don’t: not at the school level, or the district, or the state, or the national.

What I take exception to is “An Independent’s” suggestion that my argument is riddled with “unverified crud” that I’m “using as sources.” My respondent writes,

 Throw away all those self-published pieces of crud, written by childless, barren-wombed “scholars” who have never actually TAUGHT children, and start quoting some people with REAL LIFE experience.

Are Department of Education reports and Supreme Court verdicts “self-published pieces of crud, written by childless, barren-wombed ‘scholars’ who have never actually TAUGHT children”?

That’s one way of describing them, I guess.

I’m not sure what would satisfy “An Independent” as verified crud, but here goes.

“self-published pieces of crud” aka My Sources

  • Supreme Court 1977. Ingraham vs. Wright

You can read the Supreme Court ruling Ingraham v Wright at FindLaw.

INGRAHAM v. WRIGHT, 430 U.S. 651 (1977). 430 U.S. 651. INGRAHAM ET AL. v. WRIGHT ET AL. CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT. No. 75-6527. Argued November 2-3, 1976. Decided April 19, 1977

This case presents questions concerning the use of corporal punishment in public schools: First, whether the paddling of students as a means of maintaining school discipline constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment; and, second, to the extent that paddling is constitutionally permissible, whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires prior notice and an opportunity to be heard. . . .

Petitioners cannot prevail on either of the theories before us in this case. The Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment is inapplicable to school paddlings, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s requirement of procedural due process is satisfied by Florida’s preservation of common-law constraints and remedies. We therefore agree with the Court of Appeals that petitioners’ evidence affords no basis for injunctive relief, and that petitioners cannot recover damages on the basis of any Eighth Amendment or procedural due process violation.

  • Corporal punishment and students with disabilities

Visit the Department of Education, Table 9 – Incidents of Disciplinary Action for Students with Disabilities.

  • Public High School Graduation Rates by State

Visit the Department of Education, Indicator 19, Elementary/Secondary Persistence and Progress.

  • Race and corporal punishment

Department of Education press release. “Anniversary of Title VI Marks Progress and Reminds us that Every Child has the Right to an Education.” July 1, 2009

  • The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment lists its primary sources and supporters here.

A Note about Incidents of Disciplinary Action for Students with Disabilities

The US Department of Education’s website reports the numbers of special ed students receiving corporal (2006 figures [most recent]) by district  not by state, so don’t be surprised when you open the page and you see a chart where every value is 0. Once you click on a particular state, then you’ll see each district — city, county, or borough — and its reported figures.

In Alabama, for example, there are 108 systems reporting. Of those, 26 reported no use of corporal punishement on students who fall under IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act], and 12 reported over 100 disabled students who at least once were subject to corporal punishment in 2006. Marshall County reported the highest number (300). Next most numerous were two other rural counties Morgan and Blount, with 215 each. That is a big gap.

For perspective, the 2006 population for Jefferson County, Alabama’s most populous, was 659,403. Marshall’s was 86,247. Jefferson had 125 incidents of corporal punishment involving special ed kids.

These are 2006 facts. Marshall vs. Jefferson county population: 86,247 vs. 659,403. Disabled kids receiving corporal punishment in Marshall vs. Jefferson counties’ public schools: 300 vs. 125.

“They live every day in fear of their students–NOT the other way around!”

“An Independent” suggests I have things backwards:

I know LOTS of teachers. They live every day in fear of their students–NOT the other way around! These days, they have to worry about MUCH more than just kids bringing frogs to school, or smoking in the bathrooms. They have to worry about guns, drugs, gangs, sexting, and offending BOTH sides of the street of political ideologues.

and tells me:

Go out into the real world. Meet lots of real people. Ask the REAL EXPERTS– the TEACHERS– what they think about abuse and discipline in schools, and start quoting REAL cases — IF you can find any!– where abuse happened. (And no, the provoked YouTube videos– with teachers defending themselves against violence, which are posted by kids who edit out the assaults on the teachers– these are NOT kids being abused, these are TEACHERS being abused!)

Sorry, but I don’t spend time over at YouTube (or MSNBC for that matter), but I thought I’d look for some crud about assaults on teachers in the 20 states with corporal punishment and in the 30 without.

Over at the US Department of Education, I found an interesting National Center for Education Statisitcs table, Percentage and number of public school teachers who reported that they were physically attacked by a student from school during the previous 12 months, by state: 1993–94, 1999–2000, and 2003–04.

In 2003-04, 120,000 US teachers reported they were physically attacked by a student from school during the previous 12 months. The number of reports from the 20 states who still allow corporal punishment was 48,500.

The proportion of states that have corporal punishment (20) is two-fifths of US states. In 2003-2004, 48,500/120,000, or roughly two-fifths of attacks against teachers occurred in these same states.

My “snotty commentary”: there is no reason to believe that teachers are safer in schools that use corporal punishment than in ones that don’t.  Nor is there any reason to believe they are less safe.


Obama’s Back-to-School Address: All Responsibilities and No Rights

President Obama’s speech last week to America’s students disappointed me. I wish he had given the bushleaguer Fox-frequenters something to squawk about. I wish his talk about responsibilities had included a promise to America’s minors that he would work to extend to them the same rights under the law that their parents, teachers, and principals have.

Obama used the same rhetoric for this audience as he would have if he were addressing full citizens of the US: “if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.” And while it’s hard to argue with the message “I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do,” I find it unsettling to hear kids once again being told that “Here in America, you write your own destiny” when the truth of the matter is that in 20 states, school kids of all age, for all kinds of reasons, are subject to corporal punishment.

Children, unlike adults, including convicted murderers, have no protection from “cruel and unusual punishment,” nor are they guaranteed due process, or so said the Supreme Court in its 1977 ruling on Ingraham vs. Wright, which challenged the State of Florida’s corporal punishment policies as unconstitutional, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. See.

Twenty years have passed since the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which says that children should share in basic human rights, like protection from violence, and still the US has not ratified it, a distinction we share only with the great nation of Somalia. During his campaign, Obama said, “It is embarrassing to find ourselves in the company of Somalia, a lawless land.”  His administration has at least begun thinking about the problem; in June 2009 the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said officials are looking at “when and how it might be possible to join.” But it isn’t his decision alone.

The same mouths who had to protect their precious children’s delicate ears from being bruised by Obama’s innocuous speech will fight this tooth and nail. They’ll buy into the argument of Steven Groves, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, as reported on Fox: “To the extent that an outside body. . . have a say over how children in America should be raised, educated and disciplined — that is an erosion of American sovereignty.”

They’ll fear losing the legal right to terrorize with threats of violence and to physically assault those who are smaller than they are. They’ll claim it’s a matter of religious freedom, spare the rod and spoil the child. But even the stern Calvinists of Scotland stopped beating kids in public schools 29 years ago: “Corporal punishment is prohibited in state schools and for publicly funded pupils in independent schools in Scotland under Section 48A of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980.”

What other countries haven’t prohibited corporal punishment in public schools? Uganda, Turkey, Myanmar, Liberia, Cuba, and other illustrious nations. See.

Is it surprising that states that hit kids the most — whether by counting the number hit at least once during the course of the year or the percentage of the student body beaten — have some of the lowest graduation rates in the nation?

Or that in the ten most violent states, in nine cases , special ed students are paddled at a higher rate than kids in the general population (and in the tenth, they are paddled at the same rate)? 

Or that disproportionately more minority students, especially blacks, are hit and hit more often? In 2006-2007, 36% of kids struck at school were black (interestingly, in 1976, the percentage of blacks hit was 29%). Look at the map of where corporal punishment is allowed in schools, and think plantation discipline.

Obama used the words responsibility or responsibilities nine times in his address to school children. The word rights appears just once,  in a list of historical achievements of the American people, suggesting that the fight for civil rights is as much a done deed as putting a man on the moon.

Mr. President, you can do better than this.

I’ve an assignment for you.

In a year’s time, return to the schoolroom TV monitors and address this question: If rights come with responsibilities, do responsibilities come with rights?


Corporal Punishment : Legalities, Realities, & Implications. Patricia H. Hinchey. Clearing House, Jan./Feb. 2003

Corporal Punishment of Students with Disabilities in US Public Schools. Alice Farmer. Human Rights Watch

Global table of corporal punishment: home, school, penal system. at http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org

Corporal Punishment by State and Race. Center for Effective Discipline.