Paddling in schools still legal but not allowed

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Corporal punishment is legal in 19 states, including Texas.

By LUCIA ESPINO

sac-ranger@alamo.edu 

Although corporal punishment is legal in Texas schools, it is not being implemented, Alice Laffere, education program coordinator, and Teresa Robledo, early childhood center teacher, agree.

In Springtown, they seem to not agree on this.

According to an Associated Press article, two teenage girls suffered bruises after they were paddled by a male assistant principal.

Their parents did not complain about the punishment itself, but instead that the school violated the policy that an educator of the same sex as the student should be the one administrating the punishment.

According to the Texas Education Code, Section 37. 0011 Use of Corporal Punishment, corporal punishment means the deliberate infliction of physical pain by hitting, paddling, spanking, slapping, or any other physical force used as a means of discipline.

Laffere, said corporal punishment is still legal, but it varies from state to state and district to district.

Teachers are required to have a discipline curriculum, but they cannot administrate corporal punishment if it is not within the district’s policy.

Laffere has been teaching for more than 26 years and said, although it was very common years ago, hardly any school practices corporal punishment as discipline now.

Corporal punishment in schools can be traced back to the 1977 Ingraham v. Wright Supreme Court case, Laffere said.

Two male students, James Ingraham and Roosevelt Andrews, stated that they had been paddled in school an excessive amount of times and with excessive force violating their right under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits use of unusual punishment.

The students argued they were not given previous notice of the punishment, going against the 14th Amendment, which requires due process of law to protect the individual from mistaken punishment.

The Supreme Court stated the Eighth Amendment protects people charged or convicted of a crime, and the due process clause of the 14th Amendment does not require notice or hearing prior to imposition of corporal punishment as that practice is authorized.

Robledo said the early childhood center does not use corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure.

Robledo said it is not used simply because it is prohibited as a minimum standard for licensing requirements by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, but because it does not help the child’s discipline.

When a child is being punished in a physical way, the child either becomes afraid of the person giving the punishment, does not take it seriously or often repeats the same mistake for which the original punishment was issued, Robledo said.

“Our way to discipline a child here in the center is redirection,” Robledo said. “If we want a child to walk and not run, we say, ‘Use your walking feet,’ instead of saying, ‘Stop running.’”

Redirection shows children the right behavior instead of focusing on unacceptable behavior, Robledo continued.

Robledo also said even if parents approve of corporal punishment, teachers at the center are not allowed to administer it.

According to the Texas Education Code, Section 37. 0011 Use of Corporal Punishment, to prohibit, allow or reinstate corporal punishment on a student as a disciplinary measure a student’s parent, legal guardian, or other person having lawful control over the student must provide a written, signed statement to the board of trustees of the school district in the way stated by the board.

Leslie Garza, public information officer at Harlandale Independent School District, said the district does not require written permission or approval from the parent because corporal punishment is not being used.

The Harlandale 2012-2013 student-parent handbook states corporal punishment can be used as a discipline management technique alone or in combination with other techniques.

Garza said corporal punishment is not enforced at the district, even if stated in the handbook. Suspension and expulsion are some examples of their disciplinary measures.

The Center for Effective Discipline is a non-profit organization that educates the public about the effects of corporal punishment in children and alternative ways of discipline, Deborah Sendek, the center’s director, said.

People used to see children as miniature adults and were working at a very young age especially during the Industrial Revolution, Sendek said.

Children were expected to behave, work, and be punished as adults, Sendek said.

Psychologists are studying how children think and comprehend, as they get new results, the way children are treated should be changed, Sendek continued.

Children are being educated to avoid violent relationships, bullying, and to prevent domestic violence, but at the same time an older male or female is allowed to hit them at school, Sendek explained.

According to the Associated Press, the Springtown school district changed the policy to expand, but not void, corporal punishment. Now, opposite sex administrators can carry on the punishment as long as a same-sex school official is present.

Sendek said 30 states in the U.S., and the District of Columbia, banned corporal punishment from their schools.

In the remaining 19 states, it is still legal and is more likely to happen in rural cities, Sendek said.

Even if is not being allowed, the fact that it’s still legal puts society several steps back from the right direction, Sendek continued.

This is more than a disciplinary issue, Sendek said, “It is a human rights issue; it is not OK to hit people, especially children.”

For more information, call the early childhood center call 210-486-0530 or the education program at 210-486-1275.

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