By Carole Duncan

Journal of Clinical Child Psychology Volume 11, No.3, Fall 1973

In July 1972, a Dallas schools administrator pled guilty to assaulting a 14-year-old boy who had to be hospitalized with severe concussion. The school official was fined $150 and placed on a year's probation.

Less than three months after his conviction, while still on probation, the same administrator took a small 14 year old girl into the office and began "paddling" her. A blow from his "paddle" knocked her to the floor, where she attempted to escape the brutal onslaught by crawling away from her attacker, who struck her on the neck, arms, back, legs and head. Tiring of the "paddle", he then proceeded to remove his belt, and the pupil ran from the room and out of the building, chased by him down the street until she ran into the home of a friend. She was treated for hysteria and for bruises and contusions that covered most of her body. Her menstrual cycle stopped for two months, and her mother says, "She is just not the same person since this happened to her."

In October 1972, the official appeared before the Grand Jury on charges of assaulting the pupil, but the Grand Jury "took no action."

This case is not unique in a community where he and other school personnel have the "right" to beat hell of children and to retain an elite status in the eyes of the law. Texas law provides in part that "...violence may be used by the teacher upon the pupil..." Prosecutors simply do not press for convictions, and the Grand Jury system hesitates to put a teacher in jail.

Unfortunately, the school administration refuses to take action against these individuals. After this administrator assaulted the boy he was simply transferred to another school. In fact, a highly placed official in Dallas goes out of his way to hire people like that. Turning away qualified applicants who have not had "coaching experience", he has stated: "I like my principals to be former coaches, so they can handle these kids."

Since concerned parents and citizen groups have found no relief in Texas courts, recent publicity and public outcries against "parental" child abuse (battered child syndrome) have encouraged many parents to take their children to the child welfare agencies. However, while these agencies stand ready to intervene in parental child beatings; they refuse to intervene in the public school system's brutality against the young.

One agency director said, "I will not be the one to do battle with that school administrator; it would cost me my job." An interest worker who examined a child beaten at school admitted: "If this had happened in the home, we would remove the child and file charges against the parents - but we do not have authority to interfere with the schools." In this particular instance the victim was a seven year old elementary school pupil who had been beaten three to five times a week 12 "licks" each time with a 22" board with holes in it. Notably, the Grand Jury "took no action" against her assailant either. Where child abuse is concerned in Dallas, we continue to impose a double standard, which allows agencies to forbid parents to beat up their kids, but which sanctions or ignores the same brutality in school buildings.

School district "paddlings" continue to increase to 3400 per month, while school officials continue to refer to corporal punishment as a "last resort." These "paddlings" are administer for failure to say, "Sir", missing the school bus, misspelling words, and throwing orange peels on the lawn. Dallas school policy states that teachers may not paddle without parental consent (principals and vice-principals do [not] need permission). However, this policy is ignored, and teachers, especially coaches, violate these rules every day. Their abuses are not reflected in the official school district paddling figures. A case in point was the recent "paddling" of 15 seventh grade boys who were lined up and beated by their coach for "not bringing gym shorts."

For many years a local citizens group called Citizens Against Physical Punishment has worked to have corporal punishment abolished in Texas. Failing this, they have called upon the school boards at least to define "last resort" and to enforce school regulations which forbid teachers to beat children. In 1969 a school administrator requested that a "study" be done on corporal punishment, but when the study indicated that corporal punishment interfered with learning, could not be controlled, created disruption, and should, therefore, be "phased out", he threatened to resign saying, "I will not be superintendent where principals are not allowed to paddle." Since that statement was made, corporal punishment has increased form 6000 "paddlings" in 1971, to 24,305 cases in 1972, and an estimated 30,000 in 1973.

Acceptance of violence in child-rearing effects children in child care centers, mental institutions, and juvenile jails. In the Dallas children's "shelter", social worker complained about the beating given an 8 year old by. The director (an M.D.) scoffed: "He didn't die, did he?" At a mental hospital, a 1971 investigation revealed that large numbers of children had been beaten and sexually molested by their keepers. At the boys' reformatory runaways are chased on horseback and tracked with dogs. Guards gleefully allow the dogs to maul the escapees before the children are beaten up and thrown into solitary. Public criticism of this particular institution (an NBC White Paper, "This Child is Rated X.") received the response, "We ain't supposed to be running no resort hotel here."

Recently a Chicago juvenile official stated, "The ghettos of Chicago are better places for kids than Texas institutions." This statement was made in connection with a lawsuit filed by the State of Illinois to secure release and return of fifty-two Illinois children who had been placed in a Texas institution. The suit alleges the children were "stripped and beaten, were starved, and placed in rooms without beds or toilets:

I don't know what life is like in the ghettos of Chicago - I do know that they beat children in Texas. In Mesquite they lock kindergarten children in furnace closets, and they arrest parents who attempt to prevent maltreatment of their sons and daughters. I have heard Dallas principals laugh when mothers plead that Johnny or Susie not be paddled because he or she has asthma, a broken arm, burns, or curvature of the spine. I know kids who will go through life with permanent back injury, sciatic nerve disorders, recurrent headaches, and emotional problems. I know of a least one teen-aged suicide that was directly related to school abuse. I know that large numbers of Dallas high school students have been found to be illiterate; that kids "turn off" to learning and drop out; that they play truant, and are labeled "delinquent."

Ultimately, these scarred children grow into adults. They may turn against society and contribute to statistics that have earned Dallas title of "Murder Capital of the World". They may beat their own children, and become one of the numbers that makes Texas one of the highest child abuse areas in the nation. Or they may become the self-righteous beater, ready to "punish" some underdog while sitting on Dallas juries that hand out 5005 year prison terms.

In any even, these beaters will continue to perpetuate their own kind, as they have done for generations, unless parents can look to the various professional organizations for assistance and support. Until that time arrives, the ghettos of Chicago will be better places for children than the State of Texas

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