HOUSTON (AP) - A whack on the backside with a paddle for running in the halls or throwing one too many erasers was once a sanctioned discipline practice at Houston schools, but not any more.
When classes start Monday, administrators in the Houston Independent School District can scratch paddling off their list of worries. The school board recently voted to ban corporal punishment.
Educators who applaud the change say more positive approaches to discipline can work at home, too.
"I don't like beating kids," district Superintendent Kaye Stripling said. "I think we are a sophisticated society that can learn ways to discipline children other than hitting them."
Over the past 10 years, the use of corporal punishment in the district had diminished. For several years the district used a waiver system, which meant schools that wanted to paddle had to seek permission from the district. Campus administrators also had to have parental permission.
In the 1997-98 school year, there were nine campuses with waivers. Last school year, there were none.
Houston ISD may be among the last districts in the area to stop using paddles.
Spring Branch ISD doesn't use corporal punishment, and Fort Bend ISD and Katy ISD have abolished it. Clear Creek ISD was the Texas leader on the issue; it was the first in the state to abolish spanking in 1986.
Around the country, corporal punishment has fallen out of favor, too. Twenty-seven states have banned it outright. Hundreds of school districts, just like HISD, have voted it down.
Instead of paddling, Stripling says, HISD teachers are learning classroom management techniques to discipline children and build, rather than tear down, self-esteem.
HISD is just catching up to the times, said Jerome Freiberg, a University of Houston education professor who designed Consistency Management & Cooperative Discipline, an approach taught to teachers on 51 HISD campuses.
"Banning corporal punishment is a national trend that started almost 30 years ago on the East Coast and has filtered across the country," Frieberg said in Saturday's edition of the Houston Chronicle.
Freiberg said paddling is problematic for a many reasons: Hitting children is counter to today's focus on child protection. In these litigious times, those who administer the pops are targets for lawsuits. Research also shows that corporal punishment doesn't work.
In a new century, with escalating concerns about school safety and school violence, Freiberg prescribes an entirely different approach.
On the first day of school, he said, teachers should involve kids in establishing classroom rules and consequences for untoward behavior. Teachers also need to get to know all their kids and involve all of them in classroom activities.
Freiberg said tactics that work in the classroom also work at home, and he suggests parents and teachers work together to send consistent messages.