Paddling in Texas -- Letters to the Editor Paddling in Texas -- Letter to the Editor
From Robert Fathman, Ph.D.
The Paris News, December 22, 2004

Paddling in Texas
From staff reports
The Paris News

Published December 22, 2004

To the editor:

The article (Dec. 19th) about school paddling in Lamar County was very interesting. Yes, Dallas has banned, temporarily, and will likely ban permanently in two months.

Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and many other Texas school districts have also decided that hitting students with boards is a relic of the past, replaced by non-violent, more effective means of discipline.

In fact, teachers in 28 states no longer use corporal punishment at all, nor do any teachers in Europe, Central and South America, Canada, Japan and China, where it is also illegal.

So why are Lamar County teachers still picking up boards and hitting students? Are children so much less well behaved in Lamar County?

Or are teachers so less well trained that they lack the skill to manage classrooms without saying to children, “I’ll hit you with a board if you make me angry?” Not likely.

Kids are the same all over, and I’m sure Lamar County teachers can educate without hitting.

Getting rid of paddling requires school boards to look at the data, examine the research, and see that schools without paddling have better discipline, less vandalism, higher scores on national tests and lower dropout rates.

Oh yes, the article quoted the five district superintendents as saying corporal punishment is a last resort, minimally used, Hmm, Roxton’s superintendent told your reporter that paddling “is one of the last things we do.” So they do paddle, but that district reported zero paddlings to the U.S. Department of Education in a survey for the 1999-2000 school year.

Was this a cover-up?

Did they really hit no children at all that year, or did they not tell the feds the truth?

Hmm, I think the administration turned in its “homework paper” to the feds blank. They get an “F” on the assignment.

While nationally schools hit less than 1 percent of all students, 0.7 percent, and in Texas double that number are hit, 1.9 percent, the Prairiland ISD reported hitting 5 percent of its students, 45 of the 970 children. That is a rate seven times the national average, 2 1/2 times the Texas average. I guess when you hit five boys at a time during an athletic practice it drives up the rate.

But the story gets worse. North Lamar hit 6 percent of its students. Chisum teachers hit a whopping 15 percent.

And in the Paris ISD 18 percent of children were struck with boards that year! Paris teachers are hitting at 25 times the national average!

So much for hitting being a last resort choice in these districts. Parents need to opt their kids out of the corporal punishment process, insist that schools find better ways to discipline that don’t risk injury, a lawsuit, or model an act of violence.

School board members need to demand the data, monthly, school by school. They should examine the research I describe, and advance the schools to the next level by banning corporal punishment.

A ban on paddling will still allow educators to use physical force to prevent immediate threats of harm to person or property or take control of a weapon. Good school discipline is instilled in the mind, not the behind.

Dr. Robert E. Fathman, President,
National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools,
Dublin, Ohio

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