Editorial: Hitting - Once and for all, end the paddling controversy
fayobserver.com, March 23, 2012
North Carolina's first comprehensive study of the use of corporal punishment in public schools is at once startling and disappointing. What's wrong is evident, but there's no ready explanation for it.
The study is distinctive for two things.
First, a year-old provision allowing parents to exempt their disabled children has either escaped their notice or is not being invoked. Whatever the reason, the effect is that 20 percent of disabled students are still being subjected to physical pain as a disciplinary measure.
Second, while two counties in our region (Columbus and Robeson) drew attention for liberal use, Robeson is almost solely responsible for a statewide anomaly: American Indians, who make up only 2 percent of the state's school population, get a third of all the corporal punishment that's administered.
The first could eventually be clarified through further analysis and additional contacts with parents - to what useful ends, we don't know.
The second poses a host of difficult questions having to do with race, sociology, policymaking and bureaucracy. Clarification is likely to elude us.
Fortunately, these are problems we don't need to understand in order to fix. The instant, full and final remedy is in plain view: Prohibit agents of the state from hitting people's kids.
No hitting. No shoving. No threats of violence. We say these things to children all the time. But when we do these things to children in order to convey that hitting, shoving and threats of violence are wrong, what sort of message is that? What ideas do we instill in young minds about solving problems through violence?
This isn't a novel idea. Cumberland County abandoned corporal punishment years ago. Fewer than three dozen districts retain it; not all of those use it. It's been a long time since the threat of paddling hung over the typical Tar Heel schoolchild.
The threat lingers because, in part, of aging grownups who, protected by a fog of selective memory, wax nostalgic for an era in which "whuppings" worked all manner of academic and disciplinary magic that today's whuppings seem unable to replicate.
In addition, some parents view paddling as essential to child-rearing. So leave them to beat their own children instead of hiding behind a state policy that makes others' children subject to abuse.
A ban must be accompanied by pragmatic policies that enable teachers to thwart those who persist in disrupting the educational routine. But that, not clinging to outhouse policies in an era of indoor plumbing, is the issue we ought to discuss.