OPEN LETTER OF WARNING TO EDUCATORS/Man awarded $2.5 million for strapping

Dear Educator:

Until recently, the practice of corporal punishment of schoolchildren -- commonly known as "paddling" -- has been sentimentalized and trivialized, its dangers glossed over or denied. Now, as more states and more school districts abandon the practice and as a growing number of parents and other primary caretakers opt for more effective, more humane and less destructive methods of socializing children, the defenders of corporal punishment find themselves diminishing in number and increasingly isolated.

Some physically punitive teachers will tell you that they are merely complying with the wishes of parents who, after all, should have some influence over the management of their children at school. Some physically punitive parents will tell you that their practices are in keeping with those of teachers who, after all, hold a credential and act with the authority of the state. Some school administrators will tell you that the question of corporal punishment will be resolved in due course (by a future generation of administrators), but meanwhile they must be guided by prevailing community values. For the most part, paddlers, spankers and their apologists can do little more than passively resist the arrival of the day when they will be shamed out of the hitting habit or forcibly (legally) weaned from it.

Delay has a price, however. We can no longer pretend to be unaware that corporal punishment causes psychological damage that long outlasts bruises to the skin. Inevitably some victims, now better informed about what has been done to them, will seek redress. Indeed, they should seek redress. It is the purpose of this letter to advise you to act quickly to protect the children who are still at risk, and thereby to protect yourselves.

Either you must be prepared to offer a persuasive argument that the risks of paddling are negligible and are far outweighed by the benefits, or you must be prepared to accept full moral and legal responsibility for any damage caused thereby.

Jordan Riak, Executive Director,

Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE)

February 14, 2001
Man awarded $2.5 million for strapping

By AAP, National Nine News

A man who sued a teacher and the trustees of the Catholic Church over strappings he received 17 years ago was today awarded more than $2.5 million damages by a Sydney jury.

Paul Hogan, 30, sued former discipline master Denis Fricot and the Church after being strapped three times in the morning and five times in the afternoon on the right hand on March 16, 1984 at St John's College, Lakemba, in Sydney's west.

The jury of two men and two women found Mr Fricot and the Church had breached the duty of care they owed to Dr Hogan.

They also found that there was no proper cause for the first strapping and that both were neither moderate nor reasonable.

Dr Hogan had claimed his right hand was permanently damaged by the strapping and that he continued to feel pain.

The jury awarded $700,000 in general damages, $212,728 for past economic loss, $1,583,891.77 for loss of future earnings and other damages.

The total damages awarded to Dr Hogan was $2,729,093.77.

For background to the above, see on The Newsroom Man sues teacher and Catholic Church over 1984 strapping, By Ellen Connolly, Sydney Morning Herald, January 30, 2001
For photographs of corporal punishment-related injuries to U.S. schoolchildren and a photograph of a school 'paddling' in progress, see WHACKED KIDS (Educator-Induced Trauma)
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