Teachers beating students in Dallas
By Howard M. Rosenstein, Attorney at Law, Arlington, TX, December 1995

As a parent and an attorney for children, my worst fear has been realized. In the Dallas Independent School District, we have uncovered the systematic beating of children. This practice has been accepted, developed, and promoted by both teachers and administrators.

This is the children's case of the century against corporal punishment. The Dallas case is Resendez v. Dallas Independent School District, Cause Number 95-12078-H. It is a matter of conscience that I devote my time to these children's cases. Helping children is one of the reasons that I worked so hard for my law degree. I filed the lawsuit on behalf of a child advocate teacher and the children on November 16, 1995, and the amended suit on December 15, 1995.

The teachers and administration of the Dallas Independent School district have adopted a policy of hitting children almost everyday. The Dallas administration promotes a policy of "teaching them by beating them." Principal Ron Johnson of the E. B. Comstock Middle School in Dallas and another department head have already admitted to mass hittings for being tardy. The Principal admitted that these hittings are carried out "District-wide," and with Superintendent Woolery's full approval for administrating corporal punishment in this fashion. A rift in the abuse history of the South has finally cracked open in Dallas, signaling the beginning of the end of corporal punishment in Dallas, Texas.

Some of these examples include from 40 to 50 children consistently being lined up in a cafeteria and individually paddled in front of each other for being tardy, a child who was hit in the ear in the cafeteria by a teacher, another child who was elbowed in the neck by a coach at the school and knocked to the ground, a department head/teacher, who admits to hitting his kids as a way of greeting them every morning, and a teacher who orders students to use his paddle to hit other students, all in violation of the written DISD Code of Conduct, Disciplinary Rules and Corporal Punishment Guidelines, but accepted, promoted, and ratified by the administration in exercising their unwritten policy of corporal punishment.

We represent a very courageous teacher who is a true child advocate. She brought us evidence of these abuses, which were immediately turned over to the Dallas Police Department and the school administration for review and investigation. The Dallas Police Department swept it under the rug as only an "administrative problem."

As adults we are quick to demand respect from our children, but we have a duty to teach them respect by using reason, not violence. What are we teaching our children to value when we allow a school to promote nothing but hitting, pain, and disrespect for children? How can we expect them to graduate respecting any adult? Why are adults so surprised when kids turn so quickly to violence to solve minor problems and frustration when teachers show them that hitting other people is an acceptable way of communicating their frustration?

Parents say that children do not respect adults - THIS IS WHY! Abusive teachers in Dallas and elsewhere - Look In The Mirror! Abusive teachers are why children do not respect adults. Abusive teachers demoralize the good teachers in Dallas and elsewhere who have the skills necessary to teach children to solve problems without violence.

If children have abuse problems at home, is more abuse all that you can offer them at school? School should be a safe haven where they can learn that hitting does not solve problems. School should be the place that children learn conflict resolution skills so that when they are out on the street they have the reasoning tools necessary to understand that "might does not make right." Take the time to teach a child how to solve a problem, instead of resorting to corporal punishment. Corporal punishment does teach a child how to solve a behavior problem that you are having with that child. It is a short-term, quick-fix with long term negative consequences. If you are a teacher, then teach children a way to end the cycle of abuse in which they may be caught. Do not add to the abuse cycle.

We spend hundreds of millions of dollars on education in this country, and is all the Dallas School District, and other districts like it, can come up with is a procedure for hitting kids everyday in public school?

Twenty-seven states in this nation have already banned school paddling successfully. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Texas represented the highest numbers of students who receive corporal punishment in the schools.

In fact, according to the 1992 study by the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse, Texas leads the nation in deaths from child abuse and neglect. Is it possible that the message Texas schools send home is that hitting children is an acceptable means of family interaction? When teachers hit children with paddles or boards, aren't they role modeling for parents and abusers that it is alright to whip their kids with belts or other instruments? Our institutions of education should not approve of such measures. This is not the message any teaching institutions, as a governmental entity and role model for citizen behavior, should be sending to the community.

The last time I looked at the educational curriculum for Harvard, Yale, Stanford, George Washington, and Fordham Universities, I did not see any classes offered such as "Corporal Punishment 101." I submit that they do not offer this course for very good educational reasons.

It is my job and the recognized duty of this teacher, to expose outrageous behavior by abusive teachers and administrators, and eradicate it from the schools. By appearing on the "Phil Donahue Show," in the newspapers and on recent Channel 5 T.V. newscasts, we are allowing parents and the community the opportunity to know what is going on in Dallas. This will help to open parents' and teachers' eyes to corporal punishment as an insidious destroyer of children all over the country.

This teacher, my office, and our investigator will do everything in our power to bring these abuses of children to the public eye.



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