Don't Inflict My Pain on Others
By Shelly S. Gaspersohn, Guest columnist, USA Today, October 23, 1984

Dunn, N.C. With all the talk of undisciplined children beating up on teachers, it is ironic that we must address the issue of child abuse in our public schools. But the problem of child abuse in the schools is real, especially to me.

In 1981, I was a 17 year old high school senior. As a senior caper, one day I skipped school. It was the first time I had broken any school rule.

When I returned the next day, I was given in-school suspension, placed in an isolated classroom. This punishment was generally given for such infractions as fighting, refusing to serve detention, or cutting classes. I was kept from my regular classes and fell behind in my school work. The only alternative was corporal punishment.

I imagined that I would be spanked as my parents had spanked me when I was a child. But it turned out to be the worst pain I'd ever felt.

This was not a spanking. It was a beating. After the first two whacks with a heavy wooden paddle, I was crying and very shaken. I objected, but was told I would have to go back to the in-school suspension if I did not receive four more thrashes. I went through it and became very emotional.

The six thrashes left massive bruises on my buttocks for nearly three weeks. The beating occured during my menstrual cycle and caused me to hemorrhage for two days. I was given triple doses of estrogen to stop the heavy bleeding.

Since then, I have also suffered emotionally - nightmares and reactions to everyday scenes such as children getting beaten by their mothers in grocery stores.

The beating I received didn't make me respect authority, as some educators claim corporal punishment does. It only made me retaliate against the faculty. I remained bitter until I graduated in June 1982.

Some educators say corporal punishment, with proper controls, can be an effective disciplinary tool. But how do you control it ? How do you legislate tempers ?

It seems simple to me: Train teachers in non-violent alternative discipline procedures; make courses in alternative discipline mandatory for teacher certification and recertification.

I hope something is done soon, so other children will not be subject to the pain and trauma I experienced.

See related:
Testimony of Shelly Gaspersohn to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Justice, October 17, 1984
Good Old-Fashioned Discipline, The experience of Shelly Gaspersohn at Dunn High School, Harnett County, North Carolina, From: Reading, Writing and the Hickory Stick, By Irwin A. Hyman, Lexington Books, 1990


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