Tuesday, November 5, 2013

School Corporal Punishment Spanked By Author’s New Book

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York I had never seen corporal punishment take place in school, at least not legally. But there was one teacher, my second grade teacher, Mr. Greenberg, who used to hate it when kids didn't do their homework. He'd call them up to his desk and out of the direct sight of the kids, he would bang a child's leg into the desk. It sounded like a draw slamming shut. Then the victim would sob. This happened quite often for two kids in particular, Robert and Rudolph. 

Almost half the states in America allow for paddling to take place and some quarter-million kids were paddled last year. Media Connect, the publicity firm I work for, is now working with anti-corporal punishment activist Nadine Block, to promote her new book, Breaking The Paddle: Ending School Corporal Punishment.

Though prisons and military bases have banned the punishment of paddling, American schools in 19 states still call for it. Block believes it damages everyone involved and is lobbying for the practice to be banned.

“It may be hard to believe,” says Block, “but school corporal punishment still takes place in almost half of our states. Most people believe it had long been eliminated. However, corporal punishment of children is harmful and we need to help protect our youngest and most fragile victims. Many people believe the punishment is only a swat on the buttocks, leading to no real harm and endured by generations of children who grew up to be fine people.  But the practice of hitting kids has led to significant problems.”

Block helped lead a coalition of concerned parents, educators, doctors, and parenting experts to remove corporal punishment from Ohio’s schools in 2009. It was the 30th state to ban the practice. Nineteen states still allow students to be hit in school – and the former teacher and school psychologist believes severe damage is being done to hundreds of thousands of students each year. Her new book is leading the battle charge to abolish what she labels “a barbaric practice.”

Every school day, more than one thousand US children are hit on the buttocks with boards called “paddles,” for breaking school rules. Up to a quarter of a million school children are paddled annually. Paddling leads to physical injuries of children, psychological problems, alienation from school, and lawsuits by angry parents. Nineteen states allow this punishment, a punishment considered inhumane, ineffective, and archaic in most of the world. Over 100 nations ban it. The book explores and refutes arguments for keeping corporal punishment in schools.

 “I spent 25 years campaigning against corporal punishment in Ohio public schools and elsewhere,” concludes Block. “I want to shed light on one of the darkest aspects of the American education system. I want to share my experiences and knowledge gained from this campaign, and, perhaps, to inspire others to help end it in all US schools. I want to show how a small group of ordinary citizens, with no money and against tremendous opposition, got corporal punishment banned in that state. We can make it happen in other states with good organizing, hard work, and persistence. “

For those looking to learn more or get involved in the crusade to stop the violence against children, please consult: www.stophitting.com and www.nadineblock.com.

Q & A with Nadine Block

1.      What should parents do instead of physically disciplining their children?  The first step is having the right attitude and frame of reference.  Discipline means "to teach."  If we think of discipline as teaching rather than punishing, we can more effectively address misbehavior.  We also need to think of a child's misbehavior as a mistake and look into ourselves, as adults, about how we want our mistakes dealt with; the Golden Rule.  We certainly wouldn't want people to hit us for our mistakes.   Reasoning and talking to children works best.  Consequences work as well as time outs.  Having children undo harm works including apologizing, doing something nice for the person harmed, or fixing/paying for something broken.  For babies and toddlers, removing and distraction work best as reasoning is only established gradually.  One of the things parents say works best is "Praise the behavior you want to see."  Children will increase desired behaviors with praise. 

2.      What can parents do to protect their children from corporal punishment in school? Parents should read the school policy on discipline to see if it is permitted.  If it is permitted, they should read the conditions for its use, if there are any.  Parents should make children aware of the policy and tell them to tell their parents if they are paddled.  Sometimes school districts permit parents to opt out of corporal punishment or allow a note from a physician saying a child should not be paddled. They should take advantage of opt-out options.  Some parents do not do so because their children have not had behavior infractions  in the past.  Unfortunately, some parents have learned too late that they should have done so.  Even if the policy doesn't allow an opt out, parents should write a letter saying they do not want their children paddled.  They should sign it, date it, keep a copy, and give copies for each teacher and have one put in the child's school office folder.  My experience is that teachers are less likely to hit children whose parents strongly assert that they do not want this to happen to their children.  In order to fully protect their children and others in the district, they should seek from the school board a ban.  Chapter 6 tells them how to do that.

3.      Aren’t there times when reasoning alone is ineffective or even counterproductive to managing the behavior of children? Reasoning is ineffective with babies and many toddlers. They do not have sufficient verbal skills to deal with reasoning.  An appropriate way of dealing with these children, especially if it is something dangerous like running in the street or sticking something into an electric socket, is to quickly remove them from the situation.  They often respond well to distraction for other behaviors that are unwanted.  Most children need  to be reasoned with on more than one occasion in order to stop misbehavior completely.  How many times do adults need to be told not to smoke, not to drink excessively, or overeat before they change behavior even when they know that it is harmful?  Reasoning and talking to children takes time but it works better than hitting them.

4.      What steps can parents and concerned activists take to persuade local school boards to ban corporal punishment?  Parents should gather information on the status of corporal punishment in their districts and elsewhere and seek information on the effects of corporal punishment which is easy to do with help of the Center for Effective Discipline or other online sources.  They should put the information in easy digestible written form to communicate the need for a ban to possible supporters and, later, to board members and administrators.  If they are unable to convince administrators and board members to call for a ban in board policy, they can present the information to the board at a regularly scheduled meeting and make a formal request for a ban.

5.      Is there a correlation between corporal punishment and the prison population? Is there a connection between corporal punishment and bullying?  Yes.  A majority of states with the highest rates of school corporal punishment also have the highest rates of incarceration of their adult population according to a study we did using 2005-06 data.  A majority of youth in prison have not only been subjected to corporal punishment but have been physically abused.  Corporal punishment does not seem to deter criminal behavior.  Some researchers have found that corporal punishment is linked to poor internalization of society's rules.  Children who experience excessive corporal punishment may learn to follow rules only when an enforcer is nearby rather than learning that obeying society rules is good for oneself and others.  Several studies have found a correlation between corporal punishment and bullying and it is not a stretch as an analogy to see teachers who paddle students as bullies. 

Statistics Of Note

·         Scores of countries have banned corporal punishment in schools, including: Greece, India, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Zambia, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Spain, Pakistan, Nicaragua, and New Zealand.

·         34 nations have abolished corporal punishment of children in all settings, including the home. Those nations include: Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Kenya, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Albania, South Sudan, and Uruguay.

·         Organizations that have issued public statements calling for the abolishment of school corporal
punishment include: United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist Association, Presbyterian Church USA, National PTA, NAACP, ACLU, National Foster Parent Association, National Association of School Nurses, National Association of Elementary School Principals, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American School Counselor Association, and dozens of others.

·         African American students comprised 17% of all public school students in the US, but represented 36% of paddled students in 2006.

·         Of the 19 states that permit corporal punishment states with the fewest incidents are Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, and Arizona. Nearly a quarter-million students are hit each year.

·         Bruises, bleeding, and broken bones have resulted from paddling, leading to ER visits in some cases.

·         Many students show corporal punishment is not used as a “last resort” and it’s often used as a first punishment for minor and non-violent misbehavior.

·         The 30th  state to ban corporal punishment is Ohio, which did so in 2009. New Mexico was the latest one to do so, in 2011.

·         The number of students hit in US schools has been on a 30-year decline, down from 1.3 million in 1983-84 school year.

·         Of the 10 states with the highest incarceration rates, 8 of them are also among the 10 worst states, by percentage, of students struck by educators, in 2006:

Highest Incarceration Rate                           Highest Paddling Rate
                    1.    Louisiana                                                      5th
2.      Texas                                                               7th
3.      Oklahoma                                                        4th
4.      Mississippi                                                       1st
5.      Alabama                                                          3rd
6.      Georgia                                                                        8th
8.      Missouri                                                     9th
10.   Florida                                                      10th

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2013

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