Corporal

The next session of the state Legislature will undoubtedly regurgitate many uncomfortable and divisive issues, the future of educational policy being chief among them. But for one issue under that umbrella, the prohibition of corporal punishment in schools, there should be little debate.

Corporal punishment — hitting, beating, striking and otherwise abusing a pupil at the hands of a teacher or administrator — has been unanimously castigated by pertinent professionals as ineffective in correcting bad behavior. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that — even for discipline as innocuous as spankings from parents — such physical punishments have a lasting, deleterious impact on the child. But while the relationship between a child and a parent is rather complex, the physical interaction between students and their educators should be kept to a strict minimum.

In a recent bombshell report, the Houston Chronicle reported that almost 30,000 students were struck at school over the course of the most recent academic year. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia already ban these laceration-causing inflictions under the schoolhouse roof. Additionally, because Texas gives broad discretion for local school districts to implement their own regulations, a majority of districts within the state have independently banned the practice, including every major city (such as Austin).

But most of the state’s rural regions, particularly in the eastern portion, have soldiered on nonetheless with the outdated tradition. Smaller cities such as Amarillo, Beaumont and Lubbock perpetuate it as well. As the Chronicle report suggested, with deeply ingrained local and religious values largely driving support for these reprehensible acts, only an act of the state Legislature could totally cure Texas of this ailment literally afflicting our schoolchildren.

State Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston, has fought tirelessly during her many years in the Legislature to ban the practice, but hers and others’ bills have never made it out of committee. We hope that next year, in light of even more indisputable research showing the damage of corporal punishment and crystallizing events such as the Adrian Peterson incident, in which an NFL star spanked his 4-year-old son with a tree branch, the Legislature takes needed steps to ban this practice once and for all.

Proponents of this practice often point to biblical inspiration. “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” a passage from Proverbs, is ubiquitous among defenses of corporal punishment. Other forms of discipline are tried and true; the same studies that discredit the effectiveness of hitting have shown non-violent strategies to be far more successful. It’s time for school districts to exclusively implement them.

In this week's editorial podcast, Associate Editors Noah M. Horwitz and Amanda Voeller discuss the Ferguson protests, the impending execution of a schizophrenic man, corporal punishment and the mayoral runoff election.

Being paddled in school may seem like an antiquated form of discipline, but corporal punishment is still legal in 20 states.

In the 2005-06 school year, about 50,000 Texas school children were physically punished in schools, according to the latest numbers from the Center for Effective Discipline. Texas leads the nation in instances of corporal punishment.

As the Ban Corporal Punishment in Schools Act struggles to get support in the U.S. Congress, members and supporters of The Hitting Stops Here!, a group that opposes corporal punishment in schools, rallied in front of the Texas State Capitol on Monday.

“The majority of school districts [in Texas] have language that permit corporal punishment,” said Barbara Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Association of School Boards. “In practice, there is not as good of a way to say which ones actually use corporal punishment.”

No state law requires administrators to use corporal punishment or prohibits its use, leaving it up to local school districts to decide which disciplinary measures to use, she said.

Cynthia Huong-Davis, a mother of two young children, said the physical discipline will negatively affect children’s emotional well-being. People may support corporal punishment because that is how they were raised, she said.

“We have done a lot of stuff in the past that we now know is not good,” said Huong-Davis, who participated in the rally. “We used to let our children ride in the front seat, and now we know that is not safe. A lot of people just don’t know there are more effective ways of disciplining our children.”

Rally organizer Paula Flowe, who is from New York, has traveled around the country to gain support for federal legislation. She said the prospects of the bill becoming law look grim after last week’s election results.

“Not one Republican supports it, and now that Republicans have taken over the House, it is expected to die,” Flowe said.

The bill is currently supported by 16 of the necessary 24 members in the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor to keep the bill afloat.

“It’s a sad reality, but there is no reason why anyone should allow any child of any color under any circumstances to be abused, and this is what is going on in our country and it is being hidden by major news media,” she said.

News Briefly

Austin police officer Leonardo Quintana was fired Wednesday for the second time in five months for violating company policy, said Austin Police Department spokesman Cpl. Scott Perry.

A dismissal board reviewed the investigation of assault allegations from Quintana’s former fiancee Wednesday afternoon prior to his indefinite suspension. The assault charges, which surfaced last Thursday just hours after Quintana was reinstated, amounted to his fourth offense while on the force.

Quintana became a center of controversy in May 2009, when he fatally shot 18-year-old Nathaniel Sanders. The officer received a 15-day suspension for failure to activate his dashboard camera at the time of the incident. Eight months later, he faced charges for driving while intoxicated after he crashed his car in a Leander neighborhood. His blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit at the time.

APD Chief Art Acevedo fired Quintana after the DWI, causing the officer to petition. An arbitrator, however, reinstated him on Oct. 21 because no other officers with the same offense had faced termination.

In addition to the other charges, Quintana faces two lawsuits related to the May shooting.