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Ending Corporal Punishment in the Schools
Clark Moeller, December 9, 1998 -- The Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy adopted a policy for Non Violence in December of 1998, which called for the ending of corporal punishment in the schools. The following article outlines the background on PAD’s position on this issue.
    Most of the children in Pennsylvania live in urban school districts where corporal punishment is no longer permitted.  That leaves half going to public schools where paddling is still permitted.  In rural Bradford County, for example,  half the school districts have ended the use of corporal punishment and half have not.  More that half, 27, of the states in America have ended corporal punishment by state law.  Pennsylania, which still permits the use of corporal punishment in schools, is surrounded by NY, NJ, MD, VA, WV, and DE,  which have ended corporal punishment.  New Jersey ended it in 1868. Only our bordering state, Ohio, has not ended it yet but, as in PA, over half of their students live in school districts which have ended corporal punishment by school Board policy.
    As of 1987, only 9 states had outlawed corporal punishment. In the last 10 years, 18  additional states outlawed it. That’s a big change in 10 years. As more and more parents (more than 50% now) indicate they disapprove of corporal punishment in schools, the political support for school administrators and teachers who hit kids has declined.   Nationally, the number of children paddled in school has declined from 1.4 million in 1978 to 470 thousand in 1994, a decline of 66% in 16 years.  Either we now are spawning a new genetic strain of good children, or teachers have stopped complaining, or there is a massive attitude change underway against using corporal punishment. 
    Today in PA, less than 1% of the students are hit in school as compared to Arkansas, for example, where over 13% of the students get hit.  Nevertheless, PA is still keeping company with Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolinia, Tennessee, and Texas, states that permit, and in some cases seem to promote, hitting children in school. 
    As a side note, all the European countries ended corporal punishment in the schools years ago. Poland ended it in 1783 and by 1890 nine European countries had ended it. By 1970 another 10 had stopped corporal punishment in the schools and by 1986 the rest had. This year, South Africa ended it. In March of 1998, the British House of Commons voted 211 to 15 to extend the ban on corporal punishment to include all private schools. 
    Consistent with the drop in paddling in American schools, there was a 17% decline in parents in the United States who used corporal punishment on their children between 1989 and 1996, according to polling for the National Coalition Against Corporal Punishment in Schools.  As of 1998, seven European countries have moved forward and made it illegal for parents to use corporal punishment.
    Following is a list of some of the professional associations that have formally adopted a policy or resolution against the use of corporal punishment:
        American Academy of Pediatrics
        American Bar Association
        American Assoc. For Counseling & Development
        American Medical Association
        American Psychiatric Association
        Council for Exceptional Children
        National Association of Elementary School Principals
        National Association of State Boards of Education
        National Association of School Psychologists
        National Association of Social Workers
        National Association to Prevent Child Abuse
        National Education Association
        National Mental Health Association

So why do so many professional associations disapprove of corporal punishment and why have so many countries, states in the USA, and public school districts ended the use of corporal punishment?  Long before the clinical research showed just how harmful corporal punishment can be, many educators felt that it was just common sense that hitting a child undermined his or her capacity to learn, hitting was a counter productive strategy for behavior modification, and hitting flew in the face teaching a child how to respect the dignity of others. These educators also observed, according to the national organization, End Punishment of Children,USA :
        - “ It perpetuates a cycle of child abuse. It teaches children to hit someone smaller and weaker when angry.
      - Injuries occur. Bruises are common. Broken bones are not unusual. Children's deaths have occurred in the U.S. due to school corporal punishment.
        - Corporal punishment is used much more often on poor children, minorities, children with disabilities, and boys.
        - Schools are the only institutions in America in which striking another person is legally sanctioned. It is not allowed in prisons, in the military or in mental hospitals.
        - Educators and school boards are sometimes sued when corporal punishment is used in their schools.
        - Schools that use corporal punishment often have poorer academic achievement, more vandalism, truancy, pupil violence and higher drop out rates.
        - Corporal punishment is often not used as a last resort. It is often the first resort for minor misbehavior.
        - Many alternatives to corporal punishment have proven their worth. Alternatives teach children to be self-disciplined rather than cooperative only because of fear.”

        In addition to these considerations,  the clinical research on the negative effects of corporal punishment on children and later on them as adults continues to mount (http://www.stophitting.com/EPOCH/).  According to Dr. Murray A. Straus’s latest research findings there is a significant difference in the behavior and performance of (1) children and adults who have never been corporally punished compared to (2) the behavior and performance of children who experienced a few to a high number of incidents of corporal punishment and adults who as children experienced a few to a high number of incidents of corporal punishment.
        In summary, children who had not experienced corporal punishment at all “repeatedly and severely attack a sibling in previous 12 months” 55% less than children who had been corporally punished, “hit other children in school in two week period”  51% less, were involved in “juvenile delinquency in past 12 months” 80% less, and had “symptoms of psychological distress”  34% less.
        Adults who had not been corporally punished as children  “graduated from college” 47% more, were “seriously depressed in the previous 12 months” 48% less, “hit spouse in previous 12 months” 88% less, and “physically abused own child in past 12 months” 87% less. ( http://www.stophitting.com/EPOCH/EPOCH_cp58_FRL.htm)



Gay and Lesbian Youth at Risk
Clark Moeller September 9, 1998 -- Thirty percent of all teen suicides are gay or lesbian youths while only 5% of youths identify themselves as gay or lesbian by 17 years of age. The following statistics provide an insight into why gay and lesbian youths are at such high risk.

80% of gay and lesbian youths report severe isolation problems. (1)

  • Only 12% of heterosexual youths felt they could have a gay person as a friend. (2a)
  • Less than 20% of gay and lesbian youths could identify someone who was very supportive of them. (2b)
  • Only 25% of gay and 23% of lesbian students report that they can talk about their sexual orientation with guidance councilors. (2c)>
  • 41% of school councilors report their school is not doing enough to support gays. (2b)
  • 46% of gay youths lost a friend after coming out with the friend(s). (2d)
  • 50% of lesbian/gay youths report being rejected by their parents and 25% of lesbian/gay youths report being forced to leave home. (3)

97% of all students hear anti-gay comments in school. (1)

  • 20% of H.S. health teachers report students use abusive language when describing homosexuals. (2e)
  • Of the 50% of students who reported that homosexuality was discussed in their class, 50% of the female students and 37% of males reported that it was discussed in negative terms. (2f)

50% of gay and lesbian youths are rejected by families. (1)

50% of the gay and 20% of the lesbian youths are harassed or assaulted in schools. (1)

40% of all homeless youths (throwaway, runaways) are gay or lesbian. (1)

  • Note: Only 5% of youths identify themselves as gay or lesbian by 17 years of age. (2g)

28% of all high school dropouts are gay or lesbian. (1)

30% of all teen suicides are gay or lesbian youths. (1)

  • Note: Only 5% of youths identify themselves as gay or lesbian by 17 years of age. (2g)

Sources:
(1) Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, Boston, Massachusetts, 1994 and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (1989).
(2) Siecus Report, Vol.26, #4, April/May 1998. Siecus sources are footnoted as follows:

(2a) W. Marsiglio, "Attitudes Toward Homosexual Activity and Gays as Friends: A national Survey of Heterosexual 15-19 Year-Old Males," Journal of Sex Research, 30, no 1, Feb.1993, p.12

(2b) Ibide: Telljohann and J.H.Price, 1993, p.41

(2c) S. K. Telljohann and J.H. Price, "A Qualitative Examination of Adolescent Homosexuals' Life Experiences: Ramifications for Secondary School Personnel," Jounal of Homosexuality, 26, no 1, 1993, p.48

(2d) C.Ryan and d. Fitterman, "Lesbian and Gay Youth: Care and Counseling," Adolescent Medicine, State of the Art Reviews, 8, no. 2, June, 1997, p.221

(2e) S. K. Telljohann, et al, "Teaching About Sexual Orientation by Secondary Health Teachers", Journal of School Health, Volume 65. No 1, Jan.1995, p.18

(2f) S. K. Telljohann and J.H. Price, "A Qualitative Examination of Adolescent Homosexuals' Life Experiences: Ramifications for Secondary School Personnel," Jounal of Homosexuality, 26, no 1, 1993, p.41

(2g) G. Remafedi, et al, "Demography of Sexual Orientation in Adolescents," Pediatrics, 89, no 4, April 1992, p. 718

(3) "Factfile: Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth," Hetrick-Martin Institute, New York City, 1992


Clark Moeller
Religious Freedom Amendment, PA HR 417
April 21, 1998

Dear Representative Lynch,
On behalf of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy, I would like to you reconsider your sponsorship for Pennsylvania HR 417 which recommends the adoption of Congressional HJR 78, the mis-named 'Religious Freedom Amendment'.
    The Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy (PAD) is an association of Pennsylvania citizens who are engaged in promoting democratic values . In specific, we have a policy on Religious Liberty which states: "The Pennsylvania Alliance For Democracy will work to educate and inform citizens about sectarian and political groups, public officials, or political candidates who attempt to impose religious ideology on community, state, or federal government and educational institutions in a manner that violates the separation of church and state."
    We believe that the adoption of HJR 78 by Congress will undermine the First Amendment, the separation of church and state, the very foundation of religious freedom in the United States.
    In addition, PA HR 417 misrepresents the intent of The First Amendment and the history of U.S. Supreme Court on First Amendment cases. HR 417 mistakenly says that the First Amendment means, "no barriers shall be erected against the practice of any religion." This interpretation is not sensible on its face. After all, there are over 1,600 different religions and sects in the United States and many of these have conflicting religious ideas and practices. Consider it this way, just as your right to swing your fists stops where my nose begins, your right and my right to religious expression is limited so that we all can practice our
religion. Now that's common sense. And its this common sense that the U.S. Supreme Court has supported, contrary to what is asserted in HR 417.
    The Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy would like you to drop your sponsorship of this flawed House Resolution.

Respectfully yours,
Clark Moeller, President,
Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy




 


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