Bring Back the Licks? One Man's Mission to Revive Corporal Punishment In Schools

Gilbert Leal is a man on a mission. As a tutor in the Dallas Independent School District (DISD), he feels teachers are spending far too much of their time disciplining students and not enough time educating. But he worries that trips to the principals' office, detention, and in-school suspensions aren't making enough of a difference in students' behavior.

His solution? Bring back the licks.

"I want to bring back corporal punishment to Dallas," Leal said. "Kids have no fear anymore. There are no consequences."

He hopes simply the threat of corporal punishment will change students' behavior.

Paddling was banned five years ago in the DISD. Since then, however, according to research compiled by the Dallas Morning News, student suspensions have increased.

"If you're not on the battlefield, you never really know what it's like," Leal said. "If you're not in the class dealing with these disruptions, you might have some idealistic solutions.

"There aren't a lot of alternatives to dealing with 20 kids that get out of control because of one," he said. "Yyou can suspend them, send them to the office. We have a great school counselor. ... And when none of that works, what do you do?"

Leal is urging voters to back candidates who vow to "Bring Back Licks" in this Saturday's Dallas school board election. There are three spaces up for election. Thus far Leal has found candidates for two of those races who are willing to reinstate corporal punishment.

Leal, who tutors children who under-perform on the state's standardized tests, has even written a song about it to "show the lighter side" of the issue.

Twenty states, including Texas, currently allow the use of corporal punishment in schools.

According to the Department of Education's, Office for Civil Rights, in the 2006-2007 school year, the most recent year for which data is available, upwards of 223,000 American schoolchildren were subjected to physical punishment. Nearly a quarter of the students receiving such punishments lived in Texas.

Experts Say Corporal Punishment Harms Children

Child psychologists and academics long have spoken out against the use of paddling.

"Many times things that are used don't work," said Nadine Block, executive director of the Center for Effective Discipline. "However, paddling doesn't work either. They paddle the same kids over and over, and they are more often boys, more often children with disabilities, poor children or minorities.

"If it doesn't work and you have the potential to do harm," she asked, "why on earth would you think of going back to that?"

A recent study by Tulane University found that parental spanking caused children to be more aggressive. Toddlers who were spanked regularly were more likely to grow into kindergarteners that bullied, hit, and were destructive and disobedient.

Leal disagreed.

"Not to sound uncompassionate, but whether or not that kid who gets licks is going to turn out better or worse, I don't consider that to be the argument," he said. "What is the argument ... is that one bad apple is literally holding an entire class back, and that is not fair to the rest of the class, and that is how you get a school that is low-performing."

In the coming weeks, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., plans to introduce legislation that would potentially end the practice of corporal punishment in schools. The legislation would tie banning corporal punishment to federal funding for education.

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