31. Ingraham v. Wright: THE AFTERMATH and WHY IT MATTERS & YOUR FAQ’s

MEMO TO BILL H.: Thank you for defining “jokari” paddle for us. Your teacher set out to make an impression -and she did! The proof of that was that your behavior changed for the better after ALL other strategies failed. That is the way we are at TWP -the paddle is a LAST resort to avoid a suspension. As to the comment “…a target she couldn’t resist!”, I think that is hyperbole -Paddling students is considered by most teachers as a “chore” and could easily be “resisted” if only the student would just behave! As to Wendy, she tried to get out of using the paddle but kept receiving nothing but lies in return. The lesson: Do not ever LIE -because while Wendy is mild-tempered and easy-going- she has her tolerance threshold.

Jokari Paddle: A small wooden oval shaped paddle shaped like a badmitton racket. Measurements are 16″ to 18″ long, 6″ wide, and 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick. The shape is similar to mine (Renee) but mine is smaller at 8″ to 9″ long, 5″ wide, and 1/4″ thick. Because of Jokari’s size, we at TWP would probably rate the Jokari Paddle as SOMEWHAT INAPPROPRIATE.

MEMO TO ALL: Check out Portland.indymedia.org and Network54.com -The former is an anti-c.p. forum whom we at TWP challenged and the latter is somewhat “pro” who had some nice things to say about what TWP is trying to do.


Ingraham v. Wright: THE AFTERMATH




This famous (or infamous?) U.S. Supreme Court case decided in 1977 was one of those “accidents” of history that wasn’t supposed to happen. This case came about after the nation had gone through an unpopular war, racial unrest, and a scandal called “Watergate” which led a President Nixon to become the first in U.S. history to resign from office. After all that, one would have thought the U.S.A. was ready to get off the roller coaster ride known as “social change.”

History: We have commented on other posts about the Ingraham case itself as well as the differences between World and U.S. corporal punishment. Suffice to say, the history of discipline in U.S. schools cannot be cast in a “before” and “after” frame of reference. Rather, one must remember that, as a large frontier nation in its founding, the U.S. was and remains a decentralized country -especially in education. In the earliest times, the local governments were what people looked to first, not a distant state or national capital. One of the biggest examples of this was education, which was always considered a local perogative even with various state constitutions mandating state/local support for schools. But nowhere in the U.S. Constitution will you find a reference to education or schools despite the existence of the U.S. Department of Education. So, it can be concluded that education, by history and tradition, is seen primarily as a state/local function, not a national mandate.

Since schools were rooted in local communities, they reflected the local norms and culture. This included that of corporal punishment which was mostly a matter between teachers, parents, and children. Even in the early years of the republic, there were those who opposed c.p. such as Horace Mann, an educational pioneer. But, until the modern era, schools and c.p. was a local issue and varied widely across the country.

Neo-Reformist: Until the post WWII era, social reformers were academics who put out position papers and thesis but did not effect greater reform than a piece meal and slow change district by district. The problem for the anti-c.p. folks was that the U.S. was too big and diverse to reform gradually. The other short coming was that locals might agree to a change -and later change their mind. Add to that a natural American tendency to change very slowly- if at all -and that was the problem the classical reformers faced.

Some reformers got tired of seeing their agenda move at the speed of glaciers and chose a new path. In the 1890’s, a U.S. Supreme Court decision approved “separate but equal” in Plessy v. Ferguson and in effect, closed the court system as to social reform. But the court was different in the middle 20th century and would issue rulings that have changed America to its core. Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Engels (1962), and Roe v. Wade (1973) which concerned the overturning of the Plessy decision, outlawing of school prayer, and right to abortion were major milestones of social change. All of these had one thing in common: They did not go the “overland” route of consensus building and bottom-up reform. Rather, by the stroke of a pen, at least 5 Justices could do what might take 100 years by the “old way.”

The Ingraham Case. As discussed in a prior post, this case originated in Miami-Dade County, Florida, in the early 1970’s and the plaintiffs were certain of victory. And why not? The nation’s highest court was very liberal and had a reputation of being a social reform minded court as the cases mentioned above demonstrate.

Going into the case, only New Jersey (1867), Massachusetts (1971), Hawaii (1973), and Maine (1975) had outlawed c.p. in public schools with New Jersey also banning it in private schools as well. The state of Rhode Island would ban c.p. the same year as the court case in 1977.

But the thinking of more radical neo-reformers was that the then current pace would take another 100 years to abolish c.p. nationwide. Hence the court-based strategy of top-down social reform as the Brown case and civic rights, Engels and school prayer, and Roe and abortion rights. But in the Ingraham case, the neo-reformers lost and until the advent of the 1980’s, no state would abolish c.p.

Ingraham Aftermath: In the wake of the court’s surprise ruling that the U.S. Constitution’s 8th amendment’s ban against “Cruel and unusual punishment” and the 14th amendment’s “Due process” requirement DID NOT apply to children in school -The entire anti-c.p. movement was seemingly defeated. (We encourage our readers to check out our Ingraham link for more info.) The anti-c.p. movement was thrown into disaray and the U.S. Congress was not interested in the issue. So it was back to the grassroots -or so it seemed.

Generational Change: If one looks at statistics on the number of students paddled (See our link corpun.com), they will notice a large dropoff in the late 1970’s. This was NOT due to teachers who paddled suddenly becoming reform minded. Rather, the most pro-paddling generation, the WWII cohorts, were retiring from teaching and principalships at a high rate. Enter their children, the Boomers, who were the most paddled generation in U.S. history. The reform movement ended up with the most anti-c.p. cohort ever. This cohort, who partied at Woodstock and rioted on college campuses during the anti-war protests of the 1960’s would “take no prisoners.”

Academics to Anarchist : In the 1980’s, aka Reagan Era, the anti-c.p. movement swept through areas of the country where public opinion favored state bans. No one region stands out but success occured as like the change in teachers in the late 1970’s. As older politicans retired or died off, younger politicans were less inclined to see school discipline as only a local matter. However, the southern states and many middle American states resisted this trend -to this day.

As the 1990’s passed into the 21st century, it became apparent to the militant anti-c.p. crowd that going state by state was losing steam. Increasingly, the states left were conservative and would not change w/o a fight. Montana was such a state, that despite the influx of Washingtonians and Oregonians, was firm in rejecting reformist candidates for local school boards. As recounted in corpun.com, the fight would take a nasty turn. Instead of the usual debate, the anti’s started a new tactic: If you cannot win a debate -then lie, cheat, defame, and slander any politician that dares to disagree with the “cause.” That along with the arrival of the internet, allowed the anti’s to skip the debate and go for the throat. People on the wrong side have been smeared and, in the case of public figures, have had no legal recourse.

Sexuality: The ace card that the anti’s finally resorted to was to link corporal punishment to sexual abuse. The porn industry has been using sadistic oriented products for years but when the anti’s could not move the southern states, they played this ace for all it was worth. The worst was a site called Southern Education that was so extreme, even some anti’s disowned it -at least publicly!

At this point ,the anti’s -short of outright terrorism- can go no further in their zealotry.

Pushback and Beyond: All of the U.S.A. is not “roadkill” and some have pushed back. As governor of Texas, George W. Bush signed into law “Legal Protection” for educators who use the paddle and other states have followed since. Currently, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is pushing a “Shield Law” -we at TWP will keep readers up to date on that. Speaking of TWP, the emergence of the teacherswhopaddle weblog would add a voice of moderation to the c.p. debate. Founded by four young idealistic teachers from a southern state in the U.S., this blog has, in just six months, changed the dynamic of the c.p. issue. Not satisfied with the anti’s doing “all the talking,” this blog gives-as-good-as-it-gets and is one of the fastest growing blogs in the wordpress community. (Y’all think we could resist giving a little “plug” for our “BABY?” -Renee, Wendy, Jenny, and Michelle)

Beyond the current status quo, no one can be certain where the issue of c.p. in school will go. It is still a state-by-state battle with Arkansas, North Carolina, and Ohio in the crosshairs of the anti’s. As our post MISSION STATEMENT sets out, we at TWP believe that state governments are a terrible source of laws concerning school policy -including corporal punishment. Rather, we feel that the best people to make policy decisions for schools are the elected members of local school boards. Put it another way: Who do you trust the most when it comes to school policy making -a regular community oriented citizen who lives full time in the local area or a career politician who spends most of his time in the state capital meeting with lawyers and lobbyist?

There is a reason the anti’s generally prefer working state capitals: They DO NOT like or respect local community leaders. In fact, they look down on almost ALL local institutions with total contempt. Of course, when you lose a lot, that is to be expected.

In closing, the battle lines are certainly defined. The question is simple: Who is really in charge of our schools? The answer to that shows where one is on the issue of school board policy and corporal punishment. On one side is the well funded lawyers and lobbyist of the anti-c.p. crowd and on the other side is the local communities which, until a couple of decades ago, had almost complete autonomy in school policy making.

Ultimately, the future direction of the c.p. issue will be decided by the people at large -not the lawyers, lobbyist, or social elitist. However, that depends on the willingness of “the people” to take their civic responsibilities more seriously. In too many cases, average folks simply do not participate in the life of their communities. That has to change and one good place to start is by attending P.T.A. (Parent Teacher Association) meetings at the local schools one’s own children attend. Remember, in democracy, you get out of it WHAT YOU PUT IN IT!



As “paddlers,” do you also slap, kick, pinch, or grab your students?

We are not kidding -TWP gets asinine questions like this every week! The firm answer to this is a loud NO! As a teacher, I have on occasion needed to “grab” to stop scuffles between students -preventing an all out fight. Also, Michelle once grabbed the arm of one of her students to keep him from tumbling down some steps. Readers, you would be surprised to know that “reasonable force” laws have been needed in non-paddling states to protect teachers from lawsuits who do as mentioned. I once swatted a student of mine on the head with a paper file folder (Lighter than a news-magazine) for taking a siesta during class.

Why doesn’t the “Reb’s Paddle” link work? Does TWP plan to have another replacement link?

All that we know is that Reb’s ceased business on line late last year after eight years in existence. This was due to the economic problems that are affecting all of the U.S. and the world at large. See our memo above about our newest link.

Why doesn’t TWP post the “other side” of the debate and make this blog more balanced?

For the same reason the anti-c.p. sites do not: Both we and they (sites) exist to present a certain line of reasoning. P.T.A.V.E. , for example, will NEVER post any viewpoint that contradicts their mission statement -and neither will we. However, TWP has answered some of the anti’s criticisms with our FAQ’s and FACT CHECK posts. Thats more than Jordan Riak will ever do!

If your local school board was to consider dropping c.p., how would you state your objections to it?

This person must be a school board member.

First, as an employee of that board, I would NOT take a stand -directly anyway. Rather, the principals and teachers would probably meet with central office administrators to voice our concerns and questions about policy changes.

Second, the top brass (aka Chief Superintendent) would report to the board his and our misgivings about such a policy change -such as the probability of a higher number of suspensions. Think of the U.S. Army Generals advising the U.S. President on war strategy. In both cases, the elected leadership will make the final decision -as it should be.






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