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Headline: Mixed reaction to corporal punishment ban: All the way from delight to disappointment
Date: February 21, 1973
Banning of corporal punishment from British Columbia’s public schools has been the source of considerable controversy in the past week and as might be expected, the opinions of individual teachers vary widely on the subject.
However, on one aspect, there was virtually unanimous agreement: generally there has been no abuse of corporal punishment in schools in recent years.
In some District 33 schools the change was greeted with enthusiasm by teachers and pupils alike, while in others, teachers were quite skeptical. Straw votes in at least two elementary schools showed almost unanimous approval for the concept of retaining corporal punishment. In one school all of the teachers favoured the retention of the strap while in the other only one teacher out of 10 doubted the value of retaining corporal punishment as a deterrent to potentially unruly students.
At Rosedale Junior Secondary School the teachers and students took great pains to ensure that the banning of corporal punishment in schools would receive proper attention.
A special ceremony was held to mark the “end of the strap” and about 45 students sought the distinction of being the last person to be strapped. In the end, one ‘lucky’ volunteer won the draw and was paraded before the student body and received a token strapping. The strap will lie in state in a coffin created by woodwork class.
Principal of Rosedale Junior Secondary School John Neumann said he has “mixed feelings” about the new regulations as announced by Education Minister Hon. Eileen Dailly.
Mr. Neumann pointed out, “we knew this was coming so we experimented in not using it until Christmas. I believe that we don’t really need the strap, but there will be more of a hassle.”
He explained that now that the strap has been eliminated there will be greater contact with the parents and “some of them won’t like that.”
“Basically, I think it is better,” Mr. Neumann said. “But it will require more time and I am sure the kids won’t like the idea. As far as most students are concerned, they consider it greater punishment to have their parents contacted. Some even ask for the strap, rather than have us call home.”
Mr. Neumann agreed that quite possibly the strap would have greater value as a deterrent on the elementary level where expulsion from the school is less of a threat than at the secondary level.
Don Few, principal of Bernard Elementary School, said he was very pleased to “see it out of the elementary schools. I don’t think there is a place for it. Often it is the easiest way to solve disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment can become the first resort and not enough time is spent examining what the real problem is. At best it was only a temporary corrective device.”
Over the past six or seven years, the strap has been used less each year, Mr. Few said, and added, “it was on its way out, it was something that belonged to another age.”
Elimination of the strap will perhaps lead to more counsellors on the elementary school level, Mr. Few said.
Peter Neumann, principal of Central Elementary School, also pointed out that the use of corporal punishment has been on the decrease in recent years. The addition of remedial staff on the elementary level has helped teachers cope with difficult students, he said.
“While we use it only rarely, if I had my choice, I would retain it,” Mr. Neumann said.
He pointed out that according to the previous regulations the strap could only be used in the sense of a kind and judicious parent.
“I doubt if there are very many parents who don’t find it necessary to give a child a smack at one time or another,” he noted. In conclusion Mr. Neumann noted, “I feel we can do without it.”
Les Tarmar, principal of Yarrow Elementary School, said he was in “complete disagreement with the government’s change.” He said, “I think the situation will be worsened … I don’t honestly think that there was any abuse of it.”
Students in one Grade 7 class at Yarrow were asked how many had ever had the strap and out of the whole class, only six had it in seven years in school. Of that six, two had the strap twice.
“There is a very small percentage of students who actually receive it, but it is there as a corrective measure when no other corrective measure works,” Mr. Tarmar said. “We try many things to cope with a child with problems and the very last thing is the strap.”
One principal, who asked that his name not be used, said he was “not too happy” with the new ruling. He said that in his opinion the strap is not “a misused item” and noted that all of his teachers are “a little anxious” about what affect the change will have on the students.