New Caney Elementary School Principal Joe Williamson (foreground)
faced a TEA hearing prompted by charges he severely beat a four year-
old blind student.
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In 19 76, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution designating 1979
the Year of the Child.
In the U.S. one of these rights, "the right to be brought up in a spirit of peace, "is
endangered because of a child-rearing philosophy which condones the use of physical
force to discipline a child.
"It's difficult to go into a private home and tell people not to use physical violence
on their children when society, including the schools, says it is all right,"commented
Judy Hay, Community Relations Director of the Texas Department of Human Resources
(TDHR). "In a system based on physical force as a means of discipline, abuse is inevitable. "
American public schools are major perpetrators of this system, especially in Texas.
Most school districts in Texas adhere to a policy of corporal punishment, despite
little evidence that physical punishment is effective.
David Gottlieb, Dean of Social Sciences at the University of Houston, recently served
on a committee to investigate violence, disruptive behavior and student discipline for
the Houston Independent School District (HISD). Gottlieb has long been an opponent
of corporal punishment.
"Corporal punishment teaches children to handle problems with force. It is very
selective. Younger children are more subject to being paddled. It is very discrimina-
tory-usually males are paddled. It puts the entire burden of proof on the child,"
Another serious problem with corporal punishment is "invitation of abuse." The
following story is an example.
It was unusually quiet in the special education classroom. Almost all the children
Only one remained awake, sitting quietly
on his cot, rocking back and forth to a
rhythm of his own.
The door opened. He stopped his movement at the sound. He did not look up
when the woman approached. When she
spoke, his face burst into a smile. His
hands moved quickly, gently against the
woman's face. "Momma!," he said.
Ramon Couture's perception of the
world is limited. He was blinded at 20
months when he was beaten senseless by
his natural parents.
He became a ward of the state and lived
in three different foster homes. In January,
1979, Ramon was adopted by Barbara
Couture was not unfamiliar with the
foster child program. She had housed
eight children over the last couple of
years. When adoption laws were changed
making single-parent adoption possible,
she applied for a child. In January, 1979,
she legally became Ramon's parent.
"When I first got Ramon," explained
Couture, "he was virtually non-verbal.
Except for his blindness, he is physically
normal. Ramon is approximately one year
behind in the 'normal' learning process." i
Couture enrolled Ramon in the special
education program at New Caney Elementary School. She was aware the school adhered to a policy of corporal punishment.
"I explained his background and requested—both verbaDy and in writing—
that Ramon not be spanked. I felt that
any type of physical force used against him
would be detrimental," said Couture.
Yet on February 6, 1979, Ramon once
again was a victim of physical violence.
This time it was not an outraged parent.
It was school principal Joe Williamson.
That particular morning Ramon did not
want to leave the school bus. Seeing the
driver trying to coax the child, Williamson
came onto the bus, slapped the child,
brought him into his office, and paddled
"When I picked up Ramon that afternoon, I knew something had happened.
He would not let me touch him and was
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