Complaints about corporal punishment double

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:56

    ALBANY—Formal complaints of corporal punishment in New York classrooms more than doubled over the past five years, with 4,223 accusations reported in 2004, according to records obtained by The Associated Press. At the same time, fewer school districts were filing the required semiannual reports detailing corporal punishment allegations, the records show. Many of the allegations involved faculty or staff pushing, slapping and grabbing students' arms. Among those verified were an incident in which a teacher put a misbehaving student outside to cool off in December without a jacket, a teacher who tackled a student who reached for a pencil on the floor, and several cases of students' mouths taped shut. The state Education Department reviewed the records after they were requested by the AP and said it would recommend revising the reporting policy. The Education Department's analysis of just last year's reported cases found as many as 65 percent of the allegations couldn't be verified by the school, or the district provided insufficient information to support the allegation. The data showed 54 percent of the incidents were physical, 17 percent were verbal, 8 percent were both, and 21 percent were categorized as "other." School districts' action against the offending teachers, substitute teachers, bus drivers, teacher aides, lunch monitors and other employees varied widely. Most received counseling or a memo in their personnel files. A few were fired. The teacher who put the student out in 32-degree weather for eight to 10 minutes faced a "counseling session. about appropriate expectations with action plan," according to the records. The tackling teacher was suspended for six months with pay and had to complete online classes in classroom management. Teachers who taped students' mouths shut received counseling memos for their personnel files and one was suspended. David Ernst of the state Schools Boards Association said the lack of uniform reporting makes it impossible to draw conclusions about trends in corporal punishment. Fewer school districts may be filing the required semiannual reports because of superintendent turnover or because they include their corporal punishment incidents in mandated reports on child abuse instead, he said. Ernst said officials believe corporal punishment in schools is actually becoming less common. New York's schools, with about 3 million students, have had to report incidents of corporal punishment since 1985. Corporal punishment has been prohibited there for over two decades. Deputy Education Commissioner James Kadamus said he believes the most serious cases — those that could be considered child abuse under state law — are being reported. "We are trying to emphasize a safe learning environment and that goes for both the kids' behavior and the adult behavior," he said. Shoving, slapping, hitting among confirmed corporal punishment The state Education Department is calling for better reporting and enforcement of corporal punishment by schools, following review of more than 2,000 pages of state documents sought by The Associated Press. According to the state's analysis of a single year, 54 percent of the incidents were physical, 8 percent more were physical and verbal, 17 percent were verbal, and 21 percent were categorized as "other." Cases school that districts documented included: • In April 2004, a teacher at Nassau County BOCES scratched a student's neck while removing the student from a desk. The student was sent to the school nurse and the teacher was placed on paid administrative leave. A report was made to police. • A month later, a teacher's aide at the Nassau County BOCES "kicked a student in the groin area" as the student was escorted to a classroom. The aide was fired and a report was made to local police. The student wasn't injured and parents were informed. • In October 2004, a teacher at Suffolk County's Bayport-Blue Point Union Free School District pulled a lollipop out of a student's mouth, chipping a tooth. The teacher was reassigned the next semester. • In October 2004, a teacher in Buffalo was accused of detaining a 6-year-old from lunch and grabbing and choking the student. The teacher was suspended with pay. • In November 2004, a teacher in Buffalo put tape over a student's mouth. The teacher received letter of admonition. • In November 2003, a teacher in Rockland County's Clarkstown schools threw an object at a fifth grader in front of students and hurt the child. The teacher quit facing termination and police were notified. • In September 2003, a substitute teacher in Ossining schools grabbed and scratched the arms of a student. The substitute was banned from working at the school. • In June 2004, a teacher hit a student with a test booklet or "related item," after the student in the Orleans-Niagara BOCES made an obscene gesture. The teacher was placed on paid leave for the last three weeks of school and other discipline was being considered. • In October 2003, two students in East Ramapo tried to leave through a first floor window and a teacher pushed them "completely out." The teacher was temporarily reassigned and officially reprimanded. The incident was reported to police. • In October 2003, an Elmont teacher on Long Island "allegedly slapped a kindergarten student on the lower back after lowering student's pants. eyewitnesses support allegation," the report stated. The teacher was brought up on state disciplinary charges. The outcome wasn't in the corporal punishment report. • In June 2003, a teacher in Holland Patent, Oneida County, was accused of hitting a student in the lower leg, leaving a bruise, grabbing a student around the neck and shoving the student into a wall. Another student claimed the same teacher hit him on top of the bike helmet he was wearing. The teacher received a letter of reprimand, was required to attend an anger management class, and was counseled. • In February 2003, a teacher in the Ravena-Coeymans schools south of Albany admitted he threw a student's desk and books out the door and one book hit the student. The teacher was counseled by the superintendent. • In March 2004 a fourth grade student in Hamilton County's Long Lake who wouldn't take his seat after repeated directions was slapped on the back of the head "in a disciplinary fashion." The teacher was given two week's paid administrative leave and received a counseling memo with terms of reinstatement.