A couple of days ago I posted a petition for federal legislation that would end corporal punishment in schools in the United States. And I am again scraping my jaw from the floor. I have received comments ranging from a simple “Why?” to comments suggesting I ingest a sizable helping of excrement. I don’t know why I should still be shocked by these responses, but I am.
Civil rights in this country are protected in the cases of race, color, gender and sexual orientation, to name a few. Can someone please, PLEASE explain to me why basic civil (human) rights are not protected or upheld for our children?
One reader mentioned the Tenth Amendment, which states that the federal government only exercises power over items specifically granted by the Constitution, such as collection of taxes or declaration of war, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that in cases regarding marriage, divorce, or adoption, legal decisions reside within the borders of individual states. So how did the Supreme Court get around this amendment in their ruling on gay marriage? Can we not do the same for our children?
In the Supreme Court case of Hudson v. McMillian, a Louisiana prison inmate suffered visible facial bruising, swelling, loosened teeth and a cracked dental plate from two prison guards while handcuffed, violating the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments, awarding damages to the inmate. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision claiming the inmate’s injuries were “minor” and required no medical attention and that he must prove “significant injury.” The Supreme Court held that “the use of excessive physical force against a prisoner may constitute cruel and unusual punishment even though the inmate does not suffer serious injury.”
So prison inmates are protected, but not our children. Perhaps those inmates would never have been incarcerated had their basic human rights been protected from the very beginning.
It’s no secret that, in addition to the obvious access and mishandling of firearms, there is a correlation between mass shootings and childhood aggression. The first mass shooting I remember was on July 18, 1984 in San Ysidro, California when a 41 year old man named James Oliver Huberty, armed with multiple firearms and rounds of ammunition, walked into a McDonald’s restaurant. He then shot and killed 21 employees and customers and wounded 19 more outside the restaurant before he was killed by a police sharpshooter team. The morning of the massacre, Huberty told his wife his life was over because he had not heard back from a mental health clinic where he had sought help the day before.
Multiple mass murders have occurred since that date, including Columbine, Sandy Hook and the most recent school shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. I can’t help but wonder how things might change if more kids had a positive and nurturing emotional foundation, free of all forms of violence. Am I suggesting that an end to corporal punishment will mean an end to mass murder? Of course not. But this is not a stagnant or declining issue. It’s getting worse. And something must change.
I’m not saying mental illness causes mass murder or that corporal punishment necessarily causes mental illness. And I’m not claiming the end of corporal punishment is the whole solution to this issue. But the American Psychological Association claims that “adolescents who were more likely to engage in fighting, bullying and victimization of others reported that their parents engaged in corporal punishment as a disciplining method.” The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry states that “corporal punishment may have a high rate of immediate behavior modification… with possibilities of increased risk for physical abuse; using aggression as an acceptable method of problem solving; decrease in learning capacity; inability to discern right from wrong; behaving out of fear in the future.” And the American Academy of Pediatrics states that spanking is linked to mental illness.
You want to find a shortcut to playground bullying? Allow a teacher to hit a child.
Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment says “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
With the continued implementation of corporal punishment in our schools, we are denying our children their due process and equal protection of the laws.
There are many areas that are in need of attention, reform, funding and understanding (for a start) from our mental health system (which is terribly under-funded) to gun control, racism, gender and sexual equality, police brutality, veteran assistance and domestic terrorism (to scratch the surface). It is overwhelming and it’s hard to know where to begin. Why not start with this petition? Why not take a stab at giving our kids the best possible start?
Up until the moment my first child was born, I felt invincible. The first time I held her and looked at her scrunched up tiny face, I felt disrobed of every piece of emotional armor I had ever compiled. Nothing would protect me were something to happen to her. Nothing. I believe there is solidarity in parents who picture every possible horror that might happen to our children, no matter how big or small, as those horrors are our biggest fears. And we torture ourselves with them, because losing our children is the one thing we can’t handle. That’s what the parents and families of those who are shooting and those being shot at are all dealing with. Why would we not do absolutely everything in our power that could possibly prevent it?