This video offers a look at the kind of positive reinforcement and encouragement the Cristo Rey schools offer.
One reason why Codes of Discipline and Conduct work so well in boarding schools is that both parents and students understand that they are bound by the terms of the contract which they have signed with the school. By way of contrast, parents and students in public schools know that they can drag disciplinary matters out because they are entitled to due process. They are not governed by contract law the way students in private schools are. In a boarding school, if the infraction of the rules is serious enough for a child to be expelled from school, she will be expelled. Take time to read and understand your child's Code of Discipline and Conduct. Discuss the document with her. Confirm that she knows and understands the rules and the consequences for breaking those rules.
When I was growing up in Montreal back in the 50s, we still had corporal punishment in the classroom. That was because we followed the old British model which back then permitted practices such as caning and strapping. Physical punishments ranged from getting your knuckles rapped with a ruler to being strapped with a very thick leather strap which was called the strap. I don't ever recall girls receiving any form of corporal punishment. But we boys most certainly did. A smart rap on the knuckles is something I remember to this day. It was administered to me by my third-grade teacher. She had a reputation for being a very strict disciplinarian. And indeed she was. To this day I honestly cannot recall why I got my knuckles rapped. I probably wasn't sitting up straight. Now, the strap was generally administered by the vice-principal or principal. It was the last resort when it came to punishment. You could hear a pin drop when somebody was sent to the principal's office for a strapping. Even worse, we all would flinch as we heard the strap being administered. Yes, the principal purposely left his office door open with great effect. Abuse damages fragile egos. It undermines confidence. It kills a child's spirit.
This chat with an alumnus from Montreal's Lower Canada College sheds some light on how different things were back then.
I do understand that the disciplinary pendulum has swung rather dramatically the other way. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" which is a loose translation of Proverbs 13:24 has more than an element of truth in it, doesn't it? In any case, most of us who are sending or have sent our children to private school understand that self-discipline is something which we adults need to teach our children ourselves. The school can certainly help, but in the end, we parents are responsible for making sure our children understand that there are real consequences for breaking the rules. Just as in adult life, there are no physical punishments. But there are real consequences such as losing one's job, or being fined, or worse, facing jail time. Learning to abide by the school's Code of Discipline and Conduct is a valuable lesson for later life.
What can you and I do to eliminate corporal punishment completely? Write to your state legislators and let them know your feelings. You pay local property taxes, therefore you also have a right to inform your local school board about how you feel. Hopefully, your local board will have long since passed rules and regulations forbidding corporal punishment in their classrooms. In many cases, insurance carriers have demanded that the practice be forbidden because it exposes the board to lawsuits as well as bad publicity. School boards have enough exposure to legal action in circumstances over which they often have very little control. They can and do forbid risky practices such as corporal punishment which they can control as a matter of policy.
This video from PBS gives us an overview of corporal punishment in the U.S.A.
Finally, please speak up when you hear others advocating the physical abuse of children in our schools. For that, in the final analysis, is what corporal punishment is. Read about the history of corporal punishment so that you can speak knowledgeably about the issue. Please join parents everywhere who believe that children should be brought up in safe, nurturing environments at home and school.
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