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Reasonable Force in Schools

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by Muriel Newman

The anti-smacking activists claim that with corporal punishment having been banned in schools, banning it in the home is simply the next step towards eliminating violence against children. But the argument just isn't credible.

Advocates of a the repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act which allows parents to use "reasonable force" for the purpose of correcting their children, rely heavily on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC). In particular, Article 19 of UNCROC, which says:  

State Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parents, legal guardians or any other person who has the care of the child.

They claim that to "protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation", the use of "reasonable force" for the purpose of correction must be banned. In other words they are claiming that the use of "reasonable force" to discipline children is equivalent to bashing them. This is clearly wrong.

A similar erroneous argument was used by Labour to justify the banning of corporal punishment in schools. Yet, the Headmaster, who used the strap or cane as a last resort to reinforce to the school bully that cruelty would not be tolerated, or to the willfully abusive and disruptive student that his behaviour was totally unacceptable, was simply fulfilling the responsibilities given under Article 19, to protect the other children in the school from violence and intimidation.

This week's NZCPR Guest Commentator, Bruce Logan, a Christchurch based writer and founder of the Maxim Institute, was a member of the PPTA Executive at the time when the banning of corporal punishment in schools was being considered. He earned himself a sanction from the union by daring to say publicly that he was not convinced the majority of teachers were in favour of abolition.

It is little wonder – schools were not given an opportunity to have their say on the ban, as Labour did not allow public consultation!

The proposal to abolish corporal punishment in schools had originally appeared as clause 66 in a Crimes Bill in 1989. Without warning it was inserted into the 1990 Education Amendment Bill as it was going through its final debates in Parliament...

Read the rest of the article here


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