THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BOBBIE BATTISTA, HOST: Do teachers need paddles to keep students in line?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spare the rod and spoil the child.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the way I was brought up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BATTISTA: Corporal punishment is legal in 23 states, but some parents wonder if those laws are license to abuse, and some are going to court after their children are paddled.
Ten-year-old Megan Cahanin's parents are suing their Louisiana school district.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT CAHANIN, MEGAN'S FATHER: I thought maybe he might have hurt her kidneys or even broke her back because the bruises kind of went up into her back.
MEGAN CAHANIN: I'm scared to go back to school.
DAN LESLIE, SUPERINTENDENT SABINE PARISH: If the corporal punishment is administered as a deterrent to inappropriate behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BATTISTA: Courts generally uphold the practice, and President Bush's education package would protect educators from lawsuits associated with spanking. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics took a formal stand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. WAYNE YANKUS, PEDIATRICIAN: There's no place for us to be spanking children. We should be giving positive reinforcement not negative reinforcement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BATTISTA: Where do you stand? Is it OK if a teacher paddles your child?
Good afternoon. Welcome to TALKBACK LIVE. The parents of Megan Cahanin say they were horrified by the beating their daughter endured at the hands of a principal, and they are suing to stop spanking in their Louisiana school district. The Cahanin suit caused Duane (ph) Ebarb's mother to question all the spankings that he gets in school.
Joining us on the phone now is Kent Mercier, the attorney representing both of these families.
Thanks very much for joining us, Mr. Mercier.
KENT MERCIER, ATTORNEY FOR MEGAN CAHANIN: Yes, you're welcome.
BATTISTA: Because it is standard procedure it would seem in the state of Louisiana and most parishes to administer corporal punishment, what was so alarming about these cases that you're representing?
MERCIER: Well, first of all, Louisiana is not unanimous on that topic. There are several parishes that absolutely prohibit it, including New Orleans, Lafayette, et cetera. But in this particular case, what alerted this community was the fact that the whipping left the marks on an honor roll student. This girl was an honor roll student with no prior significant disciplinary problems whatsoever. And she comes home with these massive bruises and just devastates the family, just absolutely devastates them.
BATTISTA: He had had other -- as I understand it, Mr. Cahanin had other children in that school district, a son.
BATTISTA: And it didn't bother him so much when the son received corporal punishment but it did when his daughter did?
MERCIER: Well, while that sounds a little bizarre, in reality, he comes from a community that has historically embraced corporal punishment. And when his son, his older did suffer corporal punishment, number one, there was never any bruises left. And number two, it just wasn't quite as dramatic, because perhaps the son was engaged in a little bit more disrespectful conduct or whatever, almost kind of like the mentality of, well, he deserved it, you know.
But since then, since this episode with Megan, they've had an opportunity that most parents don't have, and that is to truly assess the dynamics of corporal punishment in toto, and they totally wish that they had prevented it even with their first son.
BATTISTA: And what were the particulars in the Ebarb case?
MERCIER: The Ebarb case was worse in some respects because Anthony Ebarb, a fine young man, 10 years old, has a problem. He cannot sit still in his seat. And that is a medically induced problem, ADHD, and he's on medication for that and the school knows it. In this particular -- with this particular child, this year during the first eight weeks of school, he was paddled on 17 different occasions for a total of 56 strikes to his buttocks with a wooden paddle. And that is just outrageous for anybody, especially someone with ADHD. That is literally like looking at the person and saying, "The next time you blink your eyes, you're going to get a paddling." And we all know that it's an involuntary response, and that's how it is with ADHD. There's techniques that are available to discipline or redirect these children other than paddling.
BATTISTA: Well, certainly it sounds like it wasn't working if he had that many spankings in that amount of time.
MERCIER: Well, that's an interesting question. At what point do you stop it? And it wasn't stopped until the Cahanin lawsuit was filed, and then of course, it shut down, you know.
An interesting factor was that this is a school district that had a practice of hanging paddles by little leather straps from the chalkboards in each classroom. And one of the things that was most telling was that when the "New York Times" reporter came down to the story, the principal went through the school and actually had the teachers pull down the paddles. And I think that that is very telling that deep inside, these people know that there's something wrong with this picture.
BATTISTA: Let me bring someone else into the conversation with us now. Kevin Ryan is with us. He's director emeritus of the Center for the Advancement of Ethics in Character at Boston University.
Thank you for joining us. Is this a useful tool, spanking? Can it be in the school environment or does it risk this sort of abuse?
KEVIN RYAN, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: Oh, it certainly does. And it's very hard not to be outraged by some of these examples. The ones that have been given about Megan completely on the side of the lawyer on this case. On the other hand, there is a situation in schools, many schools around the country, where discipline has run amok, when teachers feel like they're defenseless, when children are being -- because they aren't being given the opportunity of say taking corporal punishment, they take all kinds of other punishment from teachers: ridicule, separation from school and isolation.
BATTISTA: Let me go back to Mr. Mercier on the phone here, because legally, these cases have not been very successful in the court. What is your aim? Are you just trying to get rid of it in this particular parish or in the entire state?
MERCIER: Well, I think it's something that needs to be banned completely all the way around in every parish in every state. Right now, our fight is with this particular parish. It is a fight where we're trying to change some laws. We have very difficult laws: two of them in particular. One that grants school boards the power upon their own volition to institute a corporal punishment policy permitting it and number two, liability immunity. So you have a situation where a parent like the Cahanin's go to the school board and complain and say, "Look what happened." You have a child like Anthony Ebarb whose mama Joy goes to the school board, says, "Look what happened. Do something about this." Absolutely nothing is done to the principal or teachers involved. Instead, the school board -- I'm sorry, the superintendent embraces these actions. What recourse is left to the parents? Nothing. Liability protects these people. We're in court right now challenging these liability statutes and hoping that we can prevail on them.
BATTISTA: All right, Kent Mercier, we thank you very much for joining us today. Appreciate your time.
Also joining our discussion now is Robert Fathman on the phone, a psychologist and president of the National Coalition to End Corporal Punishment in schools. Thank you for joining us on the phone. I know we had technical problems trying to get you on camera there.
ROBERT FATHMAN, NATIONAL COALITION TO END CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN SCHOOLS: Yes, Bobbie, but I'm here.
BATTISTA: You also, Robert, became involved in this issue because of your own personal experience. What happened with your 6- year-old daughter?
FATHMAN: Our first grade daughter in public schools, we went to the schools at the beginning of the year and asked the teachers to never paddle our children. We told them they could interrupt my wife, who is a teacher in the same school district, they could interrupt her on the job, interrupt me on the job. We'd be there. She was on a top ability group in her classroom, but nevertheless, the teacher one time gave her a paper on syllables, and the paper said, "Which word in the sentence means the same as the underlined word? Circle it." So Nicole went down the list, circled -- or underlined all the correct words, had everything correct. But the teacher marked them wrong, gave her a "U" on the paper, took her in the hallway and made her bend over, hold her ankles and hit her three times with a board about 2-1/2 feet long and an inch thick. She did that because Nicole underlined the right -- or circled the right answers instead of underlining them.
BATTISTA: And what did you do at the time then? Did you eventually sue the school district?
FATHMAN: No, we didn't. You know, we're just kind of low-key people. My wife is a teacher in this same district. We first talked to the teacher and got nowhere. Next, we talked to the teacher with the principal present and got nowhere. Later that afternoon, I went and met with the superintendent, got nowhere. The next week, I went to the school board of the regular Board of Education meeting and got nowhere.
At each step up the chain of command, I was told the same thing: The law allows this, she didn't do anything wrong. So at that time, I decided that's a bad law. Any law that allows an adult to pick up a board and whack my 6-year-old daughter with it is a bad law and it should be changed.
BATTISTA: I know you feel that way about all cases, but Kevin, what -- it sounds like we've listened to a number of extreme examples here of this sort of discipline kind of gone wrong. And that's the problem for me is that there doesn't appear to be standards within schools as to how and why and when this sort of punishment is administered.
RYAN: Yeah, and clearly, we need standards, and schools are quite capable of developing standards. And also (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right to say, "My child will not be touched."
On the other hand, we have to be a lot more sympathetic in this country to the plight of teachers. We've got three million teachers in the country and there are few people like the ones described who obviously have gone over the edge, but there are many, many teachers that are trying to do the Lord's work and trying to educate children, and they are up against a tremendous barrier of a lack of authority in the schools. And if they can have corporal punishment done in reasonable, clear way, it is another tool for them. And for many children, they would much rather have, you know, a slap on the back of the lap rather than be separated from their class, be kicked out of school or be ridiculed or be isolated.
BATTISTA: I've got to take a quick break here. As we do, a couple of e-mails. Jerry in Michigan says, "Yes, teachers need to spank the kids. That keeps them in line. When you don't use it, it's no wonder kids are out of hand these days."
Jill in Huntington Beach, California says, "If more parents use corporal punishment at home, maybe the school system wouldn't need to be paddle."
We will take a break here at this moment. And when we come back, we'll talk with the school superintendent who can tell us how far teachers can go when disciplining students in Louisiana. Do you think paddling is appropriate for school children? That's the question. Take the TALKBACK LIVE online viewer vote at cnn.com/talkback, AOL keyword: CNN. And while you're there, read my personal note and viewer e-mails at "You Said It." We'll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: In 1867, New Jersey became the first state to ban corporal punishment in schools. Massachusetts became the next state in 1971. The most recent state to outlaw the practice was West Virginia in 1994.
BATTISTA: Let's bring the audience in on this here quickly.
Mark, you were telling us during the break that you have problems with this.
MARK: I just believe that corporal punishment is inappropriate because the person who's doing the -- who's handing out the punishment could be acting out of their own rage. As you pointed out, there's no standards to the administration of it: which child gets it, which child doesn't get it. I just think it's so fraught with peril that I think New Jersey did the right thing back in 1867 and should continue -- the entire country should have followed that. BATTISTA: Being from New Jersey, I know they're always ahead of the game. Jeanette in the audience, you run a day care center in Michigan.
JEANETTE: Yes. Yes, I think it's very inappropriate. There's so many other methods that can be used. You know, communication is very important. The teachers need to talk more with the parents, and it should be like an open forum, you know, for the teachers and the parents to communicate before anything is done with the child.
BATTISTA: On the other hand, Kevin, we should say there are always of plenty of children who are not getting this sort of parental guidance at home, and they are a discipline nightmare or they are constantly causing problems and don't react, especially when they're younger. You know, say 3, 4 or 5-years-old, are not reacting. You can't really reason with some of them at that age. So what are you to do?
RYAN: Well, I think there's a whole hierarchy of things that a teacher can do, starting with just sort of basic correction, timeouts, taking away privileges. But there are some children, who under careful circumstances, without cruelty where the best thing for them is really to use an age-old teaching tool of a swat on the back of the lap, not brutality, not beating, not bringing about the kind of welts and marks -- marking that this case we heard about earlier. That is I think a solution that should be used sparingly but should not be eliminated. We are tending to get I think enormously politically correct in our schools. You know, reinforcement can do certain things, self-esteem can do certain things, but I think we've gone overboard with that idea that there's always a positive answer.
BATTISTA: Robert, can you think of any example, any instance where you would spank a child?
FATHMAN: Not a single time. Schools have no business whacking children with boards. We can't do it to animals, you can't do it in the military, you can't do it to prisoners, you know. Kevin is implying that because children are young and they can't be reasoned with. What about senile grandmothers? Should we make them bend over and hit them? You know, his reasoning is very faulty. In fact, we have 27 states and almost every developed country in the entire world successfully educating children without caste in the classroom, and we have research study after research study showing when we eliminate paddling we have higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates, less vandalism, higher test scores. There's everything to be gained by eliminating corporal punishment. And 27 states show we don't need it.
BATTISTA: Well, I just got this e-mail from Harley in Texas who says, "My wife is a teacher, and they took her paddle away seven years ago. Her classrooms are now out of control. Parents...
FATHMAN: My wife is also a teacher. She's been teaching for 23 years high school math, you know, a difficult subject for kids. She has never used a paddle, would not want one. Her school used to allow it, no longer does. And in fact, the National Education Association and the National Association Of Elementary School Principals, people in the front lines, are solidly on record opposing any use of corporal punishment ever. Largest teacher union, largest principal association.
BATTISTA: I'm going to bring two more voices into this conversation now: psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers joins us, and clinical psychologist Robert Butterworth joins us.
Welcome to both you.
JOYCE BROTHERS, PSYCHOLOGIST: Hello.
ROBERT BUTTERWORTH, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Thank you very much, Bobbie.
BATTISTA: Where do you stand on this, Dr. Brothers?
BUTTERWORTH: Spanking doesn't do what we think it will do. There are millions of people who have been spanked as kids and grow up perfectly normally, but there area a great many children who have been spanked and spanked very harshly who will grow up to be more likely to cheat, to steal, to have bad marks in school, to hate school, to be unsuccessful. What we are teaching when we hit is that if you are big enough and strong enough, you can make somebody else do what you want. And that isn't really what we want to teach our kids. There are so many other ways of reinforcing kids or removing various privileges, and those do work. Every study that I have ever seen of punishment shows not that it is workable but that it simply postpones even when you can control all the conditions and you put a little rat in a box and it can press a bar to get food, and you stop giving it food, and another rat who is trained the same way gets a really sharp electrical shock at that bar. And you watch one rat will continue pressing the bar until it doesn't get any food anymore, the other one will seem to not do any bar pressing at all, but if you wait long enough, it will press the same number of times. It only postpones just as postpones in prison. It postpones behavior, it doesn't make the behavior better.
BATTISTA: I guess what you'd have to ask, too, though, Robert Butterworth, is that because 95 percent of the kids who have been spanked as children turnout just fine, doesn't it make you wonder whether there are other factors involved in there than just spanking if there are issues later?
BUTTERWORTH: Yes. And, you know, we're really at a crossroads in this issue. I mean, you know, a lot of parents have become feeling guilty because they've equated the word spanking with the word beating and they feel so guilty about it. But in our schools, we have another problem. And my wife is also a teacher. We have a lot of children that do not show respect. They're out of control. They don't have any respect for authority, and the reinforcements, you know, giving them a little M&M when they're good don't seem to work. There is an element of fear. Now granted I'm not in for paddling children with boards, I'm not into hurting children when you're angry, but there has to be an element of fear. And it appears that our kids have lost it. And when you talk to teachers all over the country, they keep saying, "The children don't respect me." Children don't respect teachers. Children don't respect parents, and they're not afraid. And reinforcement doesn't seem to be working in this area.
BATTISTA: Well, does reinforcement start coming off -- Dr. Brothers, does it start coming off as permissiveness?
It's not -- children want their parents' good wishes. They want their parents to love them, they want their parents' attention. If they can't get their parents attention in a positive way, they'll get it in a negative way. And kids who are harshly spanked and punished at home will behave at home and be hellions in school. And children who are beaten in school will be hellions at home, they'll behave in school. We need the kind of training of kids so that they internalize this is right, this is wrong. "I'm not beating on my little brother not because I'm going to get caught and spanked. I'm not beating on my little brother because it's wrong to do."
BUTTERWORTH: And with all due respect to Dr. Brothers, I mean I'm not using the word "beating" but there are some children, and I understand what you're saying. There are some children that don't have that internal. The internal doesn't work. We all want kids to do things because it's right, but there are some kids we have to admit that, in our society, that need the external, that need the police, that need rules, that internals and the reinforcement don't work. And that's why we're in this mess in our society right now.
BROTHERS: Why does it work in other countries?
RYAN: Can I get in on this?
BATTISTA: Yes, go ahead.
RYAN: We know that there are children who make a habit of running in the street. Their parents tell them it's the wrong thing to do. They lecture them. They take their privileges away. But still, they run in the street or they play with matches, or they beat up on their little brother. In those situations, it is the most humane thing to do to teach a child through some mild spanking. And again, Dr. Butterworth's point about not beating is crucial here. We're talking about an age old way that race has used to pass on the wisdom to children. For some children in some situations it is the appropriate way for them to learn right behavior.
FATHMAN: May I get in on this?
BATTISTA: Yes, quickly, Robert, then I've got to take a break.
FATHMAN: OK, listen. Psychologists -- psychologists here, I want to tell Dr. Butterworth our psychological association has long been opposed to corporal punishment in schools. He's a minority and espousing that.
BUTTERWORTH: Political decision. Not a (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a political decision.
FATHMAN: No, it's based on research. It's based on good solid research. All of the research shows it's not helpful. Kevin just was saying, you know, well, we can't reason with children to keep them from running in the street. It's more humane to hit them. Well, you know, let's take an...
RYAN: I didn't say hit them. I didn't say hit them.
FATHMAN: ... aged person with Alzheimer's. Is it more humane to hit them? Well, you know, hitting is hitting. You look up spanking in the dictionary, it's hitting. Is it humane to hit a grandmother who's running into the street? No. We have to look at does the end justify the means. It does not. Two-year-old children, if they're running in the street, that's because somebody isn't holding their hand. Someone's letting them near the school. Hitting is not the way to approach human problems.
RYAN: My dictionary says spanking is applying the palm of the hand to the back of the lap. And I think you're trying to win the argument by going to the extremes here.
BATTISTA: I've got to take a break here. We'll go to the audience and continue in just a moment.
ANNOUNCER: According to the Department of Education, school paddlings dropped by more than half over the past 20 years. During the 1979, 1980 school year, 1.4 million children got paddled. In 1989 to 1990, that number dropped to 613,000. By 1993, '94, schools used corporal punishment 470,000 times.
BATTISTA: E-mails. Jay Cane in Detroit, Michigan says, "As a former teacher, I have spent years observing the results of banning corporal punishment. Students feel free to assault teachers with impunity, and teachers are left helpless."
M. Ballard in Dallas says: "Any adult using violence as punishment for children teaches that child that violent behavior is OK to resolve problems." I want to come back to that point but let me take these phone calls because these guys have been hanging for a while. Paul in Maine. Go ahead, Paul.
CALLER: Hi, can you hear me OK?
CALLER: OK. I just want to say that discipline really belongs at home. I believe paddling in schools should be disallowed. It's a form of abuse, in my opinion.
BATTISTA: All right.
CALLER: I'm sorry?
BATTISTA: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt.
CALLER: OK. It's OK.
BATTISTA: Are you done?
CALLER: I do have a question, though. If a parent wishes not -- if a parent wishes for their children not to be spanked, what gives the school district a right to spank the child?
BATTISTA: Robert, let me throw that to Robert, quickly. I think that in most districts, can't the parents work out an agreement?
FATHMAN: No, they cannot. The state laws in 22 of the 23 states the allow corporate punishment do not honor parents' request to reject the use of corporal punishment. Only the state of Ohio allows parents to object, and they have their objection honored.
But even here in Ohio, they do not solicit a parent's opinion, like they would to give a child an aspirin or send them on a field trip. They just go ahead and paddle unless a parent has taken their own initiative to file a letter in the child's records saying paddling is not allowed. In all the other 22 states, the schools can do it, and parents' objections do not have to be honored and usually are not.
BATTISTA: That doesn't seem right.
Kevin, let's go back -- I've gotten a slew of e-mails here, and we've seen the comments on the screen there about violence begetting violence. Are we teaching students to solve their problems with violence if they're spanked?
RYAN: No. First of all, by the way, I agree with the point made that the parents -- if they say, my child shouldn't be spanked, the child shouldn't be spanked.
On the other hand, I think the schools should feel very free then, to separate a child who is disruptive, disrespectful, who is really causing havoc in the school.
BATTISTA: But on the issue of violence, so many people believe that, you know, if you use violent punishment on children, that that's what it's teaching them.
RYAN: I heard the studies quoted by -- or the point made by Dr. Brothers. But there's substantial research, and it's by Robert Larzelere from Boys Town who has done extensive studies of spanking. And he comes to very, very different conclusions than Dr. Brothers. There's a lot of evidence that this is a positive way to help children to gain self-discipline.
BUTTERWORTH: You know, well, you want to talk about research. Let's talk about common sense. How many folks went to Catholic schools? I did. Remember your hands out there? Remember getting the slap ? Well, all my friends, including myself, we're not angry. We've never been arrested. And I think there's hundreds of thousands of people who have gone through this process. They're the real research, and they're not disturbed. They're not angry. How do the researchers explain this?
BATTISTA: I've got to take a quick break here. And I think it's just interesting that people really can't come to a consensus on whether or not spanking, whether it's in the schools or at home, is one way or not on children, but the audiences are working very hard at coming up with alternatives to spanking. So we're going to talk a little bit about that in our second half. But Robert Fathman and Kevin Ryan, thank you both very much for joining us today.
And in a moment, we'll also talk to the Louisiana school superintendent whose district is facing paddling lawsuits. Back in a moment.
BATTISTA: Welcome back. Earlier we talked with an attorney for two children whose parents suing to have spanking banned in their Louisiana school district. On the phone with us now is Dan Leslie, who is superintendent of the Sabine Parish school district where the paddlings took place.
Mr. Leslie, thank you for joining us.
DAN LESLIE, SABINE PARISH SCHOOL SUPT.: Hello.
BATTISTA: Do you support what happened in these two instances at the school there? Did the principal exercise the right judgment? Was this a proper punishment?
LESLIE: The spanking is allowed, according to Louisiana state law, and according to the local Parish policies. And I can't discuss the matter any further particularly, except to state the fact that the policies were followed, and the law that allows that policy was followed.
BATTISTA: Well, what is that policy? I mean, who makes the decision as to when and why and how paddling is administered?
LESLIE: That's at the discretion of the principal. Certainly, other measures other than corporal punishment are normally administered prior to any corporal punishment being administered. And there are a number of steps that are typically taken prior to corporal punishment being administered.
BATTISTA: So for the most part, it is arbitrary, though, and it can happen as the punishment for a first-time offense, or...
LESLIE: Right. The policy and the law states that corporal punishment should be a last resort, as it were. But it doesn't say that it must be.
BATTISTA: So, other forms of discipline, you say, are also used in the district. LESLIE: That's correct.
BATTISTA: But again, it's arbitrary, or subjective.
LESLIE: That's true. But for a student to be sent to the principal, generally, I can say that the teacher has already conducted numerous disciplinary measures prior to that student being sent to the office, to the principal.
BATTISTA: And how do you feel, as an educator, how do you feel personally about the use of corporal punishment? Do you think it's effective?
LESLIE: I think that it is a deterrent to misappropriate behavior. It is a type of punishment that has been used throughout history as a form of discipline for children.
BATTISTA: All right, Mr. Leslie. Thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate that. Let me go the audience here quickly. And, Matt, comment?
MATT: I had a teacher that -- his creative way was he had a dice roll and it had certain punishments listed on it such as: Clean the erasers or maybe turn around in the back of the class or copy a page from a dictionary.
So when someone acted up they'd have to throw that dice roll. Whatever came up is what they had to do, so...
BATTISTA: Yes, Joyce Brothers and Robert Butterworth, it is so clear that neither the experts nor the population can agree on how spanking may or may not affect children as they go through life. So the thing that jumps out to me is obviously there must be a better way, something we can agree on that perhaps is more effective and that doesn't leave any sort of effects.
BROTHERS: There is a better way. Very carefully -- some studies done in Portland, Oregon related the amount of physical punishment to the vandalism in school, and there is a direct relationship.
Why are we perfectly able to put a prisoner in isolation, put him alone or putting her alone, but we are -- it is absolutely against the law to beat or to hit or to physically punish? A, it doesn't work and B, it's cruel. We need to be able to do the appropriate thing at the appropriate time.
Any two things that happen together tend to be connected. If you are smoker, for example, and it's cold out and you are waiting for the bus to come and you light up a cigarette, the bus shows up, you know how to get a bus from that point on, you can just light up a cigarette. When a kid breaks a vase, you say: "Wait until daddy gets home and you'll get punished." The punishment gets attached to daddy's homecoming.
We need to behave immediately, we need to behave appropriately, and we also need to do rewards immediately, not long-term, far off, or removal of privileges immediately short-term, not "you're grounded for life" kind of thing.
Well, on the one hand, you know, you have to be careful looking at the studies where you light up a cigarette, and the bus comes, because people say, "Well, gee, I'll light up a cigarette and the bus will come."
BUTTERWORTH: You know, we are at the crossroads in our society. You know, we do have corporal punishment. Less than two weeks from now, Timothy McVeigh is going to take that lonely walk.
And I think as a society, we are becoming less tolerant of people when they become older, that are out of control. And basically, what I'm saying is obviously you don't use corporal punishment in most cases, but there are times, in order to save the child, in order to turn him around, in order to remember to say: "Hey, listen, these reinforcement theories working on 95 percent of the kids, 5 percent they may not work."
We have to frighten them, because if we don't do it now, society will do it later, and it will be more horrendous.
BATTISTA: To the audience and Stephen.
STEPHEN: Well, I have been thinking a lot about the perspective I would have if I were a principal and the teacher came to me who had done this. I would probably be wanting to coach that teacher. So, why don't we consider that the failure and the place to work on is the teachers to get more effective?
And if not every teacher has to do it, then some teachers maybe could be teaching other teachers. And I wonder if the learning is stopped in that Louisiana school that those teachers can't develop themselves further to be more effective.
BATTISTA: We got to take a break. We will be back in just a moment.
Eleven countries have banned corporal punishment by parent or guardians: Sweden, Israel, Austria, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Cyprus, Finland, Norway, Latvia and Croatia.
BATTISTA: Two sides of this story here in our e-mails. Tim in Philadelphia says: "I believe that children today are not respectful or society and authority. When I was a child, I was spanked when I got out of line, and other children were paddled in school. Unlike children today, we had respect for adults and society, as well as our teachers. I never have seen a child physically bruised from a modest spanking."
Rob in Nashville says, though: "Students may not respect teachers, but respect is a two-way street. When I was in high school, I was a straight-A student, but I had no respect for my teachers because they showed none to me. They treated their students like potential criminals, and we responded in kind. Perhaps, the students aren't the only ones who need to be paddled."
Let me go to the audience. I hope that -- I'm sorry for Rob, I would to hate to think that teachers would treat a straight-A -- or any student, for that matter -- like that. June.
JUNE: Yes, as I was saying before, we got spanked in school, but I came from a small community where the teachers knew the parents, the parents knew the teachers, and we pretty much went to church together and everything. So, the parents worked hand-in-hand with the teachers. So, if you got a spanking at school, you better believe when the teacher got and told your mother, you got another spanking when you got home.
But I think the problem is today is that the teachers and parents, they don't work together. There's no communication. The children are dropped off at school, and I think a lot of times the parents expect the teachers to raise them, and they can't. The parents don't know who the teachers are, the teachers don't know who the parents are. There's no communication, pretty much what some of the people have said here today.
BATTISTA: Well, Robert, I guess it's safe to say that the folks who are setting these policies in the schools that still have corporal punishment are -- I'm guessing, are doing so with input from their communities. I mean, they're probably doing what the community wants. Don't you think? Robert?
BUTTERWORTH: Well, you know, it probably is, but there's an important link between the parents and teachers. You know, let's use Los Angeles as an example.
My wife is a teacher. In the Los Angeles school district, you don't touch children. But not only that, you know, as a teacher, you almost have to be careful not to give a child a dirty look, or even raise your voice, because parents would just turn around and use that as a way to attack the teacher.
There is no connection, in many cases, between parents and teachers. It's almost an adversarial relationship, because a lot of parents have this philosophy that their children can do no bad. They are always wonderful. And it causes so much disruption, and then we see how these kids turn out later on.
BATTISTA: Yes, I second that. My sister is teacher in Evanston, Illinois, and she runs into that same thing in middle school. I mean, it's -- you are right: The parents are a little disconnected from their kids, and the way they may be acting in school is entirely different than how they act at home. I don't know.
Dr. Brothers, what do we do about that?
BROTHERS: Well, I think, first of all, we have to start way back with the fact children want desperately for their parents to love them, to admire them, to bring the -- the parents are the ambassadors to the world, and they want so much for their parents to love them and pay attention to them. And if the parent does pay attention and does care, then you get a lot of activity on the part of parents with the school hand in hand. And when you have a good PTA and when you've got parents involved and finding out what the teacher's feeling and what the teachers -- where the teachers are having trouble, and some parents having the time to spend time assisting the teacher, when you've got that kind of coordination, then you've got a school that's running along, and teaching children how to read, how to do math, how to do the things other than simply disciplining them and trying to keep them from running all over the school.
BATTISTA: Kevin in our audience, you're from a family of teachers.
BROTHERS: Wait. I'm sorry.
BROTHERS: I lost you.
KEVIN: Yes. My parents are both teachers. They taught for about six years combined. The job is teacher, not punisher, enforcer of rules. I believe that it's against -- it should be the parents' decision what happens. It's the parents -- it's up to the parents. They need to be more involved.
If a student acts out, the teachers call -- or the teachers call the parents, bring them out of work, maybe let that happen one or two times, and I think things will end up a lot clear and I think the students will respect the teachers a lot more and the parents will respect the teacher.
BATTISTA: And this suggestion as we go to break, Margaret in Elgin, Illinois says: "I wonder whatever happened to the dunce cap and putting kids in the corner."
We'll take a break and continue in a moment.
BATTISTA: I was just laughing with the audience as I was saying that, but at one point in time at school, I had to write on a blackboard 500 times "I will not talk back." Look what I'm doing today.
OK, Loretta has been holding on the phone for a while. Loretta, thanks for holding. Go ahead.
LORETTA: Yes. My statement is about what -- the first school I went to was Catholic school, and in first grade, my teacher, a nun, smacked me in the face in front of my entire class simply because I asked her a question. She was irritated about it.
The following year I went to a public school where they home permission slips for their parents to sign whether they wanted their children to be spanked or not. Thankfully, my parents signed no. And it's my opinion it should be up to the parent, not the government and not a school board, whether your kid should be spanked or not. And if the parent says it's OK, then it's OK, within reason.
BATTISTA: Would you both agree with that?
BUTTERWORTH: Well, you know, the problem...
BROTHERS: I think that -- I think the problem is that it's the parents who don't care enough for their kids who wouldn't even bother sending in a little note.
BUTTERWORTH: And yes, in an ideal world, I mean, we would nominate Dr. Brothers for president because everyone would be cooperating together. But when we have a situation in society when parents aren't doing their job, if the teachers don't do their job, this may be the last contact where kids can learn until they're thrown out in society.
BATTISTA: Guys, got to go. Thank you both so much for joining us: Dr. Brothers, Robert Butterworth, appreciate your...
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