Jimmy Dunne used to be a math teacher here in Houston many years ago and he paddled students himself.
“But I started thinking, ‘Why are we doing this? We don’t do this at home.’ And so I gradually stopped doing it, but I noticed some other teachers there who were getting some sadistic pleasures out of hitting kids hard and lifting them up off the floor with these hard swats.”
His fight to abolish corporal punishment in schools started 33 years ago Wednesday when he went before the Houston ISD school board about the matter.
Houston has since banned corporal punishment of students and so have most large school districts in the country. But the method remains legal in Texas, and many — especially rural — school districts continue to use it.
And Dunne continues to advocate.
“Basically, I write letters to school districts, to superintendents and school boards… And if it’s near Houston where a child is paddled and bruised, I’ll go and address the school board.”
In fact, Barbers Hill was in the news just last fall when a mother claimed her son’s paddling went too far and demanded the person responsible be fired.
State Rep. Alma Allen of Houston has tried many times to abolish corporal punishment in all Texas schools but without much success. She did succeed in giving parents the chance to opt out if they provide a written statement to the school board.
But Dunne doesn’t think that changed much.
“That’s a small step in the right direction. That was really true in most cases anyway because the schools would try to honor the parents’ wishes. There’s a few school districts that would ignore them but most of them would do it anyway, so that was not a big step.”
Texas is one of 19 states where corporal punishment of students is still legal. Supporters consider spanking or paddling a necessary means of disciplining an unruly child.
For Jimmy Dunne it remains an uphill battle against a longstanding tradition and lawmakers who are reluctant to make controversial changes.