Video of teen's beating raises question all parents should ask

George Holden, psychology professor at SMU Dedman School of Humanities and Sciences, talks about Texas leading the nation in corporal punishment in schools.


Pops. Licks. Paddling. There are lot of benign ways to describe what happens when a grown-up goes after a teenager with a belt, but the gloss was stripped away this week when a young woman posted on YouTube a video of her father, a judge, waling away at her with a belt when she was 16 years old.

What we saw was violence. The video went viral, but I had to wonder: Was it real moral outrage or only voyeurism that prompted viewing after viewing? After all, half of Texans approve of corporal punishment as a behavior modification tool. And just this past spring, the Legislature almost killed a bill that would have let parents tell school districts they didn't want their kids spanked at school. Conservative lawmakers - going by the "spare the rod, spoil the child" model of parenting - defended school "paddling" until a Republican lawmaker convinced them that the bill was a statement in support of parental rights.

While acceptance of corporal punishment is declining, the U.S. Department of Education found more than 220,000 students nationwide were subjected to it in 2006....

One of 19 states that still permits school corporal punishment, Texas has "the dubious distinction of leading the nation … accounting for more than 49,000 cases" verified in 2006, according to psychology professor George Holden of Southern Methodist University. While many large districts - including HISD - forbid it, more than 1,000 others in Texas permit their schools' staffs to manage behavior by dispensing pain.

Holden doesn't want schools alone to "spare the rod;" he thinks parents need to find alternatives, as well. Research, he says, shows corporal punishment wins "compliant" behavior for only a few minutes, but can leave long-lasting psychological scars. "It's a terrible way to get a message across," he says. "The child is reacting to the pain and feeling emotional and angry."