Call to end corporal punishment in schools
Corporal punishment could be abolished throughout the Island's public schools following a review of the education system.
Government is under pressure to take action from at least one child welfare charity, which has described the practice as “dated and detrimental”
And a Ministry of Education spokesman has confirmed that a review of the policy will be carried out next year.
Under current law, public school principals can impose corporal punishment for a number of offences including “acts of violence or acts related to the possession, distribution or use of any controlled drug, alcohol, tobacco, knife or weapon on school premises or while in uniform on the way to or from school”.
Regulations also state that a school's principal or deputy principal must administer or witness the punishment and that it must be administered by a member of the same sex.
Yesterday, the Education Ministry spokesman said: “Corporal punishment is still on the law books in Bermuda. The Education Act 1996 and Education Rules 2006 are due for review and once that process begins, the Minister of Education will seek input from stakeholders around any changes that will enhance student achievement and the culture of our schools.
“It is anticipated that a review of the Act and Rules will occur in 2014. It would be fair to say that everything will be under review.”
Last night child safety watchdog the Coalition for the Protection of Children (CPC) welcomed the review, claiming that Bermuda had “a moral obligation and also a legal duty” to abolish the practice.
CPC executive director Nicole Feldman said: “The fact that Bermuda still allows corporal punishment as a method of discipline in our schools seriously needs to be reviewed.
“Claiming that corporal punishment is a cultural tool to instil discipline and order in our young people is a dated argument. More importantly, there is ample research to prove corporal punishment is not an effective method for discipline and has both short and long term detrimental effects on children.
“Research indicates that physical punishment does not promote long-term, internalised compliance in children and is actually associated with less internalisation of norms for appropriate behaviour and compliance.
“Furthermore, the mental health impact of corporal punishment results in children feeling distress, anger, fear, shame and disgust.”
Ms Feldman added that physical punishment was linked to higher levels of child aggression and antisocial behaviour, which continued into adulthood.
And she said that, as a signatory of a United Nations declaration banning punishment by physical force, Bermuda was obligated to make corporal punishment illegal.
“In 2006, the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child reaffirmed ‘the right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment',” Ms Feldman said.
“The committee further stated the obligation of all states to ‘move quickly to prohibit and eliminate all corporal punishment' and ‘to outline the legislative and other awareness-raising and educational measures that States must take' in order to address the widespread acceptance and tolerance of corporal punishment.
“It claims that any form of corporal punishment — defined as punishment using any physical force — is degrading to children, representing an infringement on their right to ‘respect for human dignity and physical integrity' as well as their right to protection from ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment'.
“As a de facto signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Bermuda has not only a moral obligation but technically, also a legal duty to reassess its cultural acceptance of physically harming our children in order to punish them, given these human rights issues in addition to the negative impacts that corporal punishment can have on children.