Imam W. Deen Muhammad
QUESTION: Why did you order spanking (corporal punishment) ceased at Sister Clara Muhammad School?
IMAM: Corporal punishment in the school was discontinued because it presented a real problem. People brought us into court, in Detroit, Mich. on a child abuse case. A teacher went beyond the proper measure of correction or punishment and injured the child. The community was involved in a suit because of that.
At that time I decided that there should be no corporal punishment in the schools, based on that particular case. But I recall incidents in the history of the University of Islam which was the elementary school—one principal was charged with breaking the fingers of a child.
I recall others being charged with inflicting serious whelps on the child's flesh. All of these past incidents just came back to my mind. I recall a teacher raising a heavy wooden chair about to hit a child over the head...the child was not hit...but I witnessed this myself in the history of our school.
Knowing the high intensity of violence that is in the atmosphere of the West now—including America and many other countries—made me to fear for the community if we continued to allow teachers to administer corporal punishment in the schools.
Because the community is reported in public newspapers for having charges like this made against us by parents, it just puts more material in the hands of our critics. They want to belittle us anyway, so why should we do this?
And then again, I know that violence is encouraged in the children today. When I was a child, it was not encouraged, we were exposed to violence, but it was not encouraged.
The nature of many of the movies that many of the common people in the big cities watch, along with their children, are very violent movies—Kung Fu and all the other violence.
So violence is there, and the very burden that is in the life of the parent, the father—the mother in most cases because as you know, unfortunate children of the ghettos usually have just one parent in the home and it is usually the mother; that mother perhaps is already bitter, or feels herself fully burdened by the fact that she has been left holding the family in her arms with no husband there to help her.
So she has the sensitivity there already, and then the nature of the family life that modern times cause her to deal with as a parent just takes so much of her time—tests her emotional stability so much during the day that we can't make decisions in the school anymore as we once did in the past. We have to take all these new developments into consideration.
If there is no real conscience that is responsible in the children or in the parents either because of the modern time and pressures that are on parents and individuals, we can't use those old remedies anymore.
If we say that corporal punishment is allowed, perhaps they would be administering corporal punishment to a kid who thinks he's tough, and he's "feeling his Wheaties" or -Cheerios," and then the child fights back and gets hurt—then you have a disgraceful scene there that would ruin the reputation of that school for many years to come.
So if we study the rise of violence in our society, and the diminished responsibility in adults and in children, I think we will understand that decision.
I still say, none of our schools should administer corporal punishment. They should leave that to the parent. If the parent can't do it then they should tell the parent that we have to be more selective next term—we may not accept your child next term, because you are doing nothing to correct your child's behavior.