A recurring issue on this blog is how to deal with out-of-control children in the classroom. Hundreds of you responded to the story last month on the police handcuffing of a 6-year-old kindergartner in Milledgeville, most expressing support for the school’s decision to bring in police.
This new AJC story did not take place in the classroom but it neatly reflects the dilemma of how to handle kids who may be endangering others. In this case, the other was a cat recovering from surgery in the waiting room of a north Fulton’s vet office. The story speaks to how conflicted we are as to what to do about kids whose parents either can’t or won’t restrain them.
My husband and I debated this story this morning. He contends that the frantic cat owner crossed the line when he swatted the 4-year-old who was allegedly harassing the man’s sick cat.
As I have said many times, I don’t believe in corporal punishment at home or in school. Beyond nostalgia, there is nothing that suggests beating kids produces better behaved or healthier human beings. In fact, the research suggests the opposite. There is hardly a child in juvenile lockup who was not raised by the belt, cord or switch.
But I don’t have a problem with a pet owner lightly swatting a kid’s backside because the child is sticking his hand in the cage of sick animal and will not heed warnings to stop. Nor is the parent, for whatever reason, stopping the child. The child’s actions posed a danger to himself and the sick animal.
Given the facts as reported, the arrest of the pet owner seems an extreme response.
I had a conversation this week with a parent who wanted to complain about the attitude and comments of a teacher who took her daughter’s phone from her in class. I asked if phones were allowed in the classroom, and the mom told me they were not. I told the mom that there was nothing else really left to discuss. Whether the teacher was abrasive in how she took the phone or in the tone she used to the errant student didn’t matter to me if the kid was in open violation of a classroom policy.
I find an increasingly odd attitude among parents: Yes, my kid did something wrong, but you weren’t nice in how you responded and that’s what we ought to be fixing.
A woman who called police to the scene said she had brought a family pet into the clinic, and was in the waiting room with her 4-year-old son. The mother told an officer that “she was having trouble controlling her son,” the police report said.
Trouble began when the boy reached for a cat in a carrier. The cat belonged to 42-year-old Russel B. Baughcum. The cat recently had surgery, and the Suwanee man was there to pick it up. Baughcum told the officer that the youngster repeatedly reached for the animal, the incident report said. The man said he told the child to stop, but the boy grabbed hold of the cage and tried to pull it off a chair. The man said he shouted, “Stop! Stop! Stop!” and struck the child lightly on his lower back and buttocks.
“Mr. Baughcum demonstrated that he struck the child in a back handed fashion, and that the contact was light enough that he didn’t think the child knew he had been touched,” the police report said. Two clinic employees said they witnessed the man strike the child on his rear when the boy tried to play with the cat, according to the incident report.
The boy’s mother insisted on pressing charges, so Baughcum was arrested and charged, police said. He was taken to the Fulton County Jail Alpharetta Annex. The veterinary clinic kept the cat for him to pick up later. Jail officials told Channel 2 that Baughcum posted $1,000 bond and was released Tuesday morning.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog