Bad Coach

Chicago public schools (CPS) are proposing new policy. They want to make it clear to CPS coaches what behaviors are prohibited, after it came to light that several coaches were using corporal punishment on students. Here’s what they’ve come up with:

  • “Slapping, hitting, pushing, shaking, twisting, pinching, choking, swatting, head-banging, paddling or use of any type of object or instrument that has contact with a student. . . . Forcing a student to stand or kneel for an inordinate period of time, forcing a student into a position that causes pain.”
  • “Coaches shall avoid displays of temper toward students, staff and members [of] the school community.”

(Chicago Board of Education, proposed bylaws)

I can’t believe such rules are necessary in 2009. Haven’t we made any progress in how we treat children? Apparently, not…

What were the coaches thinking to (allegedly) do any of those things? When I was in school, being punished by a coach meant doing laps or push ups. Those exercises were neither humiliating nor painful. The behaviors being explicitly prohibited by CPS sound like bullying and hazing tactics to me. Those are things we are trying to eradicate from our society, instead of promoting.

Perhaps most disturbing, coaches set the standard of behavior for their players. What were the players being taught? To be violent and mean-spirited? To take advantage of any position of power? That they don’t deserve the most basic respect? Shouldn’t they have been taught about fair play and the benefits of a meritocracy?

Ironically, where corporal punishment is allowed, schools are given more protection from child abuse allegations than parents. Teachers have a mandatory duty to report suspicions of child abuse at home. But, who reports the teachers when the students are afraid to tell and the parents are unaware?

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