CNN Segment on Paddling Features Student Wearing Communist Insignia

[Update, 3:30 pm ET Wednesday: Video added, at right.]

Wednesday’s American Morning program on CNN ran a segment by correspondent Ed Lavandera on the practice of corporal punishment for students, which featured a Texas student speaking out against paddling who wore a red T-shirt -- which featured the communist hammer and sickle symbol, an insignia popular with regimes which presided over the torture and murder of hundreds of millions. Lavandera also ran three sound bites of individuals speaking out against the practice versus one principal who is in favor of it.

Lavandera interviewed student Joe Cancellare, who received "two swats" from a paddle at his Alpine, Texas school after being sent to the principal’s office for flinging rubber bands. Cancellare and his mother Andrea Cancellare, who was also interviewed, both object to this form of punishment. Lavandera stated that Ms. Cancellare "had earlier written a letter to the school expressing her vehement opposition to corporal punishment, and demanding that her son be exempted from the practice."

The CNN correspondent then reported that "Joe Cancellare's story is part of a corporal punishment report by the Human Rights Watch. They're fighting to ban the punishment. The group says about 220,000 public school students receive corporal punishment in the United States each year." This lead into a sound bite from Alice Farmer of Human Rights Watch, who lamented that corporal punishment "dries out the interest in learning. It makes students reluctant to go back to school. It makes them trust their teachers and principals much less." Lavandera also included the detail from HRW’s report that apparently "African-American students are disproportionately targeted, making up 35 percent of all students paddled in the year surveyed. By contrast, blacks make up 17 percent of the overall student population."

Lavandera concluded his report with another figure from HRW: "According to the group, Human Rights Watch, 21 states in the U.S. still allow for corporal punishment, a practice that has also been done away with in more than 100 countries worldwide." American Morning co-anchor Kiran Chetry then thanked Lavandera, and plugged the website of another anti-spanking organization, Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education.

The full transcript of Ed Lavandera’s report, which aired just before the top of the 7 am Eastern hour of Wednesday’s American Morning:

KIRAN CHETRY: Should teachers or school administrators be allowed to physically discipline your children? Well, the fight over corporal punishment is picking up steam in Texas. Our Ed Lavandera takes a look.

ED LAVANDERA: John and Kiran, another school year is set to begin and the debate over corporal punishment continues, And a family here in the west Texas town of Alpine wants to see the practice abolished.

Andrea Cancellare, Mother & Joe Cancellare, Student, With Ed Lavandera, CNN Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgLAVANDERA (voice-over): In a sixth grade math class, Joe Cancellare says he was flicking rubber bands at a classmate when the teacher sent him to the principal's office. Cancellare says he then got two swats. That's what kids at his school call getting paddled, the most common form of corporal punishment.

JOE CANCELLARE: Of course, I felt like really strange, like having this guy, like, hit me, you know. But I felt really uncomfortable, of course.

LAVANDERA: That angered Joe's mother, Andrea, who said she had earlier written a letter to the school expressing her vehement opposition to corporal punishment, and demanding that her son be exempted from the practice.

ANDREA CANCELLARE, STUDENT'S MOTHER: It's like the quick and dirty way of dealing with discipline problems, and I think -- I agree. I think it's the lazy way of dealing with kids who might be under-challenged and bored in class.

LAVANDERA: But supporters say corporal punishment should be one of several disciplinary actions available to school administrators. Alpine's superintendent, Jose Cervantes, argues it's like a coach who makes an athlete run laps for being late.

JOSE CERVANTES, ALPINE, TEXAS SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: It works on some and it doesn't work on others, and if you're one of the individuals that it does work on, yes, it will become a deterrent.

LAVANDERA: Joe Cancellare's story is part of a corporal punishment report by the Human Rights Watch. They're fighting to ban the punishment. The group says about 220,000 public school students receive corporal punishment in the United States each year.

ALICE FARMER, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: This dries out the interest in learning. It makes students reluctant to go back to school. It makes them trust their teachers and principals much less.

LAVANDERA: The report says African-American students are disproportionately targeted, making up 35 percent of all students paddled in the year surveyed. By contrast, blacks make up 17 percent of the overall student population. The study also found that many students see minor bruising from the paddling. Joe Cancellare wasn't bruised by the swats he got, but he says it stung for nearly an hour.

LAVANDERA (on-camera): According to the group, Human Rights Watch, 21 states in the U.S. still allow for corporal punishment, a practice that has also been done away with in more than 100 countries worldwide. John and Kiran, back to you.

CHETRY: Ed Lavandera for us, thanks. You can find out if your state bans corporal punishment on the website www.nospank.net.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center