Lloyd: Society must decide way forward on corporal punishment

Minister says govt. won’t be sucked into debate without public input

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As debate rages on whether the government should discontinue the contentious practice of corporal punishment in the Bahamian education system, Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd suggested yesterday that government will not be “sucked into” determining that while parents in The Bahamas continue to beat their children in their homes.

According to the minister, corporal punishment is a cultural phenomenon, and for personnel in the Ministry of Education the topic has come up repeatedly with “varying degrees of interest, passions and urgency” over the past two decades as to whether to do away with the practice.

He said the subject was becoming topical once again.

“I say this Mr. Speaker, we are not going to be sucked into this conversation about corporal punishment unless or until the society decides it wants to deal with in terms of corporal punishment,” Lloyd said during the budget debate in Parliament.

“So, you ain’t going to put nothing on us while you half kill your child at home.

Corporal punishment is permitted in The Bahamas on children up to the age of 16. It can only be administered by an administrator and must be in the presence of another administrator or teacher, and never in the presence of another student or students.

Public debate on corporal punishment was reignited earlier this month after a photo of a student’s bruised and discolored buttocks made the rounds on social media.

There was mixed reaction among the public.

An administrator from St. Augustine’s College was arrested and charged with the beating that reportedly left the seventh-grade student’s buttocks bruised. However, the administrator was not arraigned when he appeared before Chief Magistrate Joyanne Ferguson-Pratt last week as police were still reviewing the matter.

Lloyd said he had no intention of speaking on any particular matter, but acknowledged that the issue needs to be addressed.

“We are going to have a conversation. We are going to bring in our stakeholders. We are going to have a robust discussion about this particular subject since it seems now that it needs to be revisited or should be revisited or it’s being called upon to be revisited — no problem.

“We are going to do that Mr. Speaker, but what I am also suggesting to you is that the society needs to have its own conversation about corporal punishment because parents believe — some parents I should say with due respect — that this is their inherent right, and as far as the United Nations Committee of Hume Right of the Child, no it isn’t; and that only in circumstances where there is no other option, and even then they don’t believe such circumstances exists Mr. Speaker…”

The United Nations Committee of Human Rights of the Child defines corporal or physical punishment as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light”.

Lloyd said he has received numerous calls from parents and teachers, some of whom have threatened him against removing corporal punishment in the education system.

He urged the public to discuss the issue at length so there can be a clear policy as a country as to the way forward.

“Education is happy to join in and have that conversation along with you,” he noted.

Lloyd said it is the view of the U.N. committee that corporal punishment is invariably degrading.

According to the committee, as pointed out by the minister, non-physical forms of punishment that are cruel and degrading, including punishment that belittles, humiliates, threatens, scars of ridicules a child is incompatible with the convention.

At current, 19 U.S. states allow public school personnel to use corporal punishment to discipline children in preschool through 12thgrade.