The Protect Children Project
The Protect Children Project not only describes a social ill, it provides an original solution that empowers children to understand and use their constitutional rights to protect themselves from unwanted physical and psychological harm in public institutions. Cevin Soling, the creator of documentary film The War on Kids, is a consultant to the Project and he writes:
The challenge is not based on the concept that things like corporal punishment are abusive (since the Supreme Court has decided in 1977 that they are not!), but rather that they violate the civil rights of students who have deeply held beliefs that oppose this treatment.
In order to invoke this, a religious organization is required to step forward to make a statement that hitting children is wrong. Unfortunately most religions encourage hitting kids. Fortunately, one organization has stepped up—The Satanic Temple—and they have said that the physical and psychological abuse of people (which includes children) against their will goes against their beliefs.
I and they are encouraging students to affirm this belief online so that their school boards can be put on notice that if they harm children it is a civil rights violation, which has criminal consequences. The students do not have to be religious or belong to any organization—they just have to sincerely believe that being hit or placed in solitary confinement is wrong.
Adults can help out too by passing out letters for students to sign and give to their principals letting them know of their beliefs and by encouraging them to register online at www.protectchildrenproject.com
Children in the nineteen states that explicitly allow corporal punishment in schools have no protection from being beaten by their teachers and administrators and their parents often support such actions. The Project notes that even in states that don’t permit corporal punishment it is increasingly common to use solitary confinement to control students (in educational practice these places are called seclusion rooms, isolation rooms, decompression rooms, time-out rooms, or scream rooms). This confinement is considered inhumane for adult prisoners and is being challenged in courts, but it is a growing practice in states that outlawed corporal punishment in school.
Several Supreme Court decisions have institutionalized these practices and whittled away students’ rights, such as Ingraham v. Wright (1977). Soling writes about this case:
What is notable is not simply that corporal punishment was not found to be unconstitutional even in response to trivial non-criminal behavior, and despite the fact that such actions are not permissible on any other segment of the population, including prisoners, but that the Court ruled that due process is not required prior to the instigation of violent reprisals against students.
“Student” is a convenient label to dehumanize a child and place them in a role that defines them by how they do in school rituals and tests; in the name of making a better student, we run children through an educational gauntlet, but in some states that gauntlet includes severe punishment that is disproportionately meted out to African-American boys, in particular (supporting data can be found on these fact sheets).
Note this campaign solely and explicitly involves public schools and is not about homeschooling. Though parents can be guilty of abuse, they can't be guilty of civil rights violations, which is what this campaign hinges upon.
Empowering children to question authority, take control of their bodies and minds, and become active citizens rather than passive students is not high on the agendas of religious and educational institutions, since they consider physical and psychological punishments to be necessary components of their teaching processes. This is why I’m writing about the Protect Children Project—its primary purpose is to end corporal punishment in school—and they have declared May 15, 2014, as Protect Children Day.
May 15th is Protect Children Day. We ask that people all over the USA go to their local schools and, without standing on school property, hand out copies of this letter to students on their way to and from school. Students who agree with the contents can then sign the letter and deliver it to their school principals.
Some volunteers will be identifying themselves with a T-Shirt that can be purchased at our store. Otherwise, we suggest wearing a red shirt that indicates that you are a volunteer.
Here is a copy of the letter that will be given to students who request it.
Dear School Principal:
Please be advised that my sincerely held beliefs include preservation of body and mind from unwanted physical and psychological harm. Consistent with this, any form of physical punishment, including being hit, as well as any kind of psychological torture, including the use of solitary confinement or any kind of physical, mechanical, or chemical restraint, would explicitly violate my sincerely held beliefs.
Therefore, in order to preserve my civil rights and my right to freely exercise my deeply held beliefs, I respectfully request that you inform all teachers and faculty that they may not physically punish me or inflict any kind of pain. In addition, they may not subject me to conditions that involve psychological suffering such as placing me in solitary confinement or utilizing any form of physical restraint.
I hope this letter will assist you in understanding how important both the sanctity of the body and mind are and that these kinds of punishments would infringe on my civil rights and my right to religious freedom under the Constitution of the United States of America.
While I am confident that you will make sure that my beliefs are respected, it is worth noting that violently interfering with Constitutional rights and liberties is a criminal act that may be prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
This Project is being done under the aegis of The Satanic Temple, which adds to the controversy and made me pause before deciding to write about this. Here’s how the group describes itself:
The mission of The Satanic Temple is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people. In addition, we embrace practical common sense and justice. As Satanists we all should be guided by our conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by our individual wills. We believe that this is the hope of all mankind and the highest aspiration of humanity.
As an organized religion, we feel it is our function to actively provide outreach, to lead by example, and to participate public affairs wheresoever the issues might benefit from rational, Satanic insights.
I am not a Satanist nor am I encouraging anyone to become one; but I am seeking ways to create a climate and movement where children are treated with the same courtesy, respect, and dignity that all citizens should have and I welcome mixed allies, strange bedfellows, and others who want to work towards that one goal.