Port Arthur police are investigating an elementary school principal who reportedly hit fifth-grade students who performed poorly on practice tests last week.
The Beaumont Enterprise reported that the Port Arthur Independent School District has apologized for the behavior of Travis Elementary School Principal Bessie Johnson, a 40-year district employee. One student and his mother told the Port Arthur News that Johnson had the entire fifth grade line up in the hall and point to their scores on the practice test for the über-important State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or "STAAR," which probably has a whole section devoted to acronyms.
The boy's mother told the paper that "the students were told to sit on their knees if they had failed...and they remained on their knees for an extended period of time while the principal walked down the hall hitting them individually on the back, wrist and arms."
The school district has been mum on how, if at all, Johnson was disciplined, since that sort of thing is classified as a "personnel matter." However, Mark Porterie, the deputy superintendent, was quick to point out that "Mrs. Johnson runs a wonderful campus. The school is actually a recognized campus and never have we had a problem such as this from that campus." (The school's motto is "Committed to Excellence," but we think it should be changed to "Committed to Excellence -- Or Else!").
Porterie also told the Port Arthur News that "We agree there are numerous other ways to encourage students to do better in their academic classes."
Frankly, we tried to think of better motivational tools than hitting, but we came up empty-handed. So we called Porterie to brainstorm. He immediately referred us to the detective in charge of the investigation, but when we told him we wanted to get a more academic perspective on things, he was game. We asked for examples, besides hitting, that are a good way to encourage kids.
"There's always the fact that you talk to children, that you encourage them, and just overall, just love the students. And I'll leave it at that," he said, and added later, "There are...several ways to encourage children to do better. And that's what I meant with that statement."
HB: Would it help if [we] threw some suggestions out there?
HB: Tugging on their ears really, really hard. Is that a good way to encourage them?
MP: No, no, no.
HB: Kicking them in the shins.
MP: No, definitely not.
HB: Giving them a few sharp licks with a belt.
MP: Definitely not.
HB: What about just verbally mocking them? You know, maybe if there's some sort of handicap or noticeable physical defect?
MP: No, definitely not.
HB: Spitting on them?
MP: Oh God, no.
HB: What about, like, arming two of them with switchblades and having them do a battle?
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MP: No, no, no, no -- definitely not....Let's hope our country never, ever gets to that point.
Well, there you have it. He shot down all our ideas on the best way to get kids to do better on tests. Guess we'll never be able to be a principal in Port Arthur.