Thu | Oct 18, 2018

Alternatives to corporal punishment

Published:Sunday | December 20, 2015 | 12:00 AMGeraldine Garwood, Contributor

Corporal punishment violates the rights of children in relation to their physical (bodily) integrity and human dignity (sense of self-respect/self-worth). It can impact children's rights to education, development, and health by causing serious physical and psychological harm.

Corporal punishment can teach children that violence is an acceptable and appropriate strategy for conflict resolution or to get people to do what is required. It is an ineffective approach to disciplining children. If corporal punishment is maintained, it may become challenging to protect children, and some forms or levels of violence against children may become acceptable.

There are a number of factors that contribute to students displaying inappropriate behaviours. Some of these include:

- The child may not know what socially appropriate behaviour is.

- The child may not have observed models of socially appropriate behaviour because of poor parenting.

- Lack of practice in behaving appropriately - children can tell you what they should do, but do not do it.

- Children may have emotional responses that interfere with their behaving appropriately - they need to be taught how to control emotional responses.

- The need for acceptance and to be respected.

- The need for emotional and physical security.


Alternatives to corporal punishment - PBIS

There are positive ways to teach, correct or discipline children that are better for their development and will help them build relationships based on trust and mutual respect. One such intervention is the Positive Behaviour Intervention Support (PBIS) system. This system provides teachers with a behaviour modification approach that will eliminate the use of corporal punishment.

PBIS is a multi-tiered systematic approach to minimise inappropriate behaviours and increase academic and social functioning for all types of students. It can be used as a framework by any school to help to enhance the social and learning behaviours of students and decrease disruptions that interfere with instruction. PBIS utilises a three-tier model of service delivery.


Tier 1 - Primary Prevention

- Intervention that targets all students and promotes a positive school environment by increasing pro-social behaviours, emotional well-being, skills development, and mental health.

- Includes schoolwide programmes that nurture a harmless and caring learning environment that engages students, are culturally aware, promote social and emotional learning, and develop a connection between school, home, and community.

- The strategies should reflect the specific needs of the school population in relation to targeting the most severe problem behaviours.

- Expected behaviours should be defined and taught to all members of the school population.

- Data review should guide the design of Tier 1 strategies such that 80 per cent of the students are expected to experience success.


Tier 2 - Secondary Prevention

- Interventions that are targeted methods to meet the needs of 15 per cent of students who require more than Tier 1 interventions and support.

- Early identification of students who may be at risk for mental-health concerns because of specific risk factors.

- Interventions begin early after the onset of an identified concern.

- Target individual students or subgroups of students whose risk of developing mental-health concerns is higher than average (e.g., death of a parent; moving from one school to another; or exposure to violence and trauma)

- Skill-building at the individual and group level as well as support groups.

- Utilises an inclusive developmental approach that is collective, culturally sensitive and geared towards functional skill development, and/or increasing protective factors for students and their families.

- Variety of intervention services made available to students.

- Data review should guide decision making.


Tier 3 - Tertiary Prevention

- Intervention for five per cent of students who are identified as having the most severe, chronic, or prevalent problems that may or may not meet diagnostic criteria.

- Interventions are implemented through the use of an extremely individualised, all-inclusive and developmental approach that uses a collective team process.

- Interventions are set out to reduce risk factors and increase the protective factors of students.

- Includes multifaceted function-based behaviour-support plans that address problem behaviour at home and at school.

- Data review should guide decision making.

This systematic approach uses a structured consequence and reinforcement methodology

for maintaining appropriate behaviours of students.

The Jamaica Theological Seminary has been contracted by the Ministry of Education to train educators in the application of the PBIS behaviour-management system. Vere Technical High is one of 47 schools that have received PBIS training so far. Teachers at the school were recently recognised for using strategies from the PBIS programme to strengthen or reinforce appropriate student behaviour while systematically discouraging inappropriate ones.

The PBIS training prompted the use of a reward system where the positive behaviour of students was displayed instead of highlighting the negative ones. Strategies included rewarding classes that stood out in the area of cleanliness, and publicly commending students who remained in their classes while a teacher was absent.

Classes were also assigned given dates to decorate the notice boards with pictures, charts and comics highlighting the desired behaviours. The teachers felt appreciated to be recognised for promoting positive behaviour change. Over time, with training, educators can gain new skills and techniques to effectively promote discipline in the school environment.

- Geraldine Garwood is a clinical psychologist/behaviour analyst and PBIS trainer at the Jamaica Theological Seminary. Email feedback to