Cover Story

The death of discipline?

"The death of discipline?" Continued...

Issue: "The death of discipline?," June 26, 1999

Christian school administrators find such lawsuits ironic, since the vast majority of religious schools require parents to sign a form that specifically allows corporal punishment. "Parents today are less willing to accept discipline for their children," complains Carl Herbster, executive director of the American Association of Christian Schools. "They want the product of Christian schools without the process, which is loving discipline."

Burt Carney, director of legal and legislative issues for the Association of Christian Schools International, agrees: "Fifteen to 25 years ago, if the school disciplined a student, the student would get it again when they got home. That's certainly changed." He says that some parents will sign a discipline agreement in order to get the academic benefits of a Christian education, even though they are not in philosophical agreement with the school's discipline policies.

And it's not just students who refuse to accept discipline. In New York City, a 26-year-old teacher left Allen Christian School when she became pregnant out of wedlock. Principal Elaine Flake initially offered to keep Michelle Ganzy on the payroll, but in a less high-profile position outside the classroom. The teacher refused the transfer and is now suing the school for sexual discrimination. Though she signed a statement pledging that her "temperament and lifestyle are in accordance with the will of God and the Holy Scriptures," she insists that her contract did not explicitly ban premarital sex.

"I was shocked, devastated," Ms. Ganzy says of the firing. "My self-esteem went very low.... I couldn't understand how the school could be so cruel."

In the so-called therapeutic culture of late-20th-century America, harming the self-esteem of a wrongdoer is often considered worse than the original wrong. Even the church is not immune, Mr. Dobson warns.

"You begin to hear the same rhetoric inside the church that is being spoken throughout the culture," he notes. "The culture is like a raging river. It takes nearly everything downhill with it. The church is a function of culture and tends to move with the force of the flow. If you want to oppose the rush of the culture, you've got to put a lot of effort into it."

A lot of effort indeed. And some really good lawyers.

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