Category Archives: end corporal punishment

Juvenile delinquents, thugs and hoodlums: then and now

West Side Story mocked the stereotypes of delinquents, their families, the legal system, the mental health profession and social services in the song “Gee Officer Krupke”. The blame (junkie mom, drunk dad, lazy kid, etc.) and the shift of responsibility from one problem solver (police officer, judge, psychiatrist, social worker) to another when none are able to fix a “bad” kid are linked and then come full circle to the first solution of arrest and jail.

A year before West Side Story was released The Harvard Crimson published “A Unique Solution to Juvenile Delinquency”.

Charles W. Slack, assistant professor of clinical psychology, began a radical new research program for changing delinquents into useful, job-holding citizens. Sometimes criticized by local social workers, discouraged by law enforcement authorities, Slack’s plan has drastically reduced crime among boys on whom it was applied.” 

Interesting… In “Gee Officer Krupke” the psychiatrist states: “This boy don’t need a doctor, just a good honest job.” The teen’s response to getting a job: “Dear kindly social worker, They say go earn a buck. Like be a soda-jerker, which means like be a schumck. It’s not I’m anti-social, I’m only anti-work.”

Who’s right? Professor Charles Slack or lyricist Stephen Sondheim? Actually… both.

“The “Streetcorner Research” program had to overcome the participants’ resistance to working. In order to encourage the boys they were paid no matter how late they arrived which gave “immediate reinforcement” for the desired behavior.

That’s logical. After all trying to steer children from delinquent behavior to responsible employment is a tough switch. The delayed gratification of a paycheck in two weeks can’t compete with the powerful adrenaline rush triggered by delinquent actions (drugs, stealing, skipping school) that’s coupled with “immediate reinforcement” (get high, quick cash, fun with friends vs. sitting in class).

Slack noticed that it wasn’t just about the money. “If you’re paying the kids, what they’re doing has got to be worth it.” As Sondheim captured having a menial job as a “soda-jerker” isn’t appealing when it’s perceived as meaningless. When my brother was a teen he worked at an ice-cream shop. When he was reprimanded for sitting on the counter he sarcastically replied to the manager “I do minimum work because I get paid minimum wage.” Luckily his comedic timing landed perfectly and ironically got a raise, more responsibility and never sat on the counter again. (Now he’s a professor using the same irreverent humor to engage his students.)

Also during the “Streetcorner Research” program the boys behavior changed because they knew they were being watched, a phenomenon known to scientists as the “Hawthorne effect”.  People in an experiment will change their behavior, simply because they are being observed. In addition to working the boys had to keep a journal and give written responses to questions like “Why kids foul up?” So not only were their actions being monitored but also their thoughts.

Paying attention to children/teens and listening to their problems fosters connection between them and adults. Children often feel invisible and even when they speak many feel misunderstood or unheard.  A 19-year-old in the “Streetcorner” program wrote: Kids always get the blame when something happens, and they don’t get to tell their side of a story, and even when do (which is very rare) no one believes them.

Teens today feel the same frustration as the West Side Story teens yelling at Officer Kupke “WE GOT TROUBLES OF OUR OWN!” before they drop to their knees and beg for the answer to “WHAT ARE WE TO DO?” 

Has the song lost the accuracy of its satirical despair?

Unfortunately some people will continue to stereotype “bad” kids.

Fortunately many positive changes have occurred since 1960 and Professor Slack’s radical ideas that weren’t widely accepted at the time are being implemented.

Notably this summer North Carolina became last state to ‘raise the age’ of teens in court. Instead of being treated as an adult in the justice system, 16 and 17-year-olds will be served in Juvenile Court.

Organizations like Gang Resistance Education And Training (GREAT) intend to prevent juvenile delinquency before it happens and diversion programs are available for youthful offenders. With supervised activities, community service and treatment for behavioral problems children and teens receive support that will guide their decisions and actions instead of punishing them as adults. Eric Andrews, coordinator of the Wake Teen Diversion Program said in an interview for the News & Observer “Should we penalize our kids for the rest of their lives for a mistake? These are still kids.”

He’s absolutely right – they are kids and now will be treated as such thanks to the dedication of concerned citizens, advocates and organizations like the Council for Children’s Rights.


Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
You gotta understand,
It’s just our bringin’ up-ke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we’re punks!
Gee, Officer Krupke, we’re very upset;
We never had the love that ev’ry child oughta get.
We ain’t no delinquents,
We’re misunderstood.
Deep down inside us there is good!
There is good!
There is good, there is good,
There is untapped good!
Like inside, the worst of us is good!

That’s a touchin’ good story.

Lemme tell it to the world!

Just tell it to the judge.
Dear kindly Judge, your Honor,
My parents treat me rough.
With all their marijuana,
They won’t give me a puff.
They didn’t wanna have me,
But somehow I was had.
Leapin’ lizards! That’s why I’m so bad!


Officer Krupke, you’re really a square;
This boy don’t need a judge, he needs an analyst’s care!
It’s just his neurosis that oughta be curbed.
He’s psychologic’ly disturbed!
I’m disturbed!
We’re disturbed, we’re disturbed,
We’re the most disturbed,
Like we’re psychologic’ly disturbed.

In the opinion on this court, this child is depraved on account he ain’t had a normal home.

Hey, I’m depraved on account I’m deprived.

So take him to a headshrinker.

My daddy beats my mommy,
My mommy clobbers me,
My grandpa is a commie,
My grandma pushes tea.
My sister wears a mustache,
My brother wears a dress.
Goodness gracious, that’s why I’m a mess!

Officer Krupke, you’re really a slob.
This boy don’t need a doctor, just a good honest job.
Society’s played him a terrible trick,
And sociologic’ly he’s sick!
I am sick!
We are sick, we are sick,
We are sick, sick, sick,
Like we’re sociologically sick!

In my opinion, this child don’t need to have his head shrunk at all. Juvenile delinquency is purely a social disease!

Hey, I got a social disease!

So take him to a social worker!
Dear kindly social worker,
They say go earn a buck.
Like be a soda jerker,
Which means like be a schumck.
It’s not I’m anti-social,
I’m only anti-work.
Gloryosky! That’s why I’m a jerk!

Officer Krupke, you’ve done it again.
This boy don’t need a job, he needs a year in the pen.
It ain’t just a question of misunderstood;
Deep down inside him, he’s no good!
I’m no good!
We’re no good, we’re no good!
We’re no earthly good,
Like the best of us is no damn good!

The trouble is he’s crazy. The trouble is he drinks. The trouble is he’s lazy. The trouble is he stinks. The trouble is he’s growing. The trouble is he’s grown.
Krupke, we got troubles of our own!

Gee, Officer Krupke,
We’re down on our knees,
‘Cause no one wants a fellow with a social disease.
Gee, Officer Krupke,
What are we to do?
Gee, Officer Krupke,
Krup you!

5 Must-Know Facts About Teenage Depression

You are loved. You are not alone. Teen depression is common. Teen girls are more likely to experience depression. Hang in there! Nothing ever stays the same. Your life will have many changes. It does get better. You are not alone. You are loved. 

There are people you can talk to and who can help you.

Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741 to talk to a trained counselor. It’s free, confidential, and available 24/7.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255) Phone operator for youth hotline page. Whether you are personally in crisis or you are concerned about someone who is, you can ALWAYS call 1-800-273-TALK and get a listening ear, resources, and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This hotline does not close on the weekend, holidays, or during bad weather.


Is “Peace on Earth” Possible?

Is “Peace on Earth” possible? Listen to these 5th graders sing! Raises my belief! Especially since the kids in this video are now almost adults. May they help us better the world.
Make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console.
To be understood as to understand.
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.

Stop Corporal Punishment in Moroccan Schools – Petition Request

A reader of my blog asked for our help. Please consider signing and sharing the petition initiated by Charmaine MacDonald:

Say No to Corporal Punishment in Moroccan Schools.

love-is-light-image“Let the mothers consider that whatever concerneth the education of children is of the first importance. Let them put forth every effort in this regard, for when the bough is green and tender it will grow in whatever way ye train it. Therefore is it incumbent upon the mothers to rear their little ones even as a gardener tendeth his young plants. Let them strive by day and by night to establish within their children faith and certitude, the fear of God, the love of the Beloved of the worlds, and all good qualities and traits. Whensoever a mother seeth that her child hath done well, let her praise and applaud him and cheer his heart; and if the slightest undesirable trait should manifest itself, let her counsel the child and punish him, and use means based on reason, even a slight verbal chastisement should this be necessary. It is not, however, permissible to strike a child, or vilify him, for the child’s character will be totally perverted if he be subjected to blows or verbal abuse……” Bahá’í Writings

According to a report by the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, “Morocco is committed to reforming its laws to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings.” Unfortunately Morocco faces many of the same challenges as the USA enacting laws to protect children. Corporal punishment isn’t allowed in prisons nor can it be used as punishment for a crime yet corporal punishment of children is allowed. It is lawful in the home. There is no explicit prohibition of corporal punishment in early childhood care, day care for older children, schools, nor for abandoned children or children in foster care for abandoned children. Just like in the United States people convicted of crimes are treated more humanely than children.

In a study by the National Human Rights Council punishment of Moroccan children in protection centres (which are responsible for children without parental care or children in legal trouble)  included hitting children with pipes and sticks and slapping them. (Conseil national des droits des homes (2013), Enfants dans les centres de sauvegarde: une enfance en danger – pour une politique de protection intégrée de l’enfant, Rabat: CNDH)

UNICEF reported 91% of Moroccan children aged 2-14 experienced violent “discipline” and nearly 24% of children experienced severe physical punishment, 89% experienced psychological aggression (being shouted at, yelled at, screamed at or insulted. (UNICEF (2008), Enquête Nationale à Indicateurs Multiples et Santé des Jeunes, ENIMSJ 2006-2007, Rabat, Maroc: UNICEF)


While in Morocco a travel blogger observed “I’ve noticed that kids here, well at least the ones around us, physically fight a lot. They think nothing of slapping each other on the back of the neck or head, especially when they are upset or angry. Parents more or less stay out of it, until it escalates. Then the parents will physically punish the child. Maybe with a shoe or with their hand.”  Visit Amanda’s blog MarocMama  for her full article Raising Global Kids: Cultural Norms and Discipline of Children

I agree with the petition statement “There are other ways of disciplining children that are just as effective. Alternative punishments which are not demeaning and humiliating to children should not be tolerated either! Children should not be afraid to go to school for fear of being hit.  We want our children educated within the school system; NOT damaged!  There needs to be an emphasis on positive encouragement and a reward system for good behaviour.” 

Children’s Rights Advocacy Volunteer Opportunities

Want to help our community? Of course you do! Below are a few organizations that would love volunteers. You can make the lives of children in need happier! 

council-for-childrens-rightsCouncil for Children’s Rights (CFCR) believes in every child’s right to be safe, healthy and educated through individual advocacy, legal representation and addressing broad, community-wide issues through research and policy work. CFCR is one of the most comprehensive child advocacy and child legal services agencies of its kind in NC.

The Global Initiaglobal-initiaive-to-end-corporal-punishment-logo-1tive to End All Corporal Punishment of Children was launched in Geneva in 2001. It strives for action and progress towards ending all corporal punishment in all continents. The context for all its work is implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.


The U.S. Alliance brings together individuals, groups, and organizations to create a unified voice calling for, and working toward, the end of all forms of physical and emotional punishment against children, especially in schools and homes. The Alliance, through education and legal means, seeks to end all social justifications and legal authorizations of corporal punishment. Achieving these goals will give children the same protection from this sort of physical violence as is already enjoyed by adults under state and federal law.


Pat’s Place is the only child advocacy center in Mecklenburg County serving children from birth to age 18. By providing a physical environment where a child’s well-being is the first priority, Pat’s Place reduces trauma and promotes healing from child sexual abuse. Since 2005, Pat’s Place has assisted over 4,000 children throughout Mecklenburg County. Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center coordinates the investigation, prosecution, and treatment of the most serious forms of child abuse.

A Child’s Placea-childs-place-logo, a local non-profit working to erase the impact of homelessness on Charlotte children and their education.  They support children, families, schools and the community by intervening at the point of crisis when a family loses their home. At the time of the emergency they help stabilize the child and family so they can begin to rebuild their lives. A Child’s Place works in partnership with the public schools to identify, enroll and work with children and families who are in the homelessness crisis.


Big Brothers Big Sisters‘ mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.