Spanked Out of Grad School

An education student wrote a paper last semester advocating corporal punishment; now Le Moyne College won't let him enroll.
February 2, 2005

Scott McConnell thinks he got a better education growing up in Texas and Oklahoma because local school districts authorized corporal punishment. He didn't just witness it; he was on the receiving end of it.

So when he had to write a paper for one of his education courses at Le Moyne College  in the fall, discussing in part the topic of classroom discipline, he stated that he favors corporal punishment in the schools. He also mentioned that he was skeptical of multicultural education. When he got the paper back, he received an A- and a note from his professor that the paper had been shared with the department chair.

And that, McConnell thinks, is why his career at Le Moyne is over.

McConnell had been provisionally admitted to a master's program in education and because his grades were good in his first semester (a 3.78 GPA), he thought he had met the requirements. But two days before classes started this semester, he received a letter from Le Moyne saying that officials had "grave concerns" that his "personal beliefs" would conflict with the college's philosophy. He was no longer welcome to enroll.

"When I was growing up as a student, we had corporal punishment. If you showed disrespect, you got a paddling. I believe it serves a purpose," said McConnell, who hopes to teach in an elementary school some day.

That doesn't mean, he adds, that he thinks he could set the paddling policy. He understands that school districts or states can ban corporal punishment, and he would never violate laws or regulations. "One of the things I've learned is that you follow the rules."

McConnell said that his academic freedom has been violated, and that Le Moyne is violating its own stated goal of seeking a learning environment with diverse viewpoints. He also said he is seeking legal advice.

Joe Della Posta, a spokesman for Le Moyne, said the college's privacy rules and the possibility of litigation limited what he could say. He acknowledged, however, that most students who are provisionally admitted and who then are not allowed to enroll are excluded because of poor grades. McConnell earned good grades, Della Posta said.

The college has issued a short statement, saying: "As an independent institution, Le Moyne College has the right to accept or reject -- based on a variety of criteria -- an individual for acceptance as a matriculated student. If we believe a student is not suitable for the classroom based on, among other things, his or her educational philosophy, we have an obligation as an institution to act in a matter that is consistent with the college's mission and that upholds New York State law and education regulations."


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