- Volume 1
- Volume 2
- Social and demographic profile of witnesses
- Circumstances of admission
- Family contact
- Everyday life experiences (male witnesses)
- Record of abuse (male witnesses)
- Everyday life experiences (female witnesses)
- Record of abuse (female witnesses)
- Positive memories and experiences
- Current circumstances
- Introduction to Part 2
- Special needs schools and residential services
- Children’s Homes
- Foster care
- Primary and second-level schools
- Residential Laundries, Novitiates, Hostels and other settings
- Concluding comments
- Volume 4
Chapter 4 — What the schools were required to doBack
Rules and regulations governing corporal punishment
The 1933 Department of Education Rules and Regulations for Certified Industrial Schools were aimed at reducing corporal punishment to a minimum, and to controlling as far as possible such punishments as were inflicted.
Regulation 13 stated: Punishments shall consist of:— Forfeiture of rewards and privileges, or degradation from rank, previously attained by good conduct. Moderate childish punishment with the hand. Chastisement with the cane, strap or birch. Referring to (c) personal chastisement may be inflicted by the Manager, or, in his presence, by an Officer specially authorised by him, and in no case may it be inflicted upon girls over 15 years of age. In the case of girls under 15, it shall not be inflicted except in cases of urgent necessity, each of which must be at once fully reported to the Inspector. Caning on the hand is forbidden. No punishment not mentioned above shall be inflicted.
This regulation was prefaced by a clause which counselled caution in its use. It said: The Manager or his Deputy shall be authorised to punish the Children detained in the School in case of misconduct. All serious misconduct, and the Punishments inflicted for it, shall be entered in a book to be kept for that purpose, which shall be laid before the Inspector when he visits. The Manager must, however, remember that the more closely the School is modelled on a principle of judicious family government the more salutary will be its discipline, and the fewer occasions will arise for resort to punishment.1
Instructions in regard to the infliction of corporal punishment in national schools
The 1946 Rules and Regulations for National Schools applied to the ‘education provision’2 within the industrial and reformatory schools. Regulation 96 of these Rules gave specific instructions for the use of corporal punishment in national schools. It stated: Corporal Punishment should be administered only for grave transgression. In no circumstances should corporal punishment be administered for mere failure at lessons. Only the principal teacher, or such other member of the staff as may be duly authorised by the manager for the purpose, should inflict corporal punishment. Only a light cane or rod may be used for the purpose of corporal punishment which should be inflicted only on the open hand. The boxing of children’s ears, the pulling of their hair or similar ill-treatment is absolutely forbidden and will be visited with severe penalties. No teacher should carry about a cane or other instrument of punishment. Frequent recourse to corporal punishment will be considered by the Minister as indicating bad tone and ineffective discipline.
This regulation did not permit the use of the leather strap in the classroom.
In November 1946, Circular No 11/1946, which was signed by Michael Ó Síochfhrada, the Department of Education Inspector, gave more detailed guidelines on the use of corporal punishment. It was directed to the Managers of all industrial schools. The title of the Circular was ‘Discipline and Punishment in Certified Schools’. It impressed upon Resident Managers their ‘personal responsibility to ensure that the official regulations’ on matters of discipline and punishment were ‘faithfully observed by all the members of the staffs of these schools’. The Circular stated that corporal punishment should only be used as a last resort, where other forms of punishment had been unsuccessful as a means of correction.
The Circular went on to stipulate: Corporal punishment ‘should be administered only for grave transgressions, and in no circumstances for mere failure at school lessons or industrial training’. ‘Corporal punishment should in future be confined to the form usually employed in schools, viz slapping on the open palm with a light cane or strap’. ‘This punishment should only be inflicted by the Resident Manager or by a member of the school staff specially authorised by him for the purpose’. Any other form of corporal punishment which tends to humiliate a child or expose the child to ridicule before the other children is also forbidden. Such forms of punishment would include special clothing, cutting off a girl’s hair, and exceptional treatment at meals.
The Circular attempted to marry the provisions of the 1933 Rules and Regulations for Certified Schools with the new 1946 Rules and Regulations for National Schools. In so doing, a certain amount of ambiguity arose with regard to the use of a leather strap, which was clearly not permitted in the classroom by the 1946 Rules and Regulations.
In December 1946, Circular 15/46, signed by Michael Breathnach, Secretary of the Department of Education, and entitled ‘Circular to Managers and Teachers in regard to the infliction of Corporal Punishment in National Schools’ was sent to all national schools. It appears from this document that two additions were made to section 96(1) and (3) which did not appear when the original 1946 Rules and Regulations were circulated to the schools (these additions are identified by italics): Rule 96(1): Corporal punishment should be administered only for grave transgression. In no circumstances should corporal punishment be administered for mere failure at lessons. (3) Only a light cane or rod may be used for the purpose of corporal punishment which should be inflicted only on the open hand. The boxing of children’s ears, the pulling of their hair or similar ill-treatment is absolutely forbidden and will be visited with severe penalties.
The Circular did not authorise the use of a leather strap as an implement of punishment in national schools.
In 1956, a further Circular from the Department of Education, Circular 17/56 entitled ‘Circular to Managers and Teachers of National Schools in regard to Corporal Punishment’, was issued. This Circular was in response to publicity which had been given to the matter of corporal punishment in national schools, and was issued to re-affirm the Department’s policy with regard to corporal punishment and to give guidance to those ‘who may be disposed to contravene Rule 96 of the Code’. The Circular stated: In re-issuing that rule, set out hereunder, opportunity is being taken to announce an amendment, printed in italics, of Section (3).
The full Rule 96 was then set out, with the amendment to section (3) as follows: (3) Only a light cane, rod or leather strap may be used for the purpose of corporal punishment which should be inflicted only on the open hand. The boxing of children’s ears, the pulling of their hair or similar ill-treatment is absolutely forbidden and will be visited with severe penalties.
This amendment is significant, in that it authorised at an official level the use of the leather strap in national schools after a 10-year gap. The evidence would indicate, however, that the leather strap was used in schools throughout this period.
The status of these Circulars could be debated. They were not statutory provisions, neither were they regulations or statutory instruments made under legislative authority conferred on the Department. The Department was, however, the relevant regulatory body and was clearly in a position to issue guidelines and recommendations and instructions. It appears that a school could not be prosecuted for breach of instructions contained in such Circulars. Neither, it would appear, could the Department enjoin observance by way of court order. The Circulars can be regarded as possessing a certain authority, on the basis that they represented the thinking of the Minister and the Department of what constituted reasonable and moderate punishment in schools at that time. Such views would not be binding on a court, but it would appear that they would have been relevant to the consideration by a judge or jury as to what was moderate or reasonable in the way of punishment in a school.
Abolition of corporal punishment did not occur in Irish schools until 1st February 1982, when Department of Education Circular 9/82 stated that any teacher who used corporal punishment was now to be ‘regarded as guilty of conduct unbefitting a teacher’ and would be subject to ‘severe disciplinary action’.
- Regulation 12 of the Rules and Regulations for the Certified Industrial Schools in Saorstát Éireann, 1933, approved by the Minister of Education under the Children Act, 1908.
- The Department submits this wording ‘education provision’ means, in other words, the internal national school.
- Section 24 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997 provides:
- ‘The rule of law under which teachers are immune from criminal liability in respect of physical chastisement of pupils is hereby abolished’.
- With the removal of this immunity, teachers are now subject to section 2(1) of the 1997 Act, which provides that:
- ‘A person shall be guilty of the offence of assault, who, without lawful excuse, intentionally or recklessly—
- (a) directly or indirectly applies force to or causes an impact on the body of another ...’.
- Teachers who physically chastise pupils may now be guilty of an offence and liable to 12 months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of £1,500, pursuant to section 3(1) of the 1997 Act.
- St Patrick’s Industrial School, Upton, County Cork and St Joseph’s Industrial School, Dundalk, County Louth.