April 6, 1913: Headlines declare “Teachers Must Stop Flogging!”

On this day in Duluth in 1913, a headline in the Duluth News Tribune shouted “teachers must stop flogging students.” It ran over an article explaining that school superintendent Robert Denfeld said he would no longer tolerate rough discipline in schools. Denfeld declared, “We try to treat the children of the Duluth public schools like human beings. Rules regarding discipline are very rigid and prohibit boxing a child’s ears or slapping the face. You cannot make 400 school teachers do as you want them to all the time, but just now there is considerable harmony on the question of discipline. Sometimes parents request us to punish their children and this duty falls to the principal. If there is a teacher who cannot forego boxing and slapping her pupils she had better resign and get some other kind of position. That sort of discipline won’t be tolerated in the schools.” The paper lead off its story with the statement that “It’s great to be a kid nowadays.” The decision by Denfeld came after a Duluth teacher “forgot [herself]” and “slapped a little girl, knocking her out of her seat” which raised the question of “how far a teacher can go in maintaining discipline.” Denfeld, of course, is the namesake of Duluth’s Denfeld High School. You can learn more about him here.

Robert Denfeld. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

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