Thursday, February 18, 2016

Why Linton Hall Had to Change

Linton Hall School has undergone radical changes during the time since I was there. As far as I can tell, most of these changes were in response to external factors, rather than the result of a desire to change from within.

The increasing unpopularity of the Vietnam war was tied to a loss of prestige of the military, and this had an effect on military schools as well, although the decline in number of military schools in the U.S. had begun even before the Vietnam war.

At the same time, single-sex schools were also losing their appeal for reasons which included the lack of opportunity for socialization with the opposite sex, as well as the desire to give girls and women the opportunity to attend schools that had excluded them.

Although I did not care for the military aspect (I would have preferred to spend my time in better ways,) nor the all-boys aspect (I was, after all, at an age when I was experiencing a growing interest in girls) nor being in a boarding school, those aspects of the school were fully and openly disclosed. It is with the corporal punishment and other humiliation by the adults in charge with which I take issue, since not only were these excessive, but they were also concealed from parents through censorship of outgoing mail. I need not enumerate these punishments; a comprehensive list has been compiled by a classmate in his blog post The Ugly: Was this any way to treat kids?

It was in 1989 (coincidentally, the year in which Linton Hall went from being an all-boys military boarding school to a coeductaional non-military day school) that the Virginia legislature passed a law, Virginia Code Section 22.1-279.1 which outlawed corporate punishment in public schools. Although, by definition, the law did not apply to private schools, the tide was turning, and the corporal punishment with which many alumni were all too familiar, seemed to be on shaky legal ground.

Nine years later, in 1998, 22 VAC 40-705-30 provided a definition of abuse and neglect which I believe would encompass many of the punishments which were practiced at Linton Hall during the late 1960s. These would include any physical injuries resulting from corporal punishment (such as beatings with a wooden paddle or leather belt, or being made to chew a bar of soap) as well as the mental abuse of publicly humiliating younger children who had accidentally wet the bed by forcing them to wear their own urine-soaked pajamas tied around their neck all day.

From everything I've heard (obviously, my first-had experience at Linton Hall Military School ended when I graduated) today's Linton Hall School has vastly improved over the decades. I cannot think of any substantial way in which I would suggest it could be improved. It is only unfortunate that it would take changes in the law to bring this about, instead of the Benedictine sisters deciding to do the right thing on their own.

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