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School CP - July 2016

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Abilene Reporter-News, Texas, 18 July 2016

Abilene ISD eliminates corporal punishment from discipline methods for 2016-17


By Timothy Chipp of the Abilene Reporter News

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A new student code of conduct was approved for the 2016-17 school year by the Abilene Independent School District's trustees Monday, including a controversial removal of a particular form of discipline.

Based on administrative recommendation, corporal punishment was struck from the district's policies regarding how administrators are allowed to discipline children.

While Texas law provides educators the ability to use physical contact with students to modify behavior, Abilene's administrators argued the risks are too high to them and it's use has been nonexistent for years.

"Our principals have been learning different means of responding to situations," said Kari Leong, the district's director of student services. "While we didn't poll every principal in the district, the general consensus in our meetings was overwhelmingly against corporal punishment."

The school board accepted and approved the change by a 6-1 vote Monday, with Daryl Zeller the only dissenting trustee.

Zeller, who was elected to the board in May, said he spent plenty of time on the campaign trail this past spring, and one of the major concerns for voters was a lack of discipline in the schools.

He argued removing corporal punishment, defined in Texas Education Code Section 37.0011 as "the deliberate infliction of physical pain by hitting, paddling, spanking, slapping or any other physical force used as a means of discipline," would eliminate one of the tools available to administrators.

"I look at it as a tool and I'd hate to see it taken away," Zeller said before the board vote. "I'd like to know what will take its place. I tossed and turned over this for the entire week since I found out (July 11) that this would be up for decision. I just think there's a need and a want for more discipline on our campus."

Under the section 37.0011 of state law, boards are allowed to adopt policies permitting corporal punishment unless a parent or guardian expressly prohibits physical contact, provided in writing. This year, with the change, the district will no longer require parents to fill out a form to stop contact.

One of the major reasons the school's principals would not use corporal punishment, the district said, was liability. Under the law, corporal punishment is still legal, but each individual administrator would be held liable in a case if it went to court, the district said.

"I'm an old-school guy myself," Trustee Stan Lambert said. "But liability is not something we should pass along to our principals."


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