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School CP - March 2001
Knoxville News Sentinel, TN, 1 March 2001
School system votes out paddlingBy The Associated Press
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- The Murfreesboro City School Board has banned corporal punishment, heeding the advice of the director who said children do not need to be paddled "into submission."
System Director Marilyn Mathis recommended a policy forbidding corporal punishment to follow the district's mission statement to bring children academic and personal success.
She said paddling gets immediate results, but teaches children nothing about self-control.
"There are progressive ways to discipline children other than to paddle them into submission," Mathis said. "We can always do different things."
State education officials do not keep figures on school districts that have banned corporal punishment.
The Knox County school board has prohibited paddling since 1995, when members voted 5-4 against keeping it among disciplinary options available to principals.
A private group says paddling is declining in schools across Tennessee, although it may be unusual for a district to put it in writing.
"Schools have just kind of stopped doing it and started using other forms of discipline," said Patti Roberts of Crossville, vice president of Tennesseans for Non-Violent School Discipline.
"This vote sets a good example," she said. "We may gain some momentum now."
The paddling ban in Murfreesboro is effective immediately.
Board members had the option to ban paddling in January, but they wanted more time to review the issue.
"Personal success comes through helping a child learn self-control," Mathis said. "We don't want children growing up throwing temper tantrums. We don't want them growing up not knowing appropriate behavior."
There's also a liability issue in the event a staff member bruised a child, Mathis said.
But Black Fox Principal Zane Cantrell said he liked the option of paddling.
"I'm not for anything that is potentially harmful to children. I've tried to be open-minded. I do think it is another tool that we need to use in having overall good discipline policy."
Copyright © 2000, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co. All Rights Reserved.
Daily News Journal, Murfreesboro, TN, 4 March 2001
Corporal punishment makes impressionBy Tom Larimer
There are probably more "positive" ways to help a public school student modify his or her behavior than paddling, but none that drives the point home so succinctly.
I can recall definintely "getting the point" while having my backside lit up by educators using anything from a tennis shoe to a wooden paddle with holes drilled in it to punctuate the point of the administration of corporal punishment.
Yes, message received. Ouch!
Exel Smith was an educator with over 30 years of experience. He was superintendent of a tiny high school in Northwest Arkansas, retired, moved to our little community, and went back to work as a science teacher in our little high school.
Obviously of the old school, Mr. Smith had no qualms about taking paddle in hand to mete out some attitude adjustment to students. He also was of the opinion that public paddling, using the rest of the class as "witnesses" to the paddling, was the best way to get the most mileage out of a paddling.
Once that was established, it would be hard to imagine a more disciplined and orderly classroom, or a better learning environment. And learn we did.
Now, keeping in mind that I was a model student, it is also necessary to know that as a student leader, it fell to me to test the boundaries with the "new" teacher ... Mr. Smith.
It didn't take long for him to have me in front of the class, paddle in hand. When the first swat fell, I let out a howl that echoed down the halls of the little high school, despite the fact that I'd had harder swats from a 9-year-old girl.
Mr. Smith was cool. He strategically placed himself between me and the class, so that only I could see his face or hear what he was saying.
"Do that again and I'll give you licks that will really make you howl," he said softly.
I didn't do it again. After all, like I say, I was a model student.
Years later, I ended up Mr. Smith's next-door neighbor. Life does take some crazy turns.
He's gone now, and so is Curly White. Curly, a junior high teacher with a paddle that hung prominently in his classroom, had a reputation for particularly painful paddlings.
That wasn't hard to believe if you'd seen his paddle. It was carved from a hickory tree that had been struck by lightning, and was about a half-inch thick. The wide, "business" end of the paddle had holes drilled through it to add some sting to the swats.
Curly insisted students call him by his nickname ... Curly. He was the only teacher I ever had who insisted we call him what everyone else did. Just to spite him, I'd call him Mr. White. I guess I showed him.
Curly's paddlings were legendary. He didn't think he'd done his job if he didn't leave marks, and it wasn't hard to do with that hickory paddle.
I only had to have the Curly paddling experience once. That was all most students who ran afoul of Curly's rules needed to see the error of their ways. Once.
Years later, long after Curly retired, I did a story for our community newspaper on Curly, who was raising coon dogs in his retirement. We sat in his living room for the interview, he in his favorite recliner. Hanging prominently over the recliner was "old hickory," the board of education that put so many young students back on track.
I could still remember the sting that came with a swat from that awesome education aid.
I have from time to time wished I'd assured both Mr. Smith and Curly that what they did helped me a lot more than it hurt me. They were both no-nonsense educators who weren't going to let even a model student like me prevent them from trying to stamp out ignorance.
I had some great teachers. Not all of them used corporal punishment. These two did, but it in no way diminished my respect for them or their abilities to teach.
They definitely made a big impression on me. And it didn't hurt me a bit.
Well, maybe a little at the time.
(Tom Larimer is publisher of The Daily News Journal.)
©The Daily News Journal & The Rutherford Courier 2001
Detroit News, MI, 14 March 2001
Police no longer investigating Murray-Wright coach
Blankenship won't be served with warrantBy Fred Girard
The Detroit News
A Wayne County prosecutor has declined to issue a warrant against Joel "Tony" Blankenship, football coach at Detroit Murray-Wright High School, ending a police investigation into allegations he disciplined players by striking them with a wooden paddle.
"We requested a warrant, but a prosecutor reviewed it and apparently found there was insufficient evidence to sign it," Sgt. Gawaine Hughes of the Detroit Police child abuse section said Tuesday.
Robert Butler, the assistant prosecutor who denied the warrant, referred questions to Ruth Carter, Prosecutor Mike Duggan's press officer. Carter did not respond to a message from The News.
Blankenship did not respond to a request for an interview.
Junior-varsity player Omi Judkins, a 15-year-old freshman, said he and as many as seven other players were paddled by Blankenship on Jan. 22 for receiving poor grades. Judkins' mother, LaTanya Pruett, said her son was bruised so badly she took him to Children's Hospital of Michigan. A doctor there instructed her to report the matter to police and child-welfare authorities. Judkins since has enrolled at another school.
Blankenship, a popular history teacher, was suspended one week without pay by school officials after an investigation, with the stipulation that any further infractions would cost him his job.
Keith Johnson of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, who represented Blankenship at his disciplinary hearing, said it is important that the paddling case not be looked on in isolation.
"It would be irresponsible to deny that there has been a traditional use of the proverbial 'wood' to keep student-athletes focused on their goals in this city, this state and this nation," he said.
"Let's not single out Mr. Blankenship as some type of aberration. This is an absolutely exemplary teacher, respected, if indeed not cherished, by students and the parents of those students.
"But what happened should not have happened, and will not happen again."
School officials said they did not widen their investigation to learn if paddling was common at any other schools because they had received no specific reports.
Detroit Free Press, MI, 15 March 2001
When a coach paddled a player, their lives were turned upside down
Intentions were good; methods are debatableBy Mitch Albom
They called it "getting the wood." It was a paddle or a stick several inches thick, and the coach gave it to you smack across the butt, sometimes alone in his office, sometimes in front of the whole team. The number of whacks depended on what you did, and how badly you did it.
Joel (Tony) Blankenship got the wood in his day. He attended Detroit's Murray-Wright High School in the late '80s. He took his whacks, like most of his teammates. It never bothered him or scarred him emotionally. Parents didn't complain.
"Put it this way," he says now, narrowing his eyes, "in those days, my father used to come to practice and watch it. OK?"
These are not those days.
So when Tony Blankenship became the football coach at his old high school, and started giving the wood to his players, eventually one of them objected. Went home. Told his mother. She saw the marks. Took him to the hospital.
And now, after a community uproar, a criminal investigation, a hearing, a five-day suspension, a transfer of the player, and a possible civil lawsuit, Blankenship sits at a table in Detroit and insists he was just "trying to make my kids into better people."
And a few miles away, at another table, the mother sits and says, "How is hitting my child going to make him a better person? I didn't send him to school for a father figure; I sent him for an education."
This is a story about good intentions and questionable methods. If you feel strongly that teachers and coaches should never touch their students -- as is the law -- then you may come down hard against Blankenship and what he did.
If, on the other hand, you feel that certain students in certain schools are crying out for any form of guidance or discipline, that we are bereft of coaches who care about their players' grades, manners or futures, then you may wonder if political correctness has claimed yet another victim.
Either way, know this: "Getting the wood," according to everyone at Murray-Wright, is now history.
"The wood is dead," Blankenship says.
The scars are another matter.
His dream job
"When was the first time you used the wood on a player?"
"I honestly don't remember," Blankenship says.
He is talking at a Detroit restaurant, over a glass of pop. At 30, his face retains a cheeky youthfulness more suited to a college kid, which is the way many around here remember him. Blankenship was a defensive back for Michigan under Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller.
During those years, while his teammates dreamt of the NFL, Blankenship dreamt of coming back to the city. He told teammates he wanted "to be the youngest high school football coach in Detroit history."
He darn near did it. At 26, after four years as an assistant, Blankenship took over the Murray-Wright football program when his former coach -- who allegedly used to paddle Blankenship and his teammates -- moved over to coach the basketball team.
This was 1997. Blankenship inherited the helmets, the whistle, the playbook -- and the wood.
What he didn't inherit was the old climate of tolerance.
That was where the trouble started.
"When was the wood used as punishment?" Blankenship is asked.
"It always depended on the kid," he replies. "There were some kids who never got it. And before I went to it, I always asked myself, 'Is there any other way? How many times should I tell him to go to class? How many times should I tell him to respect his teachers?'
"We always talked first. The wood was sort of the last resort. And it was never about football.
"It was about life."
Indeed, Blankenship -- who once benched his starting quarterback and missed out on the state playoffs because the kid didn't go to class -- insists he never struck a player over a missed tackle or a dropped pass.
In fact, most of the physical discipline, he says, came in the off-season. Getting the wood had to do with grades, talking back to adults, being late, leaving campus. And the individual teen, he says, was always considered.
"There were some kids you would never use the wood on," he says. "As a teacher you get a feel for kids. You know which ones can be screamed at and which ones can't. Which ones you need to talk to and which ones that won't work with.
"If a kid came from a background of abuse, physical or emotional, you could never use the wood on him. It would only make things worse."
Blankenship, who also teaches social studies at Murray-Wright, hails from a tightly knit, two-parent family -- his father is a Baptist minister. He believed he had a good feel for all his players.
For three years -- 1998, 1999, 2000 -- no one lodged a complaint.
And then came 2001.
The talented freshman
Omi Judkins is a 15-year-old freshman with a soft, round face perched atop a grown man's body. He already stands 6-feet-3 and weighs 300 pounds. A promising center on the Murray-Wright team, he is a kid who, by his own admission, looked up to his coach.
"I wanted to be like him," Omi says. "He is a good man and a smart man, and so I figured if he said that getting the wood was gonna make me a better person, then I would be a better person."
Judkins, meeting with a reporter in the morning before school, speaks softly but clearly, in the slightly embarrassed manner typical to a teenager dealing with adults. He says he was aware of "the wood" and was even paddled once before by Blankenship -- over an argument between Omi and an older player.
He didn't complain that time "because it didn't hurt."
The second time, Judkins says, was different. It was late January, and report cards had come out. As was customary, players who did poorly were getting the wood. This was after school, in the weight room, where players routinely gathered to work out and keep the team camaraderie all year long.
Judkins had gotten D's and F's. That meant a certain number of whacks. Other players -- perhaps seven or eight -- took their hits as usual (which meant across the seat of their pants, with their back turned to the coach). Judkins says he was paddled three times before he turned around and objected.
"When I turned around, like I wanted to go, Coach Blankenship started lecturing me," Judkins says. "He told me, 'Are you gonna let the team down now, after everything they've done to help make you a better person?' I didn't want to do that, so I let him finish."
Judkins says he was paddled perhaps five to seven more times. He later went to the bathroom, pulled down his pants, and examined his butt.
"It was red and swelling," he says.
Still, he had no intention of complaining. He went home, and his mother, Latonya Pruett, a former security officer now on disability, noticed the way he was walking and sitting.
"What's the matter?" she asked.
"Why are you walking that way?"
"What do you mean, nothing?"
"I got the wood."
"Someone hit you?"
"Your coach hit you?"
"Let me see."
Judkins pulled down his pants, and showed his mother the marks.
The next day she was at school with her son, insisting on a meeting.
And when Tony Blankenship entered the office, he knew, immediately, that the old way of doing things was gone forever.
Section 380.1312 of the Detroit School Code clearly states that a teacher "shall not inflict or cause to be inflicted corporal punishment upon any pupil under any circumstance."
Just the same, Blankenship and, to be fair, other coaches in the Detroit school system over the years, where "getting the wood" has sometimes been an accepted practice, either were unfamiliar with the rule and its interpretation, deliberately ignored it, or somehow felt that sports were outside its realm, and schools would look the other way.
"That meeting with Omi and his mother was the first time I experienced anyone complaining about the wood," Blankenship says. "It was a pretty intense conversation. His mother was upset, and understandably so.
"She said her son shouldn't have to be paddled to play football. I told her it wasn't about him playing football. I was trying to get him to understand that to make it in the world, he has to keep his grades up.
"I would never do anything to deliberately hurt him."
Blankenship says that Omi seemed embarrassed by the attention, and was satisfied with an apology. The coach promised it would never happen again. The principal and vice principal claimed they had been unaware of the practice, but also promised it would end immediately.
"I was so saddened by the whole thing," Blankenship says, "especially by the way his mother felt. I have a conscience. I'm a parent, too.
"I tried to explain to her where I came from, that I want these kids to leave here after four years having something to give society . . ."
The parent's role
Latonya Pruett was not moved. When Blankenship told her of the "tradition" of the wood, how he had received it years before, along with many others, she wondered how a practice could go on for so long without the school knowing it.
"I don't believe that and it's not right," she says. "It's a criminal act. If I hit my kid like that and he showed those marks to a hospital, they would come and take me away."
She sits alongside her son, who dwarfs her in size. "How does a coach know what my kid needs? If he messed up in school, that's not the coach's job. He didn't fail him. He's not his parent -- I am."
She says she tried to make this point at the school board hearing that followed the week after the incident, "but they acted like they were only sorry they got caught."
"The coach seemed to have his chest stuck out," she says. "My son had to transfer schools. We wanted to get him a counselor to deal with this. We still haven't gotten any help from the school board.
"My son had to deal with all the other kids in school angry at him, looking at him all mad. Why should he have to put up with that?
"I don't care what he thinks he was doing. It's just not right."
The bitter aftermath
The fallout from the wood has been bruising in its own right. Blankenship was investigated for child abuse -- the Wayne County prosecutor ultimately decided not to pursue charges -- and was suspended from Murray-Wright, without pay, for five days. He returned to school late last week. He has endured people pointing at him on the streets and in fast-food joints, coming up and saying, "Are you the coach who hits his kids?"
Meanwhile, Omi Judkins has transferred to another high school. He never got the counseling that his mother says she requested from the school board. And he heard criticism of his own. The community around Murray-Wright rushed to support Blankenship, at meetings, in letters, in conversations. People said it was a welcome change that a coach cared enough about his kids to involve himself in their lives outside of sports. They said many of the players, without father figures of their own, looked to Blankenship as a compass for right and wrong. In some cases, parents would actually call Blankenship to encourage him to discipline their sons.
As for Latonya Pruett?
She went to a lawyer.
"Omi is a damaged kid now," says James Elliott, her attorney. "He's lost his friends, his social life is affected, he's had to change schools. There are people in that community who look at him like he's garbage."
Pruett is mulling her options. She says she wants Blankenship to accept responsibility for a criminal act. When asked whether she plans to sue the school board for civil damages -- something her critics claim is her overriding motivation in this -- she says she hasn't decided yet.
There's an old Biblical expression, "spare the rod, spoil the child," which is often used to justify the corporal punishment of children. But just as the wood at Murray-Wright seemed to evolve into a different meaning over the years, so, too, has that quote. The words come from Proverbs, 13:24: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son, but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."
So what does that mean? To hit is to love? To not hit is to hate? Latonya Pruett admits she has hit her son many times.
"I've spanked him. I've whupped him. I even used a belt on him if he needed it."
Over his grades?
"Sometimes over his grades. But so what? I'm his mother."
And Tony Blankenship is not his father.
Was it a conspiracy of silence all these years? Or a good tradition that, like nuns slapping wrists with rulers, has simply passed its time?
"It's a new day," Blankenship says, "and I have to accept that. I gotta find another way to show my players that I love them.
"But I hope this isn't a black mark on me forever."
"I didn't kill anybody."
A few miles away, Latonya Pruett is asked whether it matters that so many other families, when made aware of the paddling, didn't object.
"Not at all," she says firmly. "I object."
Remember when parents used to roll up their sleeves before a spanking and say, "This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you"?
Strange as it sounds, in the case of Blankenship and Judkins, it was true for both of them.
Catch "Albom in the Afternoon" 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760) and simulcast on MSNBC 3-5 p.m.
All content © copyright 2001 Detroit Free Press and may not be republished without permission.
The Courier-Journal, Louisville, 18 March 2001
Schools make case for paddling
About half of Kentucky's school districts ban corporal punishment. But some are looking at reinstating it to stem discipline problems.By Tonia Holbrook
Linda Belcher was 9 years old when a teacher paddled her for kicking a student who splashed her with water.
She can't remember how many "licks" she got, but it was the last time she wound up on the business end of a paddle.
Now, as principal of Mount Washington Elementary School in Bullitt County, Belcher wants to reinstate corporal punishment in hopes of stemming an increase in student discipline problems.
"When I was raised, paddling was the norm," Belcher said. "I don't remember all the violence that I see now with young people who have been raised with non-spanking."
If Belcher succeeds, Mount Washington Elementary will join a handful of Kentucky schools granted waivers to paddle children, bucking a statewide trend against the practice.
Most school districts in Kentucky and nationwide have stopped paddling students or banned it, arguing that it has outlived its effectiveness and could create animosity in children.
Eighty-seven of Kentucky's 176 school districts have policies banning corporal punishment, and many of the 89 districts that allow paddling aren't using the practice, according to the Kentucky School Boards Association and data obtained by The Courier-Journal.
Nationally, 27 state legislatures and the District of Columbia have outlawed corporal punishment despite a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing paddling in schools. In Kentucky, a bill that would have outlawed paddling died in the 1992 legislature.
The number of paddlings nationwide dropped from 898,370 in 1988 to 365,058 in 1998 -- a 59 percent decrease, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Education. In Kentucky, the number of paddlings dropped by 58 percent -- from 10,131 to 4,228 -- during the same time.
Still, nearly 51 percent of Kentucky school districts allow corporal punishment.
Proponents call paddling an effective, last-resort measure to discipline students when repeated warnings, detentions and suspensions have failed.
The practice is "used extensively in eastern Kentucky but is virtually non-existent" in Jefferson County and in the northern and central parts of the state, according to a recent report by the Kentucky Center for School Safety, a data-analysis center established by the General Assembly in 1998.
The report, which examined the 1999-2000 school year, also said paddling is most commonly used at the elementary level.
Irwin Hyman, a professor of school psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, said areas that are less-affluent, rural and conservative are most likely to use paddling.
"It's mostly done to poor kids -- kids whose parents don't have power in the community," said Hyman, who has written two books about corporal punishment: "The Case Against Spanking," and "Dangerous Schools."
Eastern Kentucky counties are the poorest in the state, according to the Kentucky State Data Center. For example, McCreary and Wolfe counties -- where 645 and 189 paddlings occurred respectively during the 1998-99 school year -- have ranked among the five highest poverty rates in the state. But Bullitt County's poverty rate is the fifth lowest in Kentucky.
Terry Fereday, PTSA president at Oldham County Middle School, doesn't think spanking is necessary.
"I don't get it at all that we smack them to teach them something," he said, adding that the message doesn't translate in the adult world. "If that's the case, then why can't the boss smack the employee? If this is what our society is built on -- that when you do something wrong, you're gonna get popped -- then why doesn't it go all the way to the top?"
Fereday said of his 14-year-old son: "He has never had a hand laid on him by myself or his mother. That being the case, I'll be damned if somebody else is going to lay a hand on him."
Paddling opinions mixed
Dr. DuBose Ravenel, a pediatrician in High Point, N.C., said he agrees with paddling as long as parents are involved.
"I think it's a mistake when, either by law or policy, corporal punishment is literally banned in schools," said Ravenel, who speaks nationally in support of paddling.
"A school, rather than being prohibited from spanking, should be required to protect the kids from the potential of violence or abusive practices," he said. "To me, it's sufficient to have a regulation saying that a school can only utilize corporal punishment if the parent consents to it and agrees ahead of time."
At LeGrande Elementary in Hart County, principal Danny Logsdon has permission from 90 percent of his parents to paddle their children.
In a school with 220 students, only six parents didn't give Logsdon their permission this year, he said.
"I use it as a deterrent -- an option. And no one has to take that option," he said, adding that he has given 10 to 15 paddlings this year.
The Bullitt County Board of Education banned corporal punishment 10 years ago, but it gave Belcher approval last month to research the practice and collect opinions by mail from parents on Adair County's policy that allows paddling. She also plans to hold a forum in April.
The school is considering corporal punishment because of an increase in first-, second- and third-graders who are given detention for offenses such as using offensive language or being uncooperative with teachers. Belcher said 43 students were forced to stay after school in January, up from 21 in January of last year.
After hearing from parents, Belcher wants to ask the board to waive its policy so paddling can be allowed in her school next year.
She can expect opposition. Two of the board's five members have said they won't vote for it and another said Belcher "would really have to show me something" before she would give her approval.
Belcher said she has heard informally from a number of parents, and a majority of the comments have been positive. "Everywhere we go, somebody has an opinion. Mostly I'm hearing that it needs to be back in the schools, that it's something that is lacking."
Robin Colson, who has two children at Mount Washington Elementary, said she supports Belcher's proposal.
"I think teachers would be given back the respect that is due to them," Colson said. "If a child knew that (paddling) would be a possibility, then I think they would straighten up."
Some administrators in schools that use corporal punishment say it's the only thing that will work for some students.
Linda Gearheart, principal at Allen Elementary in Floyd County, said she paddles only one or two students annually, but "we do have parents that request it, usually because alternative methods haven't worked," she said.
But these students can be the most damaged by paddling, said Nadine Block, executive director of the Center for Effective Discipline, a non-profit group based in Columbus, Ohio, that formed in 1983.
Block said students who get in trouble often tend to end up being paddled repeatedly. "Hitting doesn't work for those kids," she said, citing testimony from Ohio principals who used corporal punishment.
"It might help the principal or the teacher feel better. But you have to ask the question, 'Did it really make a difference in that child?' "
Some experts go further, saying paddling can develop animosity in children, that its very purpose -- disciplining the child -- can backfire.
"There's nothing positive to be said about it," Hyman said, adding that he's documented about 100 cases of people across the country with post-traumatic stress disorder after being paddled only one or two times.
But Dr. Ravenel argues that opponents of spanking tend to "lump in practices that are clearly abusive into what we call corporal punishment."
But when the paddling is clearly defined, "I don't think there's any data that establishes the detrimental effects they talk about," he said.
The Kentucky State School Board voted to ban paddling in July 1990. But the decision was only in effect until 1992, when a bill to outlaw paddling died in the education committee of the state legislature.
Sen. David Karem, the bill's co-sponsor, said he isn't planning another attempt to ban paddling, but he isn't ruling out the possibility.
He said, however, the real battle isn't in the legislature, but in the minds of people.
"I put it in a bigger picture -- that you need to stop sending people the message that violence somehow stops violence," he said.
After the state school board banned corporal punishment, a wave of school districts across the state approved policies against it, including Bullitt and Jefferson counties. Oldham County schools banned it in 1977.
Parents trust principal
But Belcher isn't alone in pursuing paddling. Glen Rice, principal at Buffalo Elementary in LaRue County, won a waiver in 1998 from the school board, which had banned corporal punishment in 1992.
Buffalo Elementary got the waiver largely because parents trust Rice and his judgment, said Sam Sanders, the district's director of pupil personnel.
Rice, who has lived in the district for more than 30 years -- 15 of them as principal of Buffalo Elementary -- said that trust and communication are keys to an effective policy.
About 25 parents have given Rice written permission to paddle their children, but he said others are eager to sign permission slips when their children get in trouble. There are 240 students at the school.
Rice said he has paddled students about seven times so far this school year. Some of the students are repeat offenders. Although Rice said the school's policy sets no limit on how many times he can paddle a student, he said he recognizes when corporal punishment isn't working and looks for other options.
Shepherd Elementary in Adair County typically paddles a handful of students annually, but students aren't paddled unless administrators have exhausted all other measures, said principal Nell Biggs. And even repeat offenders are paddled a maximum of two times a year, she said.
For example, a student who is caught cheating would first receive a written reprimand, and subsequent offenses would merit a parent conference and two-hour detentions.
But if students are brought to Biggs on a fifth offense, they can be paddled if permitted by parents. Biggs said she swats the student three times and warns that a return trip would merit five swats.
Shepherd Elementary, which has about 240 students in preschool through eighth grade, has been paddling students for about five years. Biggs said, however, the number of students paddled has dwindled every year. "Behavior overall has improved over the years," she said.
But Biggs doesn't attribute improvement solely to corporal punishment. "We've monitored a little closer and have a more specific discipline plan," she said, adding that in-school suspension and Saturday detention have helped.
There have been three paddlings this year. The offense most often is failure to turn in homework, Biggs said.
Policies in other Kentucky districts are similar, if not identical, to Adair's because many of them were written using suggestions from the Kentucky School Boards Association, said spokesman Brad Hughes.
Hughes said most school districts leave specific details, including the number of swats, up to individual schools. Four school districts set limits for their schools: Fairview Independent in Boyd County allows five swats and Butler, Calloway and Fulton counties allow three per paddling, Hughes said.
The schools must have strict guidelines, which may require parents to give permission first or that the paddling be witnessed, he said.
But Pedro Portes, professor of educational psychology and counseling at the University of Louisville, said the best policy is to work with children to prevent problems from escalating.
"Initially a problem child will try to get attention any way they can," Portes said, adding that because many of them aren't academic achievers, they turn to negative means of getting that attention.
"When that attention isn't provided or they're punished, then they go from attention-getting to power-oriented actions . . . trying to prove they are more powerful than the teacher."
Schools don't offer enough training to teachers to deal with classroom disruptions, he said, adding that by using physical punishment, "you create a culture where only the fittest survive."
Many professional organizations are opposed to corporal punishment, including the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association.
A number of Kentucky groups discourage it too, including the Kentucky School Boards Association.
Instead of paddling, schools are focusing more on alternative ways to deal with at-risk students, including counseling and mentoring, said Bill Scott, director of student support services for the association.
"It's our observation that this is not a widespread practice, even in those districts that allow it," he said.
Copyright 2001 The Courier-Journal.
The Courier-Journal, Louisville, 18 March 2001
Paddle usage mixed but generally fading among Kentucky private schoolsBy Chris Kenning
Parochial, Christian and private schools in Louisville are mixed on the use of corporal punishment, school officials say.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, which oversees 25,000 students in 67 schools statewide, has had a policy prohibiting corporal punishment for decades, said Leisa Speer, superintendent of schools.
Some Christian schools, such as 2,000-student Christian Academy of Louisville, also prohibit such punishment.
"It's not effective," said Maribeth Thomas, who heads the Academy's middle school. "Discipline needs to be a time to learn from mistakes and learn gentle and kind ways to respond to things."
No state records are kept on the number of private schools statewide that paddle students.
The Colorado-based Association of Christian Schools International, which accredits about 4,000 U.S. schools with 800,000 students, estimates that a third of Christian schools prohibit paddling, a third allow it but don't use it and a third still employ it.
Burt Carney, the association's director of legal and legislative issues, said the number of schools using it has declined, mainly due to threats of lawsuits and changing social norms.
Carney points to a 1992 survey of 1,900 parents by the Bruskin/Goldring Research firm in New Jersey. Those in favor of paddling decreased from 59 percent in 1962 to 19 percent in 1992. Carney thinks those trends have continued in the last decade.
Parochial and Christian school officials say that schools have responded to those trends and the culture of stern punishments in the schools has fallen by the wayside.
Anna Carson, a counselor who oversees discipline issues at Louisville's 700-student Highview Baptist School, said one reason her school doesn't paddle is the "fine line between discipline and abuse."
There are also worries about lawsuits against teachers, she said.
"You're kind of playing with fire using corporal punishment," she said.
Most private schools like Kentucky Country Day don't paddle either, said Reichel Derfer, assistant headmaster at the school. He said he's worked in a handful of private schools in Kentucky over the last 26 years and none used such methods. "It's very unusual in private schools," he said.
Carney said corporal punishment is more prevalent among Christian and parochial schools than private schools because it's mentioned in the Bible in at least a dozen places.
Victory Christian Academy in Louisville punishes students with paddlings.
The academy, which has 340 students, paddles eight students a year, said grade school principal Debra Collette. Offenses include being disrespectful or striking another child.
The academy is also one of the few schools where teachers and principals don't administer the paddling. Instead, they require parents to come to school and do it.
If the parents refuse, the child must withdraw, Collette said. Because parents know the policy before enrolling their child, she said, the school hasn't received complaints.
Copyright 2001 The Courier-Journal.
The Courier-Journal, Louisville, 18 March 2001
Paddling 'very rare,' restricted or not used in Indiana districtsBy Chris Kenning
Most Indiana school districts have stopped paddling students even though state law still allows it.
The Indiana Department of Education doesn't track the number of schools that allow corporal punishment, but the "vast majority" of districts either restrict its use or no longer employ it, said Gaylon Nettles, state attendance officer.
But paddlings still take place in some districts -- including Greater Clark County Schools.
Superintendent Dave Pulliam said under district policy, each paddling must be witnessed by two people, be approved by the principal and must not exceed two strikes.
The practice is legal and can keep those who are paddled from committing a second offense, he said.
District officials say they also don't know how often such punishment is meted out, but Pulliam said it is "very rare" and hasn't generated any complaints from parents in six years.
That's also true in other districts that allow it. The 24,000-student Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation, for example, has paddled only one student in the last three years, according to student services director Tim Trader.
Such restraint is a far cry from the days when West Clark Community Schools Superintendent Terry Smith was a teacher in the 1970s and giving regular paddlings.
"I used to get letters from the principal whenever I paddled a student, thanking me for caring enough to discipline them," he said.
He said the social climate today has changed, and teachers and administrators in his district, which doesn't practice corporal punishment, would be vulnerable to lawsuits and charges of abuse if they paddled students.
And most parents and educators now oppose the practice, he said, despite the fact that some parents still request their children be paddled.
"The negatives outweigh the positives," he said. "Even so, there's still a split personality among the public about it. Some parents prefer their children to be paddled at school."
Copyright 2001 The Courier-Journal.
Star-Telegram, Forth Worth, TX, 22 March 2001
Ex-Alvarado student sues district over corporal punishmentBy Bill Teeter
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
CLEBURNE -- A former Alvarado Intermediate School student has filed suit against his vice principal and the district, saying he was paddled so hard in school two years ago that he sustained physical and emotional damage.
In the suit filed in 249th state District Court in Cleburne on Tuesday, Joshua Watson and his parents seek an undetermined amount of money for damages and to cover ongoing medical treatment and mental and physical anguish since his paddling by then-Vice Principal Thomas Joseph Corcoran.
"As a result of defendant Corcoran's abusive and coercive assault with a wooden paddle on the plaintiff, Joshua Watson, Joshua suffered severe bruising and busted blood vessels about his buttocks and legs, pain and suffering, post- traumatic stress disorder, and extreme and severe physical and emotional distress."
The Watsons lived in Lillian at the time, but the boy's father, David, said the family moved on the advice of psychologists who said the boy should not remain in the area or the Alvarado school district because of the paddling.
The suit also names former Superintendent Benjamin Colwell and former Alvarado Intermediate Principal Joyce Evans as defendants because it says they were negligent in not properly training and supervising Corcoran.
Colwell said the district investigated the March 26, 1999, incident and determined that the paddling did not result in physical or emotional injury to the child. Colwell said he and Evans retired in June.
David Watson said he had signed permission forms allowing the boy to receive corporal punishment. Johnson County District Attorney Dale Hanna said the case was reviewed but not prosecuted because it is difficult to prove a criminal charge in cases where the parents gave permission for their child to be paddled.
JoAnn Wright, an attorney representing the Alvarado district, said that most of the claims in the suit are unfounded, and that the district is immune from damages and claims of negligence.
Corcoran, now principal at Glen Rose High School, said, "I'm not going to offer any comment."
The Watsons' attorney, Brenda Hansen, said Joshua Watson has medical bills amounting to more than $100,000 from the paddling.
The paddling happened after Watson was given a choice of taking five days of in-school suspension or three swats from a paddle for misbehavior, including not showing up to school with proper school supplies and stepping out of line in the lunch room, Hansen said.
The boy, who was 12 at the time, said in an interview Thursday that he opted for corporal punishment because he was afraid he would fall behind in his school work. He had never been paddled in school and expected it to be no worse than when his mother spanked him, he said.
The paddling was much worse, he said.
"Basically, I was begging for him to stop after the second one," Watson said.
"I asked for two weeks of in-school suspension so he wouldn't hit me again," he said.
Corcoran responded that he had to finish the paddling and that if Watson didn't bend over, the vice principal would add another whack to the punishment, Watson said.
The boy said he subsequently fell behind in his school work because of emotional problems stemming from the paddling, suffered fainting spells and had nightmares of Corcoran hitting him and attacking his family.
His mother, Paula, said her son was in severe pain when he came home from school that night. After looking at his buttocks, she took him to police and to Walls Regional Hospital in Cleburne for treatment, she said.
The lawsuit said the family filed a complaint with Child Protective Services, which found that abuse had occurred. CPS would not discuss its findings because of confidentiality rules. CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said reports involving educators are sent to the State Board for Educator Certification for review and possible enforcement action.
The board has no reports on file involving Corcoran, said Patrick Shaughnessy, a spokesman for the agency.
Alvarado Superintendent Chester Juroska, who was hired by the district 15 months after the paddling incident, said a school must have parental permission to paddle children. Punishment is meted out with a flat wooden board, Juroska said.
"It has to be within reason and traditional corporal punishment," he said. "If the teacher is professional, they should be able to do it without leaving bruises. It happens, but that's not the intent."
Hanna said convictions in corporal punishment cases are difficult.
"You have to prove intentional injury to a child beyond a reasonable doubt. We determined that was not a burden we were going to be able to sustain in a criminal courtroom," Hanna said.
Wright, the school district's attorney, said, "A lot of claims on the petition focus on intentional negligence and gross negligence. The district and its employees are immune from those types of claims."
Juroska said he supports corporal punishment when its use is approved by administrators and parents. However, the practice is probably on its way out as a disciplinary measure in public schools, he said.
"I see a day soon where it will be prohibited in all schools," Juroska said. "I caution people against its use because they do put themselves at risk in these situations; but often parents request this punishment in lieu of other types of punishment."
© 2000 Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas
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