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www.corpun.com   :  Archive   :  2003   :  US Schools Feb 2003

-- THE ARCHIVE --


UNITED STATES

School CP - February 2003



Corpun file 10065
Delaware State News, Dover, 2 February 2003

Corporal punishment tackled by Delaware students

By Jason Cooke
Staff writer

WOODSIDE - A few months ago, students in a child-care class at Polytech High School were reading an article about discipline in schools when they came upon a passage regarding corporal punishment.

The article sparked an enduring debate in the classroom over the practice of spanking or paddling and how effective it was.

The debate has recently served as the catalyst for several students to take the matter into their own hands.

With the help of teacher Lynne McIntosh and the district's supervisor of curriculum and instruction, Dr. Joseph L. Crossen, the students have begun a letter-writing campaign to their state representatives and senators.

"It's terrible that it is still on the books," Ms. McIntosh said. "It is an archaic law.

"I just tossed it out as a way they could effect change, and they have really taken the ball and ran with it."

The students decided to talk to Dr. Crossen about what exactly the law permits.

Delaware Code states that a teacher or administrator may punish a student just as a "parent, custodian, guardian or other person similarly responsible for the care and supervision of the student."

That authority includes "rendering corporal punishment where deemed reasonable and necessary."

"If corporal punishment is deemed necessary, it must be administered reasonably and in accordance with State or local board of education policy," the law continues.

The students say there are plenty of other ways to discipline a child rather than resorting to physical punishment.

"We have timeouts, the corner, and we can take things away like holding them out of playing (with the rest of the children)," said Polytech junior Leva Ramey, 16.

"They don't like to just sit there when all of the other kids are playing."

The students, who run a day-care center at Polytech, said the nonviolent approach to discipline may take a little longer, but it can work better in teaching lessons.

"It takes patience," Leva said. "She slowly learns what she is doing is wrong."

Junior Tracy Lamb, 16, recalled when she was in first grade. There was a boy in the class who could never seem to stay out of trouble. To handle the child, her teacher would spank him in the back of the classroom.

"We used to have to put our heads down on our desks, and we could hear the smack and him crying in the bathroom," she said.

She said she was never comfortable in that class because of her teacher's behavior.

"It can be traumatizing," she said. "It scared me, but it didn't work for the boy who was paddled."

Several of the students had similar stories of fear regarding friends, classmates or themselves being paddled.

Sen. David P. Sokola, D-Newark, introduced legislation in the Delaware General Assembly Wednesday that would effectively outlaw corporal punishment in the state's public schools.

The Senate passed the measure, SB 15, by a 14-7 vote and sent it to the House of Representatives.

Two years ago, Sen. Sokola introduced similar legislation that passed the Senate, but never made it out of committee in the House.

He said he does not have a gauge on support in the House, but he figures the measure will at least come to a vote this year.

Sen. Sokola said 28 states have already abolished the practice, while legislatures in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Wyoming have had bills proposed this year.

He supports the cause for several reasons.

A national trend indicates that when corporal punishment is administered, it is twice as likely to be administered on a minority student, which he finds disturbing, he said.

Echoing the Polytech students, he said the classroom should be a place dictated by trust, not fear.

"If people are behaving appropriately because it is the right thing to do, that is so much better for the whole system than if they're behaving appropriately out of fear," Sen. Sokola said.

He said only two Delaware school districts still allow such punishment, but seldom use it.

By taking the law off the books entirely, it will take that alternative off the table and force teachers and administrators to embrace more humane means of discipline, Sen. Sokola said.

The Polytech students weren't aware of Sen. Sokola's efforts, but were excited to hear of his interest in the issue.

"That means suddenly it is not just a group of teenage girls from Kent County," Leva said. "He gives us a face."

The Polytech students simply feel there is a better way, and they hope their efforts will help protect Delaware's children.

"We've done research and learned how it can (negatively) affect children," said senior Jessica Stubbs.

"There are other ways."

All Rights Reserved - Independent Newspapers, Inc.



blob Follow-up: 27 March 2003: Delaware House forbids corporal punishment



Corpun file 10664
Times-Union, Albany, NY, 8 February 2003

New complaints rise against removed priest

Albany -- Area attorneys say they received calls this week; the Rev. James F. Kelly denies sexual abuse

By Andrew Tilghman
Staff writer

Several people have come forward this week with new complaints of sexual abuse and misconduct by a priest who worked at a Rensselaer church and school in the 1980s and was removed from ministry on Monday.

The Rev. James F. Kelly on Friday maintained he never molested children but said he was a "strict disciplinarian" and occasionally told young boys to drop their pants for "just a few whacks on the bare behind."

Kelly, who also worked in parishes and schools in Cohoes, said he took groups of high school students for overnight stays at a camp in the Adirondacks in the early 1970s.

Bishop Howard Hubbard removed Kelly, 70, from his most recent post as a prison chaplain in Carson City, Nev., after Kelly was accused in a federal lawsuit last week of molesting a young boy in Nebraska the 1970s.

Hubbard removed him without a preliminary investigation because of a previous complaint about Kelly while serving in Rensselaer, church officials said. Kelly said the accusation dated to 1984 when he was living at the St. Joseph's parish in Rensselaer.

He said the complaint arose because he used corporal punishment and there was "nothing sexual about it." At the time, the diocese found Kelly's conduct did not constitute sexual abuse but sent him to residential therapy as a precautionary measure, church officials said.

Two Capital Region attorneys, Lee Greenstein and John Aretakis, said they received calls this week with new reports of sexual abuse by Kelly. They declined to discuss the cases.

Officials at the Albany diocese did not respond to inquiries whether they had received any new complaints about Kelly this week.

Several people from the St. Joseph's eighth-grade class in 1984, in interviews this week, recalled Kelly's one-on-one talks in the rectory and his sudden departure.

One 33-year-old man who was a 13-year-old eighth-grader at St. Joseph's that year recalled a confrontation with Kelly when the priest brought him into the rectory living quarters and told him to take off his pants.

The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he refused, and when Kelly persisted, the two got into a heated dispute. He was ultimately expelled because of the incident and finished eighth grade at public school in Rensselaer, the man said.

"All these years I've felt like I'm the bad guy for yelling at a priest -- like 'Wow maybe I should have let him pull my pants down and spank me,' " the man said.

The boundaries for appropriate corporal punishment should be clear, said Dr. Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea, a psychologist and sexual abuse expert who was chosen by American bishops to speak at their conference in Dallas last year.

"The old days, in the '50s, you would hear about kids receiving corporal punishment -- the Christian Brothers were famous for rapping kids on their knuckles. But it crosses the line of when you start having to disrobe, and it becomes, by definition, sexualized in some way."

"And the fact it's not in public is a problem. Corporal punishment was administered in public and was open in the classroom for everyone to witness. It wasn't done secretly," Frawley-O'Dea said.

Kelly was principal of the Keveny Academy in Cohoes from 1969 to 1974, and he said Friday that he often took groups of boys to a camp in the Adirondacks for weekend retreats.

"Usually six or seven at a time. No individuals at all, it was always a small group, a group," Kelly said.

"Oh, they snuck some beer up there and drank it while I was sleeping," he said. "In no way would I take kids away on the weekend to have beer."

After leaving Keveny, Kelly served as the diocese's director of youth activities until 1975, when he left the Capital Region.

He spent eight years as a chaplain at Boys Town, the home for wayward boys in Nebraska.

In 1978, Kelly allegedly molested numerous children living at the home, according to the lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Omaha by one of his alleged victims, James Duffy.

Duffy, who lives in Tucson, Ariz., had suffered "repressed memory" of the abuse until last year, when a news report about pedophile priests triggered awareness of his troubling past, the lawsuit said. Otherwise, the lawsuit would be barred by statute of limitations.

Duffy said Kelly physically and sexually abused him at the priest's residence on the Boy's Town campus, according to Duffy's attorney, William Walker of Tucson.

Kelly said he has no recollection of Duffy.

Kelly and a counselor who worked at Boy's Town are named in the lawsuit, but they are not defendants. The defendants include the Archdiocese of Nebraska and the home.

Kelly spent the late 1980s and early 1990s as a chaplain at the Saratoga County Jail.

In 1992, he moved to Nevada to live near his brother. Hubbard notified the Diocese of Reno of the complaint about Kelly from the 1980s, according to a church statement.

The Albany diocese considered prisons, jails, hospitals and nursing homes to be appropriate assignments for priests who sexually abused children, church officials have said.

Kelly is at least the 10th priest who worked in the Albany diocese in the 1970s whom church officials have identified as an alleged child molester. In June, Hubbard removed six of the priests from active ministry.

Also last summer, the Albany diocesan sexual misconduct panel reviewed Kelly's personnel file and found his actions did not constitute sexual abuse, according to the statement issued Monday announcing his removal.

Kelly said anyone making claims against him now was exploiting the sexual abuse scandal that has roiled the church nationwide during the past year.

"I think in the atmosphere today, a guy thinks, 'Here is a chance to get some money.'" Kelly said.



blob Follow-up: 3 May 2003 - Priest's N.Y. accusers shocked to hear of his move to Boys Town


Corpun file 10663
Alexander City Outlook, Alabama, 9 February 2003

Administrators defend corporal punishment in schools

By Wendy Swann

The debate about corporal punishment in schools has been ignited locally after a parent of an Edward Bell School student brought a complaint to the school board in January about excessive paddling.

Alabama is one of several states in the South that allows corporal punishment in schools. Currently there are 27 states banning corporal punishment, with 10 others banning it in more than half of their school districts.

While it may be legal, some parents are questioning if there is too much of it going on locally. At the January Tallapoosa County School Board meeting, the board went into executive session to hear a complaint of excessive paddling at Edward Bell School and to examine their policy.

According to figures for the 2001-2002 school year, there were approximately 440 incidents of corporal punishment at Dadeville High School, Horseshoe Bend School and Edward Bell School, out of a total enrollment of 1,724 students.

While that is roughly 26 percent of the students, broken down by school, the percentages change dramatically.

At HBS, there were 58 incidents of paddling out of roughly 800 students, or almost 8 percent; DHS had 301 incidents out of 630 students, or 48 percent; and EBS had 81 incidents out of 294 students, or 28 percent. For Alexander City Schools, Alexander City Middle School reported 208 incidents out of 590 students, or 35 percent. There were no incidents reported at Benjamin Russell High School out of 946 students.

Each school is required by the state to report every incident of corporal punishment on an SIR, or student incident report, and administrator's stress that corporal punishment is used only as a last resort.

"The student needs to know corporal punishment is a possible outcome of the offense the student is being punished for," said Tallapoosa County assistant superintendent Chuck Ledbetter.

Alexander City School officials also said corporal punishment is used only after all alternatives have been taken.

"Our policy is that corporal punishment is used as last resort for a habit of discipline problems," said Willie Anderson, personnel director for Alexander City Schools. "Sometimes the student will opt to take corporal punishment and not take suspension from school. Sometimes the parents will say they would rather have corporal punishment administered instead of suspension."

Anderson said alternatives such as detention and counseling are taken before paddling is used. In addition, rules surrounding the administering of corporal punishment are followed

"(The punishment) must be administered by certified personnel and must be witnessed by school personnel," Ledbetter said. "It cannot be done in the presence of other students."

Ledbetter said however that corporal punishment is not used for every disciplinary problem.

"Just like anything else, that punishment is not effective in all cases," he said. "There are positives, particularly with certain age groups. It is something that allows us to give the punishment and move on. There are also some negatives. It's not right for every situation."

As discipline continues to be an issue in schools, Ledbetter said he feels that many parents are glad to have corporal punishment as a disciplinary tool.

"For the most part, the rest of the parents do like the idea of having corporal punishment at school," he said. "It's been a good avenue to have to moderate student behavior."

For those parents who disagree with the use of corporal punishment there is something that can be done so their child won't be paddled.

"For those who do care, they can send a letter stating that they do not want their child paddled," he said.

Anderson also said parents can send a letter discussing the use of corporal punishment on their child.

"There are some parents who request corporal punishment not be given to their child," he said. "In those circumstances, students must abide by school policy and accept the other punishment given."

At both Tallapoosa County school and Alexander City schools, the frequency and use of corporal punishment is left up to the individual administrator.

"A lot depends on the part of the administrator and whether they choose to use it," Ledbetter said. "It depends on the administration at each school."




Corpun file 10676

Selma Times-Journal, Alabama, 9 February 2003

Paddling becoming rarity in schools

By Tracie Troha
Selma Times-Journal

Anyone who was punished at school knows the experience can be hard to forget.

There was the angry look on the teacher's face and the laughter of friends as you were written up for bad behavior.

The long, slow walk to the principal's office seemed to take forever.

The sting of having to face your parents after getting in trouble at school hurt worse than the principal's paddle.

This is the reason why corporal punishment in the Selma City School System is being enforced less often. Just the threat of a spanking is enough to improve a student's behavior.

"I keep a paddle in my desk called Mr. Oak," said Don Speed, drama teacher at the School of Discovery. "All I have to do is pull Mr. Oak out of my desk, and the kids behave."

Once Speed learned the techniques of positive reinforcement, however, Mr. Oak has come out of hiding less often. After praising and encouraging students with good behavior, the rest of the class tended to follow the lead.

"I have been using positive reinforcement all year, and so far it's been pretty successful," Speed said. "I've had very little problems from my students."

Speed, like many teachers, tries to exhaust a wide variety of efforts before sending a problem child to the principal's office.

"I believe corporal punishment is an effective tool, but it's not the only tool," Speed said.

When a student misbehaves in class, the teacher first tries talking to the student directly. If this fails, a conference is called between the parents and teacher.

Finally, if the student continues to act out, the punishment is typically detention or suspension.

"Corporal punishment is only used as a last resort," said Authur Capers, principal of Payne Elementary School. "We use it very rarely and only with parent consent."

Capers said the typical behavior he usually deals with is "fighting, sassiness, making hand gestures, and constant classroom disruptions."

While some parents and educators may disapprove of corporal punishment, it is protected by state law.

According to section 16-28A-1 in the Code of Alabama, teachers are given the authority to use corporal punishment if it is allowed by the local board of education.

The Code states, "so long as teachers follow approved policy in the exercise of their responsibility to maintain discipline in their classroom, such teacher shall be immune from civil or criminal liability."

Both the Selma and Dallas County school systems allow "reasonable corporal punishment of pupils" in their policy manuals.

The school boards can also provide legal representation for teachers and principals if they are ever charged with assault.

"It is allowable and we use it whenever necessary," said Charlotte Griffin, principal of Selma Middle CHAT Academy.

Despite the legal immunity, certain procedures must be followed before spanking a student.

Corporal punishment can only be administered by a principal or a designated representative in the presence of another school system employee. The punishment must be properly documented and parents should be notified.

Lynn Henderson, public relations and attendance supervisor for the city schools, said even though spanking a student is used sparingly, it seems to work when utilized.

Parents also seem to be satisfied with the city school system's policy on discipline.

"So far, I have not had any problem with my child's school," said Debra Towns, a PTO president. "No one has ever come to me with complaints."

Many educators have said the responsibility of teaching a child proper discipline should come from parents, not the school.

"If kids learn to behave at home, they will behave in public," Speed said.

Lately, it seems the city school system's corporal punishment policy has the same job as Mr. Oak. It's only supposed to scare students, not actually be used.

Copyright 2003 Selma Newspapers Inc. All rights reserved.




Corpun file 10716

Monroe News-Star, Louisiana, 13 February 2003

Suit alleges paddling at WMHS too harsh

By Christy Futch
Court Reporter

The legal guardian of a Ouachita Parish School System student filed suit last week in 4th Judicial District Court, alleging that corporal punishment administered to her son, identified only at "John Doe" in the suit, went too far.

According to the suit, an employee at West Monroe High School administered corporal punishment on "John Doe" on April 16, 2002.

The suit stated the petitioner's son was instructed to bend over a chair while he was struck three times lightly.

Then, the suit stated, just before making references to the student being a West Monroe High football player, the employee "struck 'John Doe' with such excessive force as to bruise and physically injure (him)" a total of three times.

According to the suit, the instrument used for the licks was "a piece of rigid material generally known as Lexan."

The suit stated that the strikes left the student "severely bruised ... and after the physical striking ... (the student) began to suffer emotional distress necessitating medical care which is continuing and expected to be continued."

Both Elmer Noah, board attorney, and a representative for Superintendent Bob Webber, said they hadn't seen the suit, and therefore could not comment.

Copyright 2003 The News-Star, a Gannett publication.




Corpun file 10695

Billings Gazette, Montana, 13 February 2003

Senate narrowly defeats corporal punishment repeal

The Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The narrow defeat of a bill that would repeal corporal punishment in Wyoming schools resulted in the discipline of a Natrona County senator for comments he made following the vote.

Sen. Keith Goodenough, D-Casper, was ordered by Majority Floor Leader Grant Larson, R-Jackson, on Wednesday to apologize for misusing the privilege of the Senate floor to comment on the defeat of House Bill 68.

Goodenough said he thought it was "interesting" that a handful of students sitting in the gallery had witnessed the 15-15 vote, saying it allowed their teachers and principals to "beat them."

Sen. Bill Vasey, D-Rawlins, stood and said he was offended by the comments. Goodenough later apologized for using the word "beat," but said he still disagreed with the vote. He said the process showed the students the power of one vote.

During debate on the measure, several senators said they felt HB68 took away local control from school districts. They questioned the need to repeal a law that most schools were not following to begin with.

"It's definitely a bill looking for a problem that's not there," Sen. Curt Meier, R-LaGrange, said.

Sen. Bill Hawks, R-Casper, added a bit of levity to the discussion by describing his experience as a teenager attending military school.

"I got my fanny paddled on a fairly regular basis and, madam chairman, look how good I turned out," he said.

Sen. Kathryn Sessions, D-Cheyenne, said the bill, approved 48-10 in the House, didn't just prohibit spanking, paddling, slapping or otherwise physically disciplining students for bad behavior.

It also protects teachers and other staff members from civil litigation if they must use force to break up fights or defend themselves, she said.

"No teacher who values what they do...would ever inflict harm on a child," Sessions said.

Sen. Larry Caller, D-Rock Springs, said there were eight cases of physical discipline reported in Wyoming schools last year. He feared a lot more were not.

"I don't think there is ever a reason to inflict pain on another person, especially a child," Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said.

The Equality State is one of just 23 with corporal punishment laws still on the books, and among five trying to repeal the law this year.

Similar bills have been introduced the past three years but never made it through debate in the full House or Senate.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




Corpun file 10715

Bonita Daily News, Bonita Springs, Florida, 16 February 2003

Cape Coral teacher gets probation for spanking disabled student

Associated Press

FORT MYERS - A former teacher has been sentenced to anger management therapy and probation for spanking an emotionally disabled student more than 50 times.

James Walworth, 30, of Cape Coral, pleaded no contest in a plea agreement to child abuse in the May 23 incident at Diplomat Elementary School. He resigned in July and said he planned to leave special education.

The teacher, who worked with emotionally handicapped children with behavioral problems, took a 12-year-old boy into a teachers' bathroom, locked the door, pulled down the boy's underwear, laid the child over his lap and spanked him.

He later told the boy's mother what happened. The boy told investigators that he'd been misbehaving by whistling, talking and eating candy in class. A state nurse practitioner examined the boy and said his bruises were consistent with 50 strikes. Lee County schools ban corporal punishment.

Walworth, who taught at the school since 1997, must attend a 16-week anger management program and will be on probation for three years.

Prosecutor Robert Mobley said, "I think it's a fair resolution."

Copyright 2000 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved.




Corpun file 10928

masthead
St Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri, 17 February 2003

Editorial

Spare The Child

Corporal Punishment

STRIKING a child with a 2-foot-long wooden paddle isn't tolerated in many places, and shouldn't be in Missouri schools. Yet Missouri is among 23 states where corporal punishment still is allowed in schools; Illinois banned corporal punishment in 1993.

Paddling should be banned not only because it hurts and humiliates children, but also because it teaches them the wrong lesson about physical violence. In addition, critics say, some school districts discriminate by using this form of punishment more frequently against boys, minority children and those with disabilities.

State Rep. Barbara Fraser, D-University City, has introduced House Bill 276, which would ban corporal punishment in all Missouri schools. She said the practice was acknowledged by about 60 percent of the 200 districts in a survey she conducted.

Proponents of paddling, mainly in small, rural school districts, argue that it can help teachers control unruly children. Missouri's urban districts probably handle some of the most unruly students, yet they don't use the paddle. Depending on the offense, the discipline can range from a parental conference, to suspension to expulsion.

Sometimes, children are sent to alternative schools. In some districts, however, teachers don't dare use corporal punishment for fear that students are armed -- and some are -- and might retaliate.

Ms. Fraser says many adults defend paddling, and argue that they were paddled as children and were not harmed by it. She also says the issue isn't about local school control, as some assert, but rather health and safety.

Robert Fathman is president of the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools. He thinks that all states should end the practice of paddling. "Animals generally have better protection than school children" in states that allow paddling, Mr. Fathman said.

Corporal punishment, which can be painful and humiliating, shows youngsters that physical aggression is the way adults deal with bad behavior. It teaches children nothing about how to control their impulses, and nothing about solving problems in more enlightened ways.

Many respected groups, from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the American Psychological Association, have called for a ban on corporal punishment. It's time Missouri joined the enlightened opposition.

Lawmakers can begin by giving a hearing to Ms. Fraser's bill -- now languishing in the Education Committee -- then passing it.




Corpun file 10709

Kansas City Star, Missouri, 18 February 2003

Suspended principal expects to lose job over discipline allegations

By Deann Smith
The Kansas City Star

The suspended principal of Pitcher Elementary School says he expects to lose his job over allegations that he and two teachers used excessive discipline.

"I think they will either terminate me or ask for my resignation," Rick Mills said in an interview with The Kansas City Star. "I hate that because I love being an elementary principal. I love being around children."

Mills was suspended Feb. 6 for allegedly spanking three children at Pitcher, which would violate Kansas City School District policy if true.

The two teachers, also under suspension, are accused of binding kindergartners to their chairs with tape, placing pepper in their mouths and threatening them with a hot glue gun. The district has not said whether the alleged spanking and taping incidents were connected.

"Both these teachers are excellent teachers. They both made a mistake," Mills said. He declined to elaborate on what he meant by a mistake but said both deserved a second chance as teachers.

While Mills, 53, acknowledges he is a staunch believer in corporal punishment, he denies swatting Pitcher pupils on the buttocks. He said he followed district policy and instead disciplined children by putting them in the corner with their hands behind their backs, or he occasionally grabbed tantrum-throwing pupils by the arms and legs.

Mills has had to answer questions about his use of discipline before, The Star has learned. In the 1990s, parents and students more than once questioned Mills' disciplinary methods as a coach at Warrensburg High School.

And Mills has been openly quoted before on his support for corporal punishment, which was permitted in the district where he had worked. The Kansas City district's background checks did not turn up this information.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor Jr. declined to answer questions about Mills. "That's a personnel matter and I am not at liberty to discuss that," Taylor said last week.

The allegations are the latest to surface at Pitcher, where last year, under a different principal, 23 pupils were strip-searched by two teachers. Also last year, a teacher and teacher's aide were disciplined for physical and verbal abuse of preschoolers.

Lyle Gregory, an attorney who represents children allegedly strip-searched and pupils involved in the latest allegations, said he was dismayed that the district didn't thoroughly review Mills' past.

"A reasonable school district would have been extra careful about investigating someone coming into Pitcher Elementary," Gregory said. "It appears they were not that careful."

Before the district hired Mills in July for $67,651, school officials said, they subjected him to the routine check of criminal and Missouri Department of Social Services records.

They acknowledged that those checks failed to turn up allegations of excessive discipline while Mills worked in the Warrensburg schools and that he advocated corporal punishment in another Missouri school district where it is allowed.

The Kansas City district hired Mills after he retired from the Henry County R-1 school district. He had been principal of Windsor Elementary School. That district allows pupils to be spanked with a parent's permission.

While principal in Windsor, Mills told the Sedalia Democrat in an interview in 2000 that he spanked nine elementary-school children during the 1999-2000 school year and rarely saw a repeat offender.

"When you love children, sometimes you have to hug them and other times you have to spank them," Mills is quoted as saying. "God gave us a butt for two reasons: one is biological, the other is for discipline."

Mills confirmed he made those comments.

Henry County R-1 Superintendent Lionel Brown praised Mills and said he never received complaints like the ones Mills faces in Kansas City.

In a previous job, however, Mills also ran into allegations involving discipline. Those came when he worked as Warrensburg High School's basketball coach before he left in June 1998.

Parents and students complained that Mills pushed Warrensburg players too hard in practice, to the point of dangerous dehydration, according to interviews with students and published accounts.

Mills said that didn't happen. He said the reason his basketball coaching contract was not renewed in Warrensburg, where he also was a math teacher, is that parents were unhappy with his discipline-focused coaching style.

Warrensburg Superintendent Michael Jinks said he was not at liberty to discuss specific allegations against Mills. In 1993, parents mounted an unsuccessful petition seeking Mills' removal over his disciplinary methods, according to published reports.

Meanwhile, Mills continues to work as a boys basketball coach in Green Ridge, Mo., something else Kansas City school officials didn't know. He's held the position for three years. Green Ridge is about 85 miles east of Kansas City, near Sedalia.

Bob McLean, Green Ridge High School's principal and assistant athletic director, said Mills had talked to him about the Pitcher allegations, and McLean is behind him 100 percent.

"He is a highly principled man," McLean said. "He is a good man."

Mills said he thought he was doing an excellent job in Kansas City.

"I love my kids at Pitcher," he said.

Mills, however, said he thought the publicity may prevent other schools from hiring him.

"My career in education is probably over," he said. "It hurts, it really hurts."

2003 Kansas City Star and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.



blob Follow-up: 21 April 2003 - District will let contracts of embattled principals, teachers lapse


Corpun file 10706

The Daily World, Opelousas, Louisiana, 19 February 2003

Student suing school board over paddling

By Alain A. de la Villesbret

A 13-year-old cheerleader is suing the St. Landry Parish School system because her principal paddled her in front of her classmates.

Stephanie E. Johnson, 169 Garnet Drive, has filed a petition for damages lawsuit in the 27th Judicial District Court against the School Board on behalf of her juvenile daughter, a student at Plaisance Elementary School. The alleged incident occurred between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. in a PES classroom in November 2002. No trial date has been set.

According to court documents filed for Johnson by Mamou attorney Bruce Rozas, the incident began when Johnson got into a verbal confrontation with another student. During the mouth-off, Rozas said, Johnson called the other girl a derogatory term pertaining to females.

Teacher Nicole Laverge then called principal Larry Watson to the classroom. Watson decided to paddle Johnson on the rear end with a wooden paddle, hitting her once for each letter in the offending word. Laverge, Rozas said, then told Watson he should hit her two more times, because she used the word in the plural.

The punishment was administered in the classroom, and word of it spread throughout the school, Rozas said. Both Watson and Laverge are named in the lawsuit.

"The man (Watson) broke all of the rules pertaining to proper discipline," Rozas said. "He did not have permission from the parents, no supervisor was in attendance, he did it in front of the class, and he used extreme force that left marks and required emergency treatment. His actions were applauded and cheered on by the teacher."

Watson refused comment Tuesday afternoon, referring all questions to the central office of the school board.

"Joseph Cassimere did the investigation," said School Board Superintendent Lanny Moreau, "and he cleared Mr. Watson of all allegations. We believe Principal Watson performed his duties within the guidelines and regulations of the St. Landry Parish School Board."

Cassimere is the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction and Administration. He has direct supervisory control over the principals in the system, Moreau said.

Corporal punishment is allowed in St. Landry Parish Schools, under a policy adopted July 18, 1991, and can be administered by any teacher, principal or principal's designee to maintain discipline and order.

"The state requirements allow corporal punishment in limited instances," Rozas said. "He was far and away from complying with those rules."

There are nine regulations regulating corporal punishment:

- must be done in a fair, reasonable and impartial manner;

- student must be forewarned that a specific behavior will result in corporal punishment;

- student must be given opportunity to explain his or her actions;

- must be administered in the company of professional staff member notified beforehand;

- must be used only after other punishments have failed;

- procedures specified do not apply if the behavior is so blatant, disruptive, anti-social or flagrant in nature as to shock the conscience;

- teachers and principals must keep written records specifying when and why;

- if parents request a copy of written explanation, the principal must provide it;

- principals must hold each member of his staff accountable for understanding the regulations and administering corporal punishment.

Rozas claims that Johnson was beaten so badly that she had to be rushed to the emergency ward at Doctors' Hospital, where supposedly Dr. Gina Bagneris treated her for a hematoma to her right buttock. The suit claims that Johnson got "sustained, permanent injuries" that include duress, anguish, extreme emotional stress and humiliation.

When Watson heard that Johnson had gone to the emergency ward, Rozas said, he made fun of the girl, which intensified her anguish and humiliation.

"She's never going to be able to live this down," Rozas said. "It's one thing to have a paddling when you are six and another thing to be paddled in front of the boys and girls and with the full knowledge of the entire high school when you are a teenager. This is a cheerleader, a well-liked, average student."

dailyworld.com is published by South Louisiana Publishing 2003 - A Gannett Company




Corpun file 10705

masthead
Birmingham News, Alabama, 22 February 2003

State law allows paddling, and AEA backs Jackson teacher

Anthony Ezell disciplined daughter of Jackson's assistant police chief

By Karen Tolkkinen
Staff Reporter

JACKSON -- When special education teacher Anthony Ezell paddled the stepdaughter of Jackson's assistant police chief last fall, he ended up getting attacked on school property, court records say, and charged with harassment.

Last week, he learned that the man accused of attacking him, the girl's older brother, apparently will not go to trial. A Clarke County grand jury refused to indict. The news upset Ezell and school officials, but pleased the girl's family, which contends that teachers shouldn't be allowed to use corporal punishment.

"I feel like the grand jury should have brought some kind of charge against the boy," said Rance Carr, assistant principal at Jackson Middle School, who witnessed the paddling. "Anytime somebody can set foot on the school grounds and whip a teacher, we're just on the verge of chaos."

The girl's stepfather, Assistant Police Chief Dale Coulter, acknowledged that his stepson, William Christopher Payne, struck the teacher, and said he did not condone Payne's actions. But he said teachers should find other ways of dealing with unruly students, especially those with learning disabilities that require more patience, like his 12-year-old stepdaughter.

"A police officer does not have the authority to issue any kind of corporal punishment," he said. "Even in the prison system they can't, against murderers and rapists. The only establishment in this state that can do that is the schools."

State law allows teachers and school administrators to paddle children in order to maintain classroom discipline.

The issue calls attention to family connections and race relations in this paper mill city of about 5,400 residents, as well as to the merits of paddling students and the protections afforded teachers.

The Alabama Education Association, which backed Ezell, is contemplating further action, said local representative Cynthia Older.

"It's just not something we can allow to let go," she said. "We just can't have open season on our teachers."

The union advises teachers not to use corporal punishment because of liability, but will support teachers who get in trouble over it because the law protects them, she said.

Ezell, a black man, said he believes his civil rights were violated and that he is contemplating legal action of his own.

The incident began on Oct. 7, according to Ezell and court records, when his special education English class was misbehaving. The students are not retarded, but have learning disabilities that need attention, he said.

After repeated warnings, he told them that if they didn't settle down, he would take them into the hall for some "home training."

His students know that's a euphemism for corporal punishment, he said.

When the misbehavior continued, he selected four students who were out of their seats and brought them into the hall, he said. As required, he had a witness -- Carr. He swatted each student once, he said. Carr said he used a thin strip of plastic molding.

Carr said it didn't appear that Ezell switched any of the students hard, but that he saw photos that indicated the girl developed a bruise. Coulter called the bruise "pretty severe," and that his stepdaughter has suffered emotionally from it.

Ezell said that as far as he knows, none of the other students or parents complained. The girl might bruise more easily than the other students, he said.

After school that day, Ezell said, 18-year-old Payne, a former student, showed up in the hall, cursing and threatening him.

Coulter also came to the school. He sat down with school officials, voicing his displeasure with the paddling, Carr said.

At Jackson Middle School, parents have the option of forbidding the use of corporal punishment on their children, but very few parents ever do, Carr said, and it was not done in this case. Coulter said he has since asked that his stepdaughter not be paddled.

After the meeting, Ezell said, he left the school building with a boy who is in a youth ministry the teacher runs. At that point, Payne came up to him again and punched him with his fists, causing him to have to get stitches next to his eye, according to Ezell and court records.

He went to the police station to report the assault. The police sent him to the hospital, then came there to take his statement, he said. They wouldn't take pictures of his injuries, so his wife came to take photos, he said.

Coulter said investigators generally take photos in felony assault cases, but he could not comment on Ezell's case because he stayed out of it.

Later, Ezell learned he was charged with harassment.

"Harassment?" he said. "I'm just being a teacher carrying out my classroom duties."

Alabama law provides teachers immunity from civil and criminal prosecution for using corporal punishment, and orders school systems to provide the teacher legal support, as well as support in pressing criminal charges against any who might attack a teacher.

Ezell's attorney, Thomas Figures of Mobile, asked for dismissal on those grounds, but was denied.

At Jackson Municipal Court, Ezell's accusers didn't show up, and the case was dismissed, according to court records.

Ezell said he thought that was the end of it.

But Coulter said they didn't show up because his wife, Teresa Coulter, had gone to District Attorney Bobby Keahey, who assured her that the matter might well be a felony and that he would bring it before the grand jury.

Meanwhile, Payne was charged with assault second degree, "with intent to cause physical injury to a teacher employee of a public educational institution during or as a result of the performance of his duty," according to Clarke County Circuit Court records.

It too was turned over to the grand jury, which decided not to indict either man.

"We don't defend what he did," Coulter said. "I'm a police officer. I don't believe in taking law into your own hands. But he was a teenager and was upset about his sister and that's what happened. ... I think they understood why he lost his temper."

Ezell, 45, a husband, father, dance performer and dance instructor, said he has worked with children most of his life and would never intentionally hurt them.

He said he wonders whether his race caused the furor. He is the school's only black male teacher. And the girl was white.

"Is this because it's a black man paddling a white daughter? I don't know," he said.

Coulter said that wasn't the case. Payne's older sister is married to a black man, and they have a mixed-race child who is loved by the family, he said.

"I would say 90 percent of his friends are black," he said. "He's definitely not a racist.

Nor did his stepson receive special treatment because of Coulter's status with the Police Department, Coulter said. He was arrested and spent a couple hours in jail before being released, he said. In a small town, it's not unusual for a law enforcement officer to stay away from a case because of family or other connections, he said.

Ezell said he hasn't paddled any students since that incident.

Soon after the confrontation, his front tire was punctured on the side, he said. On Halloween, somebody left a hog's head, guts and skin on his front lawn. He's not sure whether it was a Halloween prank, or whether it was connected to the paddling.

That Payne was not indicted, he said, sends a message that "it's OK to assault."

Carr said the school had one other black male teacher, who paddled students without complaint. He declined to comment on whether he believed race was a factor in the retaliation against Ezell.

Carr said he doesn't feel the teacher has been treated fairly, and that other teachers who paddle students should be alarmed by the incident. He said he believes if he hadn't strongly defended Ezell, the teacher might be in more trouble.

"The reason I went to bat for Mr. Ezell was that he was right," Carr said. "He did everything he was supposed to do."

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blob Follow-up: 22 March 2003 - Paddled student's family files claim


Corpun file 10762

Daily World, Opelousas, Louisiana, 23 February 2003

Editorial

When is paddling appropriate?

By Harlan Kirgan
Executive Editor

Chances are good that a story last week about a lawsuit over a school paddling incident was fodder for discussion about the pros and cons of corporal punishment in schools.

The lawsuit filed in the 27th Judicial Court District, Opelousas, by the mother of a 13-year-old Plaisance Elementary student challenges a paddling the girl received in November.

The girl was whacked for each letter of an objectionable word she had said during a verbal confrontation with another student, the suit said. The punishment was administered by the principal in front of the class and no permission was sought from the parents, the suit said.

St. Landry Parish School Superintendent said the principal performed his duties according to guidelines. Louisiana allows corporal punishment in schools. Parents can request that their child not be subject to corporal punishment.

Does paddling a student send the message that physical violence is an appropriate response to misbehavior?

Should the response to an objectionable word be a paddling?

Elementary students are just beginning a life of hearing objectionable words and they must learn that hearing those words should not trigger a violent response. If someone says something objectionable, even a vulgarity, that should not represent a cause for escalation into a physical confrontation. Much peace can be discovered in exercising tolerance for the written and spoken words that offend.

Most likely the word uttered in that Plaisance classroom can be heard on television. While that doesn't excuse using the word in school, it may explain how such words flow out of a 13-year-old's mouth. Or, children may listen to adults and discover these new words.

This is from the sidelines, not from a teacher and principal attempting to keep order in the classroom. Corporal punishment exists as one of the tools for teachers and principals short of issuing suspensions or expulsions. But, it may be one of the more dangerous tools used by the disciplinarian. Should the School Board place its employees in the position to use a tool that will get them sued? So far, the board has decided it is willing to keep the paddles in place.

Evidently corporal punishment in our public schools is favored. Corporal punishment has long been the policy in St. Landry Parish even if striking a student with a paddle seems more likely to be challenged by a parent than a detention or even a suspension. There has been no widespread movement to remove corporal punishment from the public schools.

Responding to discipline problems in schools by paddling students may send the wrong message about violence. For that reason, perhaps paddling students should be held in reserve for the most severe breaches of discipline.

dailyworld.com is published by South Louisiana Publishing 2003 - A Gannett Company



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