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School CP - February 2004
Dallas Morning News, 2 February 2004
Dallas parents approve paddling
Almost 3,300 say Dallas principals may use corporal punishment
By Toya Lynn Stewart
The parents of nearly 3,300 Dallas students say corporal punishment is acceptable for their children.
A policy change at the beginning of the school year banned paddling except in cases where parents give written permission.
So far, 3,274 parents have consented, and 147 students have been paddled, officials said.
"Paddling is a part of a principal's tool box," said Dallas school district trustee Ron Price. "It's not the first tool they use, but it's one of the tools."
Mr. Price lobbied to preserve paddling in some form last year when most trustees wanted to ban it completely.
Trustees revised the corporal punishment policy in August. Besides the parental consent provision, other changes were added.
The changes include a checklist of methods to be used before corporal punishment is administered, including assigning kids to community service, having parents observe their children in class and contracting with parents to restrict home privileges.
Letters, in both English and Spanish, explaining the changes were sent to schools and it was up to schools to disseminate the new information, the district said. The schools also were responsible for collecting the permission slips.
Before the revision, both teachers and administrators could paddle students with parental approval, said Dr. H.B. Bell, associate superintendent for alternative programs.
Now, only administrators may paddle, and they must follow guidelines that already were in place, he said.
"It must be done in an appropriate and dignified manner," Dr. Bell said. "It's done away from the presence of other students, and it's a last resort."
Parental consent forms have trickled in since the beginning of the year, district officials said.
The bulk of consent forms, more than 2,900, came from parents in the southern Dallas area, the district said.
Trustee Ken Zornes opposes paddling, even with the policy changes. Mr. Zornes sought to eliminate the corporal punishment policy before the revision.
"I'm going to be very disappointed in any request that the school district use corporal punishment on a student," Mr. Zornes said. "I think it should remain in the domain of the home."
Mr. Zornes called paddling a "quick remedy with no long-term impact."
Mr. Price sees it another way.
"I think parents in my area demand structure and discipline," he said. "They want to do whatever it takes to ensure the educational process is not disrupted by children acting out."
Paddling, he added, could be an alternative to suspension. It could also ensure that students spend more time inside, not outside, of the classroom, he said.
Daily News, Bowling Green, Kentucky, 3 February 2004
Area students avoiding trouble
Southwest Kentucky among the cleanest acts as law-breaking falls, school discipline up
By Courtney Craig
While Kentucky students are getting in trouble with the law less often, they're still in hot water more often with schools statewide.
According to an annual report released by the Kentucky Center for School Safety, schools in 2003 saw board violations offenses such as defiance of authority, fighting, smoking and using profanity increase by 3.5 percent since 2002. That's a 7.5 increase in board violations over the three-year span since 2001.
On the brighter side, Part I law violations, which include aggravated assault, burglary, arson and rape, were down 11.9 percent from 2002. Less serious Part II law violations forgery, gambling, embezzlement and weapons violations rose in 2002, but have now dropped to 2.1 percent less than the 2001 total.
Information about specific offenses was not available for individual school districts. However, the KCSS report did report on disciplinary actions taken by each district.
Southwest Kentucky, which includes Warren and surrounding counties, reported 10.28 disciplinary actions per 100 students for 2003 in board violations. That's the second lowest rate compared to other regions of Kentucky. For law violations, southwest Kentucky reported just 0.59 disciplinary actions per 100 students the lowest in the state.
According to the report, school employees most often use out-of-school suspension as a means of punishment. Other means of punishment include expulsions with educational services and expulsions without educational services and suspensions.
According to Jon Lawson, pupil personnel director for Bowling Green City Schools, a student who is expelled with educational services will continue to receive instruction in a secure place and continue to earn credits. A student who is expelled without services will receive no instruction.
For law violations in 2003, Warren County had two expulsions with educational services, two expulsions without educational services and 28 suspensions. For board violations, the county had two expulsions with educational services, no expulsions without educational services and 207 suspensions, according to the report.
Bowling Green City Schools had zero expulsions and 28 suspensions for law violations. For board violations, it had one expulsion without educational services, one expulsion with educational services and 654 suspensions, according to the report.
Warren County Schools also has a program known as alternative to suspension. This program applies to students in sixth through 12th grade who commit offenses worthy of suspension, said the program's head teacher and counselor, Melissa Stephanski.
In the alternative to suspension program, students work on academics and receive counseling. They will also complete community service projects, such as raking leaves for the elderly, working on projects for Habitat for Humanity and helping the Red Cross. The program typically has about 25 students a day, Stephanski said.
What we really push here is that all choices have consequences, Stephanski said. We teach students to think before they speak or act.
Some schools also use corporal punishment, or paddling, but many have abandoned the practice.
According to the Warren County Schools Board of Education policy, corporal punishment can only be used in the form of striking a student's buttocks with a paddle. The paddling may only be given by a certified staff member in the presence of another certified staff member.
Corporal punishment is a last resort to be utilized only after other disciplinary measures have been tried and found to be ineffective, the policy said.
It is the decision of the individual school to use corporal punishment. If the school chooses to use it, the school must keep a list of all students who receive the paddling.
Warren County Schools had two instances of corporal punishment in 2003, down from 22 in 2002 and 20 in 2001.
Bowling Green City Schools has not allowed corporal punishment for at least 12 years, Assistant Superintendent Joe Tinius said.
Nancy Bertuleit, Warren County's Safe and Drug-Free Schools specialist, said she considers Warren County Schools to be absolutely safe environments for students. The district has a variety of programs to ensure safety, including counselors, school resource officers, video security cameras, student support teams, a bully prevention program and many others.
Truly, all these things make up a comprehensive plan to keep kids safe, Bertuleit said. We take safety very seriously.
She added that the staff makes the effort to listen to kids, and that's the best way to ensure school safety.
Having staff listen to kids and care about kids is the best safety measure, she said. At the heart of it all is talking to kids.
Tinius said his district takes great measures to ensure safety as well. The city schools programs include visitor check-in, a direct line of sight to the front door by the front office, videotape surveillance systems, an emergency handbook and many others.
I think our students feel comfortable in coming to our schools, he said. We're doing everything we can to make a safe, comfortable environment for our students while they're here.
Of the 629,030 students enrolled in Kentucky during the 2002-2003 school year, 8.52 percent of them were considered offenders.
Defiance of authority is by far the most common board violation among Kentucky students. While the number of occurrences of defiance has dropped since 2002, the number remains higher than it was in 2001.
Bertuleit said defiance of authority is a catch-all category that can include offenses as small as a student not completing his or her homework or as big as calling a teacher a name.
Other board violations that are becoming popular in Kentucky include fighting and disturbing class, both of which saw a spike in 2003. Threatening and intimidating others is also on the rise.
However, students are breaking the habits of failing to attend detention, using inappropriate sexual behavior, using profanity and smoking, according to the report. The instances of all these violations declined.
Statewide, students are less guilty of breaking the law than breaking school rules. While law violations have declined overall, certain offenses have seen a spike in the past year. Of Part I law violations, the most popular offense is aggravated assault, which has risen 30.7 percent since 2001.
Larceny/theft is the second most common law violation, but the occurrences of that have decreased steadily over the past three years. There were no instances of criminal homicide or forcible rape in Kentucky schools in 2003, and other violations are on the decline, including robbery, burglary and arson.
Part II law violations have also dropped overall in the state, but a few offenses still persist. The number of runaways has grown slightly, as well as the number of students bringing handguns to school.
To some, bringing a gun to school may sound like a serious offense. Bertuleit said the Part II violation only applies to students who, for example, left a gun in his or her car after a weekend hunting trip. Bringing the gun inside a school building or threatening another student or teacher with it would be classified as a Part I violation, she said.
Drug abuse is the most common Part II violation. Overall, the offense has declined 8.2 percent since 2002.
Another common Part II violation falls into the other weapons category, which includes weapons other than firearms. This offense is also on the decline; it has dropped significantly since 2001.
The report also showed:
In Allen County, instances of corporal punishment were up to 32 from 18, while suspensions were down. For law violations, there were 11 instances, down from 29, and for board violations, there were 269, down from 273.
In Barren County, suspensions were down to 38 from 73 for law violations, and 345 from 420 for board violations.
In Butler County, suspensions were also slightly down to 21 from 23 for law violations and 219 from 253 for board violations, and instances of corporal punishment were slightly down 46 from 51.
In Edmonson County, the number of expulsions with student services were down to three from 12. Suspensions for law violations were down 6 from 15 but went up for board violations, to 46 from 35. Instances of corporal punishment were down to 10 from 31.
In Logan County, suspensions were down to 12 from 13 for law violations, and 197 from 208 for board violations.
In Russellville Independent Schools, suspensions for law violations were down to five from 11, but were up 147 from 110 for board violations.
In Simpson County, suspensions were down to 15 from 24 for law violations but up 413 from 363 for board violations.
WKYT.com, Lexington, Kentucky, date not given (found on 3 February 2004)
27 Newsfirst Exclusive:
"Permission to Paddle"
Kentucky students who break school rules face punishments ranging from detention to suspension.
There's another option in dozens of school districts -- corporal punishment or spanking.
27 NEWSFIRST's Jennifer Nime has a closer look at the punishment of paddling.
In the early 1990's, the state board of education tried to ban corporal punishment, but lawmakers instead decided to leave it up to local school districts.
Now, dozens of districts have banned it all together, but 56 districts leave the decision up to individual schools.
According to the Kentucky Center for School Safety, McCreary County public schools had the highest number of spankings in the 2002-2003 school year with 649.
Pike County schools were second with 446 and Bell County schools ranked third with 362.
Here are some other school systems in the viewing area. Harlan County public schools had 174 spankings last year. Lincoln County had 158. Montgomery County had 116 and Pulaski County schools had 88.
We visited one Pulaski County school where parents can give permission to paddle.
The 320 students at Eubank Elementary learn reading and writing as well as respect and responsibility. But if they don't live what they learn, they know they may end up in principal Patrick Richardson's office.
If they break the rules too many times, their punishment may include this paddle. Last school year he used that paddle 12 times.
Some students say paddling should be allowed because it brings discipline to the classroom, but Richardson says it's his least favorite part of his job.
Before students at Eubank can be paddled, their parents must first sign a permission slip. The school must also report any incidents to the state.
Principal Richardson says so far this year he's paddled three students--one for cursing, one for fighting and one for insubordination.
The Center for School Safety at EKU has tracked corporal punishment in Kentucky since 1999.
Executive director Jon Akers says he has never had one report of a spanking that crossed the line.
85 school districts ban corporal punishment. Fayette County is one of them.
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Tampa Tribune, Florida, 6 February 2004
Principals Say Accusations Against Charters Unfair
Discipline, Finances Among Issues Raised
By Marilyn Brown
TAMPA - Principals of two Hillsborough charter schools who received blistering reports from the district about their discipline, academics and finances said Thursday that they were unfairly accused.
Allegations of improper use of corporal punishment
and financial trouble are "not true," said Mary White,
principal of Tampa's Wilbesan Charter School. She said she was
"shocked" to receive the written report about her
Philadelphia Inquirer, Pennsylvania, 14 February 2004
All charges dismissed in spanking case
By Keith Herbert
A Montgomery County judge has dismissed all criminal charges against Robert Clark Jr., the Willow Grove film-school founder who had been accused of indecent assault.
Senior Judge Lawrence A. Brown Jr. concluded that Clark's practice of spanking male students on their birthdays was "foolish" and a "hazing ritual," but not criminal. He made the decision after reviewing the transcript from a preliminary hearing held Aug. 20.
"But foolish is one thing," Brown wrote in his eight-page opinion. "Criminality is quite another."
Brown signed an order Wednesday granting Clark's request to dismiss all 48 counts charging him with indecent assault, corruption of minors, simple assault, harassment, false imprisonment, and unlawful restraint.
Clark, 61, said yesterday that he was relieved by the judge's decision and planned to return to teaching students at the school, Cinekyd, next week.
"It's glorious to have this behind me," Clark said. "I've learned patience because the legal process moves so slowly."
He said he was fortunate to have so much support from the school community while he fought the criminal charges. Twenty-five supporters showed up at his last court appearance, Feb. 4. About 80 students and parents attended the preliminary hearing.
Assistant District Attorney Todd Stephens said prosecutors are weighing an appeal to Pennsylvania Superior Court.
"We're taking a look at the transcripts and the applicable law," Stephens said. "The analysis is whether Judge Brown's analysis was correct under the law."
Clark is executive director of Cinekyd, a school for children ages 7 to 17, who want to learn about radio, television and film. The school is in the Willow Grove section of Upper Moreland.
Criminal charges filed in July stemmed from a complaint by a student about a practice that had been going on for years. Eight current and former students, between the ages of 10 and 17, accused Clark of kissing and spanking them.
Additional accusers came forward, but some charges were dropped after several students testified at the preliminary hearing that they did not believe the spankings were meant to be harmful.
In his opinion, the judge said "the practice was to place the boy over [Clark's] knee, lower his trousers and spank him with his open hand and his underwear in place. Sometimes these spankings took place with the trousers up."
The spankings, Brown ruled, occurred in the presence of other students and were looked upon as a joke, or a "sort of rite of passage." The boys involved in the spankings ranged from age 10 to 15.
Clark said yesterday that the birthday spankings ended in 1995.
One boy testified at the preliminary hearing that the spanking hurt and reddened his buttocks. None complained of being injured, and one student said he was ashamed of the spanking, but participated because he liked the school and wanted to stay, Brown said.
"Given the world we live in these days, with claims of harassment of one kind or another being reported in newspapers almost daily, the best thing that can be said about the defendant's conduct is that it was foolish," Brown wrote in his ruling. "More in keeping with the puerile conduct expected of children rather than the teacher."
As to the charges of indecent assault, Brown found that there was no evidence to suggest that the hazing had any "sadomasochistic" element to it.
"Given the openness with which it is carried out, and the absence of any evidence that Clark received any prurient sadistic pleasure from it, we can find no indecent contact," Brown wrote.
Frank DeSimone, Clark's attorney, said that even the boys prosecutors considered victims thought Clark a "mentor" and "grandfatherly."
"Thank God we had a judge that had some courage and some sense and didn't waste the taxpayers' money anymore," DeSimone said.
Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, Texas, 17 February 2004
Parent unhappy about football coach's past paddling of players for bad grades
By Lauren Grimm
The Mineral Wells High School athletics department took a beating this past week when Barbara Martin, parent, lashed out at Kelly West, head football coach.
Martin said West has been spanking kids for failing on three-week progress reports.
Martin said corporal punishment for academic performances is not acceptable.
"If he does something up there that's bad enough [behaviorally], that's fine but not failing a class," she said.
Martin said she knows of many students who received spanking for unacceptable academic performances in the past.
West was unable to comment Friday because he was attending a funeral.
Martin said she told her son not to accept corporal punishment because of his academic performance and, as a result, her son was kicked off the football team Feb. 6.
Superintendent Ray Crass, high school Principal John Corsi and West met and agreed to place Martin's son back on the team on Feb. 9.
Crass said West was informed not to lash kids because of academic reasons. In the student handbook, school officials are authorized to perform corporal punishment in situations such as hazing or truancy.
Crass said he believes the situation has been properly handled.
"When the parent talked about this child, we immediately investigated and immediately made some changes," he said.
Crass said he could not, by law, talk about specific student cases. However, he said corporal punishment is allowed within the district for certain incidents. Crass said there is no limit to the amount of spankings a student may receive, but it should not be excessive.
Crass encouraged Martin or any other parent with any issue to come talk with him.
"We want the parents to understand and know if there is a problem, we'll take care of it," he said.
Copyright Mineral Wells Index
Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 17 February 2004
Let's leave no child's behind to paddling
By Wendi C. Thomas
A resolution before the Memphis city school board would change the district's corporal punishment policy - but not in a good way.
The amended policy would read: "In circumstances where parents have requested that corporal punishment not be used as a disciplinary measure, alternative measures must be used."
The resolution's flaw lies in this phrase: "where parents have requested."
Those four words create two codes of discipline, says school board member Lora Jobe. One code is for students whose parents request in writing that their child not be spanked.
The other code is for students whose parents aren't involved, the ones who probably won't see this column or even hear about the policy change. It's those students Jobe worries about.
"Usually it's the most disenfranchised, poorest children, children with no advocates who get the spankings."
Research backs up Jobe's concerns. A disproportionate number of students paddled nationwide are boys, children with disabilities, and minorities. Black children are 17% of the country's public school students, but represent 39% of those paddled.
In the city schools, 10.5 percent of the students, or more than 14,000, received corporal punishment during the 1999-2000 school year.
Shelby County Schools, where only 1.5 percent of students were spanked, also allows corporal punishment, although parents can ask that their child not be paddled.
Tennessee has the dubious honor of being ranked fourth in the nation in the percentage of students spanked. First, second and third are Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama, respectively.
Of course, you can't talk about spanking in the Bible Belt without trotting out this maxim misattributed to the Bible:, "Spare the rod, spoil the child."
Even though the Bible never puts it quite so succinctly, that same sentiment appears at least seven times in the book of Proverbs, including my parents' favorite: "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die."
That verse gave my parents the fortitude to whip out the belt when needed, deaf to the cries from their children that the fleeting pain was sure to send us to an early grave.
But this isn't a religious issue, or a question of a parent's right to discipline a child as they see fit.
It's a question of whether the city schools should create two discipline codes in a system where corporal punishment is already administered inconsistently, given that not all principals allow paddling.
Each time a student is paddled, the district exposes itself to charges of abuse and opens the door for costly lawsuits. If for no other reason, Tennessee should join the 28 other states that have banned corporal punishment in schools.
Perhaps corporal punishment critic Robert Fathman put it best: "Good school discipline should be instilled through the mind, not the behind."
Copyright 2004, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.
Washington Post, 21 February 2004
U.S. Students Still Getting the Paddle
Corporal Punishment Laws Often Reflect Regional Chasms
By Michael Dobbs
Ralph McLaney refused to paddle students as assistant principal of Carver Middle School in Meridian, Miss. (Michael Dobbs -- The Washington Post)
MERIDIAN, Miss. -- The debate over whether corporal punishment has a place in American education became very personal for Ralph McLaney when the principal of Carver Middle School ordered him to paddle a sixth-grade student who had acted up in class.
"The idea of a big white guy hitting an 80-pound black girl because she talked back to the teacher did not sit well with me," said McLaney, who resigned his assistant principal's post soon after the school year began rather than carry out his superior's instructions. "I decided I did not get my master's degree in education to spend my time paddling students."
A decision last month by the Canadian Supreme Court to outlaw the use of the strap by teachers has left the United States and a lone state in Australia as the only parts of the industrialized world to allow corporal punishment in schools, according to anti-paddling activists. While 28 U.S. states have outlawed paddling over the past three decades, the practice remains commonplace across much of the Bible Belt.
Here in the nation's top paddling state, nearly 10 percent of students are paddled every year, according to statistics collected by the federal Department of Education. In poorer parts of the state, where a higher proportion of children are from minority and single-parent families, the use of corporal punishment is even more frequent.
"The point is to get the students' attention, not to inflict pain," said Carver Middle School principal Earnest Ward. "Sometimes all you have to do is hold a paddle up, and it will scare a student to death. Others are not afraid of it at all."
Although child psychologists say corporal punishment risks reinforcing negative behavior, many Meridian teachers and parents consider it an effective form of discipline, particularly at the elementary and middle school level. They maintain that three quick licks (the maximum permitted by the school board) with an officially approved, quarter-inch-thick wooden paddle is often preferable to keeping children out of class and putting them even further behind in their studies.
And then there is the religious argument.
"Are we going to believe man's report or God's report?" asked Cherry Moore, a special education teacher at Carver and co-pastor of a local church. She believes that Old Testament references to "spoiling the child by sparing the rod" should outweigh the allegedly negative effects of corporal punishment cited by child development experts.
The debate over corporal punishment at Carver Middle School, provoked by one administrator's crisis of conscience, reflects a much broader divide running through American education. Studies have shown that there is a high correlation between paddling and poverty, and corporal punishment is more common in rural areas than in urban areas. The practice has been banned for more than a decade in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Opponents of paddling argue that corporal punishment perpetuates a cycle of poverty and violence. Supporters contend that paddling undergirds orderly and disciplined schools, which represent a child's best hope for social and academic advancement.
Although McLaney had taught in other Mississippi schools, mainly in the metropolitan Jackson area, he concedes that he felt out of place at Carver. The school draws most of its students from nearby housing projects. More than 90 percent of them are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches, a common measure of poverty. Three-quarters of the children come from broken homes.
"In other Mississippi schools where I have worked, the paddle was a dusty relic," he said. "It was put on the shelf and used when the football player didn't want to miss the big game."
When McLaney was appointed assistant principal of Carver Middle School last summer, he agreed to enforce the school board's code of discipline, which includes paddling. At the time, he said, he did not realize he would be expected to paddle as many as 10 to 15 students a day. When he sought to use other methods of disciplining students, such as detention, his colleagues complained that he was shirking his duties.
According to written notes kept by McLaney, he received repeated admonishments from Ward, the principal, including comments such as, "These kids are different, all they understand is the paddle," and "walk the halls and, if the kids are out of line, burn their butts." McLaney says he resigned as assistant principal on Sept. 30 when it became clear to him that the alternative was to be fired for insubordination.
Ward refuses to discuss his conversations with McLaney and describes the resignation as a private personnel matter. He points out that corporal punishment at Carver is carried out in strict accordance with policies laid down by the school's board of trustees. The punishment must be carried out by an administrator, in his office, in the presence of a witness, and advance parental consent is required.
Typically, paddlings are administered for fairly minor offenses such as disrespect to a teacher, disturbing the class, profanity or tardiness. More serious infractions, such as fighting with other students, are punished by suspension.
According to federal statistics, the use of corporal punishment has been in sharp decline since the early 1970s, when states began to outlaw the practice. In 2000, the most recent year for which figures are available from the Department of Education, 342,038 public school students were paddled, down from 1.5 million in 1976. The figures do not include paddlings in private and religious schools.
"Under U.S. law, children are the only class of individuals who can be legally hit," said Nadine Block of the Center for Effective Discipline, a leading anti-paddling group. "Children have less legal protection than someone who is in jail or in the army."
In some states, such as Pennsylvania and Wyoming, corporal punishment of students remains legal, though the institution has all but died out. The top paddling states after Mississippi are Arkansas (9.1 percent of students paddled in 2000), Alabama (5.4 percent) and Tennessee (4.2 percent.) According to Block, black students are paddled more than twice as often as other students, proportionate to the overall population.
Corporal punishment in schools is illegal in most of the rest of the world and has been banned in most of Europe for several decades. In the past few years, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Pakistan have all outlawed the practice. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled on Jan. 30 that teachers could use "physical force" to restrain fighting students, but were not permitted to use disciplinary instruments such as a paddle or strap.
In its most recent ruling on paddling, the U.S. Supreme Court said in 1977 that the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, applied to convicted criminals but not to students. It also ruled that teachers could punish children without parental permission.
Most school districts that allow paddling now stipulate that it must be done with the permission of parents, a requirement that has sharply reduced the number of legal complaints. There are, however, school districts in Texas where parental permission is still not necessary.
Jean Merrill, who lives in the northern Texas town of City View, said she withdrew her 15-year-old daughter from the local secondary school after she was paddled by the principal for wearing a T-shirt that slightly exposed her midriff.
"I told the principal they were not to touch my child without calling me," she said. "When he still refused to call, I pulled her out of there." School Superintendent Michael Smith said paddling is legal in Texas, and no notification is required.
Like other Meridian schools, Carver Middle School sends parents a note at the beginning of every school year, outlining its corporal punishment policy. According to Ward, about 80 percent check the box on Form 053-7198, which states: "I do want corporal punishment administered according to district policy if my child's behavior indicates such a need."
"When my son got spanked, he didn't act up anymore," said Patricia Moody, a Carver parent and security guard in a local hospital, who had come to the school to retrieve her daughter after a classroom brawl. "Three licks on the butt, and they get more control."
McLaney, who came to teaching from a civilian job in the Navy, was loath to give up his assistant principal's post, which paid $53,000, "good money for Mississippi," he said. When he asked the state attorney general's office whether he could refuse to paddle a student on grounds of conscience, he was told that there were no grounds for refusing "a valid, legal order" from his supervisor. A lawyer hired to represent him by the teacher's union gave him similar advice.
"In the end, I resigned because they made it very clear they were going to fire me otherwise," said McLaney, who is still looking for another education job.
Houston Chronicle, Texas, 21 February 2004
Teacher investigated for hitting student with belt
By Ron Nissimov
A Houston high school teacher is under investigation by school officials for hitting a 16-year-old student with a belt.
Adriana Villarreal, Houston Independent School District spokesman, said the school district has a policy forbidding corporal punishment.
Villarreal said Sherman Elliott, a math teacher and girls' track coach at Worthing High School, has admitted to using his belt Friday afternoon to discipline the youth.
"This is absolutely something we are outraged about, and we are going to see strongest possible action against this teacher," Villarreal said.
She said punishment could range from reprimand to termination.
The child's parents declined to press criminal charges against Elliott, Villarreal said, but she said there is a chance that HISD officials will pursue charges.
Sherman, who has taught in HISD for more than 20 years, will work in administrative offices pending the outcome of the investigation, Villarreal said.
Sherman could not be reached for comment.
Villarreal said the incident occurred after school. The boy apparently didn't respond to Sherman's request to leave an office, so the teacher took off his belt and hit the youth twice, she said.
She said there were "no major injuries," but did not have information if the youth, whose name was not disclosed, was bruised.
Villarreal said the youth and another student who witnessed the incident reported it to school authorities.
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 23 February 2004
Schools may alter punishment policy
Board votes today on paddling alternative
By Ruma Banerji Kumar
A push to give parents more say about whether their kids get paddled in school could open the door to a discussion about whether corporal punishment is still good for Memphis city schools.
The new resolution would offer kids whose parents don't support corporal punishment a loophole out of paddling.
Alternative discipline, like in-school suspension and detention, likely would be used instead.
Memphis school board members are expected to vote on the new rule today.
It's a big step for a district that long has adhered to the "spare the rod, spoil the child" gospel.
Bob Fathman, of the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools, said Memphis is spanking children far more frequently than most school systems. Nationally, less than 1 percent of schoolchildren are paddled. In Memphis, 10.5 percent of children are subjected to that punishment, he said.
In a little more than a decade, the district has twice considered abolishing corporal punishment: once in 1991 as Gerry House came aboard as superintendent and again in 1997 when school board member Lora Jobe pushed to do away with it. "It failed miserably," Jobe said. "But things have changed since then. Birmingham got rid of corporal punishment."
Jobe fears the new resolution - if it passes - would codify what she calls a double standard that allows some children to be paddled, while others are disciplined in other ways.
"The children who get beaten are the ones that don't have an advocate, someone speaking out for them," she said. "If this resolution tells schools to find alternative disciplines for students whose parents don't want them paddled, then shouldn't we be looking at alternatives for everyone?"
As it stands, the school district's policy on paddling calls for the principal, assistant principal or teacher to oversee paddling, and states that paddling should be used only when other discipline methods have not worked.
Until now, the district's policy didn't require schools to get parents' permission before paddling, though many schools did so, anyway.
But some principals have said students often opt for a couple of licks of the paddle over a day of suspension.
"It gets it over with," said Ridgeway Principal Hal Russell. "Unlike the rhetoric, kids don't take it personally. And often suspension is a hardship on families that can't come pick their kids up after school, or the kids need to go to a job or take care of a younger sibling. If they get a paddling, that's it. It's done."
American Way Middle School Principal Melanie Landrum is on the other end of spectrum.
She doesn't use corporal punishment at her school, opting for in-school suspension and counseling instead.
"Violent behavior is a symptom of something much bigger, much deeper," she said. "Paddling just deals with the symptom, it doesn't deal with the underlying issues. To really deal with the issues is time-intensive and people-intensive and few people are willing to take on all that effort."
Copyright 2004, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee,25 February 2004
Jobe weak on mathematics of corporal punishment
Memphis Board of Education member Lora Jobe needs to do her homework on corporal punishment (Feb. 24 article, "Board to hear paddling issue; racial imbalance probe asked of feds").
I think it is fair to say that at least 80 percent of the students in Memphis public schools are black. Therefore, doesn't it only make sense that black children are twice as likely to be paddled? I think racial discrimination only applies to whites in Memphis.
Copyright 2004, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.
WREG.com, Memphis, Tennessee, 26 February 2004
By Jennifer Van Vrancken
Memphis - Thursday, the members of the Memphis City School Board's Policy Committee got answers to some of their questions about corporal punishment in school -- like how many kids were spanked and who gets spanked the most. Some of the answers may surprise you.
There are a lot of stories out there about spankings at school -- from kids getting spanked for not being in uniform to rumors about student athletes spanked for not winning games. That's why the members of the policy committee asked for the facts.
Here are some of those answers. During the 2002-2003 school year, corporal punishment was administered 27,918 times -- 97% of those punishments were to African American students, 2% to White students and .5% to Latino students. 75% of all those punished were boys.
Not surprising numbers to some, like Caricmon Carter. He is African American and understands that so are most of the students in the Memphis City School System. He says, "It doesn't surprise me because a lot of them are at home with just their mom... and kids need a father figure or male figure in their life and they don't have that."
Vickie Phillips is a substitute teacher in Louisiana. She says, "A teacher has to have control in the classroom. If the children know that a teacher cannot spank, that eliminates all the control there is." But Barry O'Connell thinks spanking is a parent's job... not a teacher's. He says, "I approve of spanking. I don't approve of the schools."
Board member Lora Jobe still has questions like, "Is the policy being implemented the way it's written? Is an administrator doing the corporal punishment with a witness? Is it being recorded and for what infraction." Those are questions yet to be answered.
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Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 27 February 2004
Paddling may not really be last resort, data show
By Ruma Banerji Kumar
Paddling of middle school students accounts for more than half the spankings in the district's schools last year, a Memphis City Schools study released Thursday shows.
Black students and boys were overwhelmingly more likely to get spanked than their white and female counterparts.
Roughly 97 percent of the 27,918 paddlings last year were given to the district's black children, while only 2 percent were given to white children.
The district is roughly 87 percent black and 9 percent white, with Latinos and Asians making up roughly 4 percent.
The numbers raise questions about whether paddling is used arbitrarily and too often to be an effective deterrent.
"I was shocked," school board member Lora Jobe said. "We had more than 27,000 beatings. That's a lot for a disciplinary measure that's supposed to be used as a last resort."
Middle school spankings were so rampant that Airways Middle alone accounts for nearly 9 percent - 2,497 paddlings - of the corporal punishment last year.
Despite the high paddling numbers in some schools, Supt. Carol Johnson said the fact that 38 schools reported no paddling reveals a slow movement away from corporal punishment.
"If all it took was corporal punishment, then we'd have well-behaved students," she said. "But when you look at our suspension data and paddling data, we're still struggling with helping kids to make the right choices."
School board members had planned to discuss the district's corporal punishment policy and Jobe's recent proposal to ban paddling, but the meeting Thursday was poorly attended so the small group stayed away from those questions.
Only two board members - Deni Hirsh and Jobe - were present for a discussion of the corporal punishment policy. Board president Patrice Robinson joined the discussion via phone, but the remaining six members were absent.
Hirsh said she'd rather see paddling banned in Memphis, and fears it's being abused as a form of discipline.
"I know for a fact that children are being paddled for minor dress code violations, and that's just not appropriate," said Hirsh, who supports banning corporal punishment.
The school board meets Monday and could discuss the data, but no vote on corporal punishment is expected.
Copyright 2004, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.
Mexia Daily News, Mexia, Texas, 28 February 2004
Corporal punishment ban stays in Mexia ISD
By Bob Wright
The paddles will stay in mothballs, at least for the time being, in the Mexia Independent School District.
Shalene Mullen, a parent of students in the local district, appeared before the board at its regularly-scheduled monthly meeting, Thursday night at the Administration Building.
All but two of the board members voted to let stay a recent vote to ban corporal punishment in the Mexia ISD. Mullen had requested re-instatement of the corporal punishment, after Joyce Johnson, mother of students here, also had appeared before trustees to request re-instatement.
The requests, for allowing students whose parents sign releases of liability to the school district, to receive corporal punishment, did not receive favorable votes. Only two voting for the re-instatement were Don Corbitt and Kelly Lauderdale. Voting to keep the corporal punishment ban were Roxianne Schuster, Gordon Lee, Jeff Wright, Bruce Sawyer and Walter Jackson.
Lauderdale said his calls about corporal punishment were vastly weighted toward re-instatement.
Roxianne Schuster said although she is in favor of corporal punishment, she agrees with Supt. Charlene Simpson's recommendation which included the possibility of liability and other legal ramifications for the school district. However, Schuster wondered aloud if perhaps "a parent could come to the administrator's office for administering corporal punishment."
Bruce Sawyer, still teaching school, told his peers, "I'll never hit a child. I'll walk out before hitting, beating or swatting one. I've never had to do it, and indicated he was able to maintain discipline without this form of punishment.
Shalene Mullen says her daughter's "pink slips" have increased since corporal punishment was outlawed, and said the daughter is bored with classroom activities, and is sent to ISS, then after more infractions, sent home. She said, "I believe in spanking, and my children have a respectful fear of Mrs. Savage (Donna, the Principal at McBay Elementary). My husband and I will sign a release for our children to face corporal punishment."
Supt. Charlene Simpson, in response to board members, emphasized, "I think it's a huge liability, and I stand behind my previous statements about this. Legally, it could be bad (for the Mexia ISD)." Mullen said, "How can this bring liability (to the district)? Mrs. Johnson and I should be able to get what we want." Gordon Lee responded, "You can't sign away a right."
Don Corbitt says, "We need to trust our teachers to do what's necessary," referring to the allowance of corporal punishment.
Mullen's official request was tabled until the board could further discuss some issues in its lengthy executive session. During that session, Donna Savage was called in, as was a former elementary teacher, Linda Morris, who worked under Donna at the school. Morris had requested to appear in closed session with the board. Mullen's request did not bring a decision until the board could discuss the issue in the closed part of the meeting. Mullen also had requested a place on the agenda. Johnson appeared for her presentation under the "Recognition of Visitors" section on the agenda. The board also heard from parents Louie and Cheryl Kennedy, behind closed doors.
Birmingham News, Alabama, 29 February 2004
The other Board of Education
Alabama ranks third in nation when it comes to corporal punishment
Although on the decline, paddling is still alive and well
By Gigi Douban and Charles J. Dean
When Rosemary Liveoak became principal 25 years ago at Wilsonville Elementary, all a teacher needed to discipline students was a good wooden paddle and some common sense. There were few restrictions.
Today corporal punishment in Alabama schools comes with strict regulations and conditions to observe - who does it, where to do it, how to do it and when to do it. That, combined with the threat of lawsuits and a movement toward detention and alternative school, has contributed to a decline in use of corporal punishment among some of the state's largest school systems.
Still, for some parents, all the detentions and suspensions in the world won't rival the effectiveness of a few good licks in the principal's office.
"Most of our requests come from parent-initiated corporal punishment, where the parents come in and say, 'Just paddle him,'" said Ken Mobley, student services coordinator for Shelby County schools. About 25 percent of the system's 34 schools allow paddling students.
In Shelby County, it's assumed that parents don't want their children to be paddled unless they sign a consent form allowing it. Liveoak estimated that when parents at her school are given discipline options for their misbehaving child, at least 80 percent opt for the paddling right off the bat. "They will expect you to do it here because they do it at home," she said.
Alabama is one of 22 states that still allows public school students to be paddled at the discretion of school officials.
While not every one of the state's 129 school districts allows corporal punishment, enough still do that the state ranked third nationally in the number of school paddlings in the 1999-2000 school year, the last year for which data is available. Only schools in Mississippi and Arkansas paddled a greater percentage of students - 9.8 and 9.1 percent respectively - than Alabama's 5.4 percent in that school year. In hard numbers, in 1999-2000, almost 39,200 of the state's 732,000 public school students were paddled.
Alabama school officials suspect the state may rank higher than third nationally because paddlings are likely being underreported because of how a number of systems define corporal punishment. Several of Alabama's 129 systems do not consider a paddling to have been given if a student received only one "lick" per incident.
Banned or discouraged
"Frankly, we just have no confidence in the data being reported by a number of our systems," said Tom Salter, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Education.
In Alabama, the state's three largest public school systems either ban corporal punishment or discourage it. Birmingham schools have long banned it.
"Our philosophy has long been that you can't create better behavior in a student by hitting them," said Birmingham Superintendent Wayman Shiver Jr. "We believe there are more effective ways to discipline a student, such as alternative school or after-school detention, than taking some piece of wood and slapping them."
Jefferson County, the state's second-largest system, allows each principal to decide whether to use corporal punishment.
"But we really discourage the practice and urge our principals to use alternatives to the paddle and over the years we've seen fewer and fewer of our schools use it to discipline a student," said county spokeswoman Nez Calhoun.
The state's largest system - Mobile County with 65,000 pupils - banned corporal punishment in August. It was a vote that Superintendent Harold Dodge and longtime board member Hazel Fournier had worked hard to pass for several years.
Fournier, who said she used the paddle as a teacher and administrator in the system years ago to discipline students, said she no longer sees paddling as either effective or humane.
"Sure, years ago I used it but you might remember that years ago our prisons used to whip prisoners, too," Fournier said. "I evolved in my thinking, and our prisons no longer whip inmates, even the ones convicted of killing people. But our schools were still hitting children, and it just made no sense to me."
Dodge, a longtime opponent of paddling, moved to Mobile in the late 1990s from Virginia, which no longer allowed corporal punishment.
"I came to Alabama and frankly, on this issue of corporal punishment, I felt like I had taken a huge step backward because paddling was so prevalent in this system and allowed by the state," Dodge said.
As a teacher and principal in the 1970s, he paddled students. "The only reason to paddle I could see back then was to change behavior, to deter bad behavior," Dodge said. "But it didn't work then, and it doesn't work now.
"Most of the time I was paddling the same youngsters and my strong guess now is that in schools that use it, the kids who get it are usually the same ones. And when you're hitting the same kids over and over, the line between punishment and abuse is thin."
Spare the rod?
Mobile's ban on paddling was not supported by everyone. Board President Lonnie Parsons defended paddling as a biblical way to punish children.
Parsons lumped school paddling in with the removal of Roy Moore's Ten Commandments display in the Alabama judicial building and the 1960s U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning organized prayer in public schools as acts that have weakened schools and society. Parsons said principals have told him that sometimes paddling is the only tool that will work on some youngsters.
Parsons' view is one long held in Alabama. For instance, in a 1996 speech, Gov. Fob James invoked the spare the rod, spoil the child view when he said, "A good butt-whipping and then a prayer is a wonderful remedy" to juvenile crime.
Carol Hall, a parent with a son and daughter at Thompson Middle and Intermediate schools, said a lot of parents don't spank anymore. "We believe in it because that's what the Bible says. I don't beat my kids, but when they do something out of hand, mom spanks, dad spanks," Hall said.
"I think that what's happened to our children now is that they're not disciplined in school and, without paddling, the students know that they can get away with anything," she said.
Many students shrug off detention as a field day to fool around, she said.
Cereta Lanier, who was paddled in school growing up, said she wouldn't mind having her children, who are 7 and 11, spanked at school for misbehaving. "I think that because we probably do not spank enough in schools, that's probably why schools are in the shape they're in," Lanier said.
Not like home
Liveoak said that as long as alternative discipline has first been tried unsuccessfully, there's nothing wrong with a paddling.
"It's no different than that child being at home. If they're pushing your buttons, you've got to let them know that the buck stops here," she said.
In a typical year, Liveoak spanks a dozen behinds, though over the years she has relied less and less on corporal punishment. "I find myself giving myself more alternatives," she said.
Calera Elementary Principal Melissa Nannini said there are several reasons she refuses to paddle children, despite pleas from some parents.
"I'm just very uncomfortable hitting children with a paddle. I don't feel it's the best way to teach a child to solve a problem," she said. Plus, she said, "You can easily bruise a child when you don't even intend to."
Though Nannini spanked her own children when they were young, the same rules don't apply at work. "I don't want to do it as a professional educator."
Often, parents don't want to paddle their children, either. "Sometimes when you get right down to it, they don't want to do it any more than I do, but they want me to do it," she said.
That's exactly what to avoid in spanking children, said John Rosemond, a psychologist, syndicated columnist and author of 10 parenting books. Though he condones spanking, spanking a child in school "is an act of desperation," Rosemond said.
"There's absolutely no reason for the school to be doing it. If the parents will allow it, then the parents ought to do it," he said.
Rosemond said as long as the person doing the spanking has formed a loving, trusting relationship with the child, spankings aren't harmful, provided they're used only occasionally.
"I have a major problem with somebody - a principal or somebody like that - spanking a child, because the relationship is not there for the spanking to be effective in any long-term way," Rosemond said.
Mike McManus, author of the syndicated column Ethics and Religion, disagreed. He said open-handed spankings, but not paddlings, have their place in schools, as long as they're used sparingly and only on elementary-aged children.
"It seems to me there are times when a child needs a swat on the behind," McManus said.
A number of education-related groups have taken positions on paddling. The Alabama PTA opposes corporal punishment. The Alabama Association of School Boards discourages it, but defends each system's right to decide for itself.
The Alabama Education Association, the state's largest teacher organization, has no official position on corporal punishment. AEA Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert said he's not a fan, though as a teacher in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he used it.
"Later I learned more effective ways to deal with misbehaving kids and I think that's what good teachers and administrators do," Hubbert said. "If you have to paddle a child, it seems to me you've probably lost the battle to effectively teach them."
In the meantime, Shelby County school officials have no plans to ban corporal punishment.
"If it's handled appropriately, it's a very positive tool. If it's handled inappropriately, it can be a not-so-good thing," Mobley said.
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