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The Herald-Citizen, Cookesville, Tennessee, 1 June 2006
Algood principal reinstated
By Mary Jo Denton
ALGOOD -- The principal of Algood Elementary School has been cleared of any wrongdoing in connection with the paddling of a student, and on Thursday, she was reinstated to her position.
"Everything about this was handled the way it was supposed to be handled, and I'm happy to be back," Principal Leeann Taylor said from her school office on Thursday.
Both Putnam Schools Director Kathleen Airhart and Acting District Attorney Tony Craighead confirmed on Thursday that an investigation into a complaint about the paddling turned up no evidence of abuse or any other kind of crime.
Airhart also confirmed that the principal was returned to her job.
It was early May when Taylor was temporarily removed from her position as principal pending the outcome of a required investigation into the complaint. She was placed at the Central Office and worked there while the investigation was conducted by the Dept. of Children's Service and the DA's staff.
Taylor had paddled a 10-year-old boy at the school after some incident in which he broke school rules. The details of the incident have never been made public.
The paddling left bruises, and his parents filed a complaint with law enforcement, triggering a required investigation by the Dept. of Children's Services under the oversight of the district attorney's office.
Acting DA Tony Craighead said on Thursday that he sent a letter to Director of Schools Airhart last week informing her that the investigation "found no criminal activity" and that there would be no criminal charge against Taylor.
"We talked to everybody involved in this matter and found no crime," Craighead said.
The prosecutor said his letter also stated that "corporal punishment is allowed by law in Tennessee" and that if a school system chooses to use that type of punishment, "situations like these will arise from time to time."
"And when they do, it is definitely important to thoroughly investigate them, and that's what we did in this case," Craighead said.
Schools Director Airhart issued a statement confirming that "absolutely no evidence of abuse of the student was found in either the home or school environment.
"The parents properly reported a concern about the administration of corporal punishment," Airhart said. "It was found that corporal punishment was administered according to board policy."
Airhart said the principal and Putnam Schools administration "regret the adverse publicity regarding this incident."
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 1 June 2007
Coaches prevail in abuse lawsuit
By Lawrence Buser
A federal court jury took less than two hours to find in favor of former Hamilton High School coaches Ted Anderson and Eldridge Henry, who were accused in a civil lawsuit of paddling and berating a former player.
Martin Nolan, who played at Hamilton 2001-04, said he was forced to transfer and lost his senior year of eligibility because the coaches routinely paddled him with a thick piece of wood for mistakes on the court and verbally abused him.
Anderson, who now teaches history at Ridgeway Middle School, denied mistreating Nolan or any of the many hundreds of other players he coached over his 23-year career.
"I hate I had to go through with this," Anderson said after the verdict, "but the truth came out in the pudding."
Henry, a former assistant at Hamilton who now teaches at Bethel Grove Elementary, said he was glad the case was over.
Members of the six-man, three-woman jury told U.S. Dist. Court Judge Bernice Donald they did not want to discuss their verdict with anyone.
Defense attorneys argued that there was no evidence of injury or wrongdoing and that the suit was brought by Nolan and his family because he did not become a star on the perennially powerful Hamilton team. "He never complained to anyone until (in the 11th grade) he was a third-team point guard with two ninth-graders playing ahead of him," said attorney Stephen Vescovo, who represented the coaches. "That's what embarrassed him."
Added city schools' attorney Michael Marshall: "The Nolans aren't bad people. They're just disappointed."
Martin Nolan, 19, a 6-2 point guard, now plays for Crichton College and hopes to advance to another collegiate program. His brother, Marcus Nolan, was a star at Hamilton under Anderson and played for the University of Memphis in 1991-95.
Allegations in the suit included civil rights violations, assault and battery and outrageous conduct.
In the suit, Martin Nolan and his father, Nathaniel Nolan, said Anderson frequently criticized the younger Nolan for not measuring up to his brother. Martin Nolan testified that Anderson also called him "a bitch" and once punched him in the chest during a summer league game.
"This was a clear case of abuse and it's been going on there for 40 years," the father said after the verdict. "We're unhappy about this. Today we didn't win, but we're going to continue to fight this thing. Martin did not deserve this."
The Nolans' attorney, William Winchester, asked jurors to award his clients $100,000 from Henry and $500,000 each from Anderson and the Memphis City Schools. Former Hamilton principal Sonny Hicks was dismissed as defendant at the end of the case.
"This isn't about playing time," said Winchester. "This is about paddling, using the wood day in and day out, about a punch and about verbal abuse. It was not 'Tap-tap-tap.' It was 'Wham-wham-wham.' This was not discipline. This was abuse."
Copyright 2007, commercialappeal.com -- Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.
The Palladium-Item, Richmond, Indiana, 4 June 2007
Life has consequences worse than paddling
By Chuck Avery
Earlier in the school year, I heard a news report about a young schoolboy, a third grader, who was caught sneaking into the girls' restroom. The school called the police, who arrested the 8-year-old and turned him over to juvenile authorities. He was taken out of school and put into extended counseling.
I turned to Michelle and said, "So now the kid has a juvenile record as a sex offender and a huge guilt complex for his curiosity. A couple of swats on the butt and a stern lecture could have ended that problem in a few minutes."
"Not these days," Michelle said. "That would have resulted in a teacher's being fired and a lawsuit for the school."
I taught during the transition from corporal punishment being used on a regular basis to seeing it questioned, then condemned and finally made illegal. Instead, once the school authorities have exhausted their list -- write-ups, withholding privileges, no extra-curricular activities, suspensions, etc. -- they expel the student. I have argued that in some of these cases, just the prospect of corporal punishment might correct the problem. (I was once officially reprimanded by the administration for "hinting at intimidation.")
The critics of paddling maintain that it is "ineffective" and "encourages violence." I was never convinced by either argument. Punishment, corporal or otherwise, is supposed to bring about a change in behavior.
Using that criterion, I think paddling works in many cases -- but one must be judicious. Once the student is well into puberty, for instance, it is not usually effective.
Effective or not, the tool has been removed.
The old rules said that paddling could not be done in anger and that the teacher must have another teacher as a witness. During my 40 years in the classroom, I never paddled any of my students, but I have witnessed quite a few.
One of the first and most memorable paddlings I witnessed in my career was delivered by a veteran art teacher named Mr. Porter. I was in the teachers' lounge when he came in and asked if I would be willing to witness a paddling. I agreed. He told me on the way back to his room that the student, a seventh-grader who had been warned repeatedly about his classroom behavior, was highly emotional and very dramatic, so I should be ready for an overreaction.
The student was waiting in the art supply room, which adjoined the classroom. Mr. Porter told the student to take everything out of his back pockets -- standard procedure -- and bend over. He also told the student to expect three whacks for his myriad offenses.
When he delivered the first -- which I would judge was of below average force -- the student stiffened, screamed and leapt straight up in the air.
When he came down, he ran blindly around the room, rubbing his backside, bumping into storage units, knocking jars of paste off the shelves. After three laps around the room's perimeter, he collapsed to the floor, where he lay in a heap, muttering incoherently.
Mr. Porter bent over the student, I thought to ask if he needed assistance, perhaps an ambulance. Instead he said quietly, "That's one. Two to go."
I suspect the kid's reaction was more drama than trauma, but either way, it was preferable to being expelled -- or arrested and left with a juvenile record.
wmctv.com (WMC-TV), Memphis, Tennessee, 5 June 2007
MCS Board member wants to resolve Blue Ribbon controversy
By Andrew Douglas
The Memphis City School District's alternative to corporal punishment met new controversy.
Opponents of the Blue Ribbon program addressed the Board of Education.
Teachers have complained it's not working -- one school board member wants to begin hearings about it -- and the public continues to come to these meetings asking corporal punishment be allowed back.
Half the public comments had one theme in mind: Putting corporal punishment back into the city school systems.
Most were straight forward and at times emotional.
"The system has tied our hands. What I mean about that nobody can do anything and they done put it back on the parents," says Feye Metcalf.
Grandparent Bob Morgan adds, "teachers are afraid and disruptive children are keeping others from learning. We must do something different."
New School Board Member Kenneth Whalum Junior says none of the concerns are new to him. He says they're all concerns that he heard before while out on the campaign trail.
"We have our heads in the sand collectively and we're in a grand state of denial trying to pretend everything is peachy keen when its obviously not. Man and I'm concerned about that," says Whalum.
He's so concerned he's try to push forward a resolution eliminating funding for the Blue Ribbon program while opening dialogue between teachers and board members about the program's problems.
So far, his resolution and ideas have been sent off to committee and the issue has not been addressed.
When we asked Memphis City School Superintendent Carol Johnson, she admitted not everything is working perfectly and she's looking for feedback.
"There are a number of ways for us to hear some of its using technology, some of it is sending out surveys, some of it is hosting some of it is hosting parent student and staff meetings," says Johnson.
So expect the Blue Ribbon critics not to go away anytime soon.
Board member Kenneth Whalum is expected to bring another resolution to the table soon.
This one would ask for a public hearing just for teachers to respond to board members without losing their jobs.
We'll let you know if that passes.
All content © Copyright 2000 -- 2007 WorldNow and WMCTV, a Raycom Media station. All Rights Reserved.
RELATED VIDEO CLIPS
Two video news reports of which the above is an abbreviated text version (WMC Memphis, 4 June 2007). The first is earlier in the day in advance of the school board meeting. The second clip is after the meeting.
Speakers at the meeting are seen calling for the return of corporal punishment, and new board member Kenneth Whalum, who takes the same view, is interviewed.
HERE ARE THE CLIPS:
CLIP 1 OF 2
CLIP 2 OF 2
IMPORTANT: Copyright in this video material rests with the original copyright holders. These brief excerpts are reproduced under the "fair use" doctrine for private, non-profit, historical research and education purposes only. They must not be redistributed or republished in any commercial context.
Montgomery Advertiser, Alabama, 5 June 2007
Schools call for parents' input on student behavior policy
By Erin Elaine Mosely
Parents can voice their opinions about changes to the Montgomery Public Schools Code of Student Behavior at two public forums this evening.
The school system has set up two community meetings to outline the proposed changes to the district's dress, school bus discipline and cell phone policies.
"Cell phones are one major issue, and the other issue is
dress code," said Tom Salter, spokesman for MPS.
Other proposed changes include:
Pants have to be worn at the waist.
Students who violate the dress code could face disciplinary action that includes detention and suspension, Salter said.
In response to the first violation, a parent will be called
and required to bring the proper attire, Salter said.
On the third violation, students will be suspended for one day out of school, and on the fourth violation students would receive a suspension of not more than five days.
The proposal would allow students to carry cell phones, but they would have to be turned off on school buses and on school property during the school day.
A first violation would result in confiscation of the phone,
which would be returned only to a parent or guardian.
If the phone were brought back during that time, the student would be suspended for three days and banned from bringing a phone on campus for the remainder of the school year.
Salter said the proposed changes will be presented to the school board June 12. He said the board will consider the proposal for a month, and vote on it sometime after July 12.
The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi, 22 June 2007
Corporal punishment: Should schools spank your kids?
JPS board member renews paddle debate
By Rebecca Helmes
Jackson Public Schools board members are discussing the pros and cons of resuming the use of paddling as punishment.
Though allowed by a majority of public school districts in the state, the practice was abolished in 1991 in the state's largest school district. The school board decided it did not effectively deter students from bad behavior.
But Sollie Norwood, a new member of the JPS board, wants corporal punishment, prompting a new debate .
Board members said they needed to have a work session to discuss it and engage the community but have not set up one.
"We're not anywhere close to making a decision on this piece," Board President Delmer Stamps said following a discussion at Monday's board meeting. "It's a dialogue that we probably need to have."
Norwood said he wants to have a public forum once the district has compiled recent discipline information. He envisions incorporating corporal punishment into a bigger effort to hold students and parents more accountable, including things like mandatory parent-teacher conferences.
But some board members, such as Vice President Jonathan Larkin, staunchly oppose corporal punishment.
"I have no concept of what could cause an adult to strike a child in a place like a public school," Larkin said. "I don't believe it's appropriate. I don't believe it will ever be appropriate."
Board member H. Ann Jones -- who was on the school board when corporal punishment was abolished -- said besides not deterring bad behavior, corporal punishment at that time was being administered almost exclusively to black male students. The district also faced lawsuits stemming from corporal punishment incidents.
"We determined that it was in the best interest of our children and our district to not have corporal punishment," Jones said.
She still supports keeping corporal punishment out of the schools, saying it is the responsibility of parents to choose whether it's appropriate for their children.
But Norwood pointed out that districts surrounding JPS, including Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties, all allow corporal punishment and their enrollments are growing. The overall populations in those areas have also increased in recent years.
JPS Superintendent Earl Watkins acknowledged Norwood's point that the district continues to lose teachers to other metro-area districts that allow corporal punishment, but he doesn't think corporal punishment should be done in a school setting.
"I believe, personally, that is the job of the parents," Earl Watkins said.
Cecily McNair, director of the state Department of Education's Mississippi Teacher Center, said she doesn't know of any documentation or studies that specifically link teacher retention to whether a district allows corporal punishment.
Board secretary Maggie Benson-White questioned whether all of the district's administrators and staff would be comfortable administering corporal punishment.
During the 2006-07 school year, 98 of Mississippi's 152 school districts administered corporal punishment a total of 47,727 times, according to the Department of Education.
JPS board attorney JoAnne Shepherd told the board that, in Madison County School District, "reasonable" corporal punishment is permitted as a disciplinary means but only after less stringent interventions have occurred, including counseling and parent-teacher conferences. There must be a witness, and the punishment cannot happen in the presence of other students.
The district handbook on the Hinds County School District Web site says parents must give their consent before their child can be paddled.
Marisa Oliveri, public information officer for Rankin County School District, said corporal punishment is used very sparingly and is mostly only carried out by an administrator. The district's handbook says it is to be used only after other methods of correction have failed.
JPS board attorney David Watkins said many school board attorneys advise against corporal punishment because of the legal costs that can accrue in its wake -- challenges to board policy, civil suits seeking damages against the school district or criminal charges for assault against those who administer the punishment.
Watkins, who was president of the American Bar Association/Young Lawyers Division in 1984-85 when the ABA adopted a policy opposing corporal punishment in schools, also advises against it because of what he sees as the negative side-effects students can face, including fear of going to school.
Norwood sees paddling as a bigger deterrent than other punishments, such as suspension.
"They know if they act up they have consequences," Norwood said.
Susan Womack, a parent and executive director of Parents for Public Schools, does not support corporal punishment.
"When is it OK for a human being to hit another human being?" Womack asked. "What makes it OK for adults in schools to hit children in schools?"
In stronger schools, she said she thinks people can find fewer discipline referrals. She said districts need to focus on positive quality teaching and learning environments instead.
"The states with the most poverty and the lowest performing schools are the ones that have corporal punishment," Womack said.
Even in a situation where parents have to sign permission slips for corporal punishment to be used, Womack said she refers back to research that says it is not effective as discipline.
"I know we have discipline problems and we need to do something about that," Womack said.
She said people need to invest time, energy and resources in making schools better.
"It takes a lot more work obviously than taking out a paddle," Womack said.
© 2007 The Clarion-Ledger
The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi, 22 June 2007
Mississippi districts that allow corporal punishment
The school districts:
© 2007 The Clarion-Ledger
The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi, 26 June 2007
Corporal punishment deserves legitimate consideration
By Eric Stringfellow
At Meridian's East End Elementary School, Miss Garner and others used to hand out discipline with a ruler to the hand. It stung.
At Sallie Reynolds Elementary School, Principal Smith and Assistant Principal Buchanan used paddles of the wooden variety. The sting was wider.
Coaches Fields, Russell and McGee, all larger and stronger than the elementary school administrators, used fiberglass at Hardy Junior High School. The sting was more lasting.
Even at Provine High School, Assistant Principal Thomas Johnson was not reluctant to paddle the senior quarterback and class officer. That sting was embarrassing.
Of course, this type of discipline has been outlawed in Jackson Public Schools for nearly a decade after administrators apparently concluded that it was not effective.
Sollie Norwood, JPS' newest board member, is convinced this policy should be revisited, since discipline is a key issue within the district.
Maybe that's why it was rather surprising to see Norwood's colleagues and others ridicule his proposal. It's almost as if it's something that came from Pluto, instead of a policy that many school districts, including some in the metro area, never abandoned.
Norwood's proposal is worth a serious discussion, even with the skeptics.
Board member Jonathan Larkin said he couldn't imagine what would motivate an adult to strike a child in a school environment. A lot of folks would disagree, especially teachers and administrators who are in the trenches daily.
These educators, if they were honest, would say they need all the weapons they can get to help maintain, and in some cases, restore order.
Plus this is already policy in more than half in the state's school districts as well as in 22 states. Clearly, there are a lot of reasonable people who believe in this policy.
Board member H. Ann Jones, a JPS trustee when corporal punishment was abolished, said the policy was being disproportionately applied to black males, which was another factor in its demise.
That a legitimate concern, as is the fact that 75 percent of those sent to the Capitol City Alternative School for disciplinary reasons are also black males. This seems to suggest that black males are wreaking the most havoc in JPS.
That's nothing new. Most of us have already figured this out, based on the anecdotal information disseminated daily by the news media as well as the demographics of the state's prison population.
We should also be concerned that, according to the Center for Effective Discipline, 38 percent of those receiving corporal punishment nationwide are African Americans, even though African Americans make up only 17 percent of all public school students.
Those statistics clearly suggest some disproportion.
For JPS, however, disproportion would not be an issue as the student population is more than 95 percent African American.
Jones also said litigation was a factor in ending corporal punishment, but aren't other district risking the same exposure? If not, maybe any policy in JPS should be tailored after those policies that had been effective.
The U.S. Supreme Court has already concluded that corporal punishment is OK.
If the policy is not abused, all of these questions should be moot.
Jones and Superintendent Earl Watkins said they believe physical discipline is the responsibility of parents, and they are correct.
But what happens if that discipline is lacking at home and unacceptable behavior comes to school?
This question, as well as others surrounding this policy, should be pondered and debated in the proper forum with some civility.
Norwood is not advocating the district execute its discipline problems. He's only suggesting the district revisit a policy that once worked well and one that appears to still be working elsewhere.
There is absolutely nothing unreasonable about that.
© 2007 The Clarion-Ledger
The Fort Payne Times-Journal, Alabama, 28 June 2007
Schools OK pass, fail policy
By Jared Felkins
Fort Payne students who do not make satisfactory grades can
now fail kindergarten without parental permission.
Another policy change deals with paddling students. The
addition states that no student is exempt from paddling as a
response to a violation of the code of conduct unless otherwise
stated in the student's individual education plan.
Copyright © 2007 The Fort Payne Times-Journal
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