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The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi, 2 July 2007
Discipline at home, at school should be a joint effort
I'm writing in response to the article about corporal punishment ("Should schools spank your kids?" June 22).
Forty years of teaching in several Mississippi schools has given me the opportunity to observe the changes that our schools have made with and without corporal punishment.
In 1965, which was the beginning of my teaching career, teachers spanked as needed. Three licks with a ruler or light paddle solved the discipline problems. There were usually one or two students who required a couple of spankings during the first month of school. Parents usually followed up with another one at home. Students understood and accepted the boundaries -- therefore, developing self discipline. Discipline was established and we got back to business of learning.
Of course, I fully agree that there must be strict guidelines in order to prevent abuse. Teachers must be trained about when and how to administer punishment.
I retired in '04, worked as an educational consultant for two years, and taught the second semester of '07. I honestly love teaching. I plan to teach second semester again next year wherever I'm needed. My Master's and National Board rating will expire in '08.
Discipline has never been a problem for me. I love and respect my students and they in turn want to please me. Even though I have no real problem, I miss the days when I didn't waste valuable time going through the different levels of discipline in order to achieve the same result. A call to parents was all that was usually needed.
Parents need to give control back to the schools and follow up at home. Parental trust and support might make corporal punishments an unnecessary tool.
© 2007 The Clarion-Ledger
The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi, 8 July 2007
Most districts still use paddle
Some Miss. schools now rewarding students for good behavior
By Rebecca Helmes
When it comes to getting students to behave well, McComb Separate School District favors perks over the paddle.
Interim Superintendent Therese Palmertree said her Pike County district abandoned corporal punishment about 10 years ago and has implemented a program called Positive Behavior Intervention System. The system is designed to reward students for good behavior.
"When you do take the paddle away, you have to put something in place (to administer consequences)," Palmertree said.
But a majority of Mississippi public schools paddle as punishment. According to the state Department of Education, Mississippi schools have reported using corporal punishment 47,727 times during the 2006-07 school year. The Clarion-Ledger found that at least two school districts -- Hinds County and Attala -- have board policies allowing corporal punishment but did not report how many times it was used.
Hinds County School District Superintendent Stephen Handley said he didn't think that reporting corporal punishment was required. State education communications director Caron Blanton said via e-mail that it's a challenge to keep districts apprised of the information they must submit to the state.
McComb hasn't had that issue. Implementation of its reward program takes three to five years and includes training staff to change its approach to discipline. Instead of paying attention to minor bad behavior, teachers praise those who do well by answering a question correctly or who are well-behaved. Since its implementation, school administrators said serious discipline referrals have been cut by at least 50 percent.
"We're hoping that the positive behavior support system that we have in place will take care of 80 to 90 percent of infractions," Palmertree said. For the rest of the disciplinary problems, the district has a disciplinary ladder in place -- time outs, Saturday detentions and an alternative school system.
David Elkin, psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said that while spankings work in stopping a behavior immediately, they don't necessarily stop children from behaving badly later.
"The question is, (have they) learned from that?" Elkin said. "You haven't taught long-term behavioral change."
Rather than paddling or spanking children, Elkin said parents or administrators can take a more planned approach to how they will discipline their children.
"It also has to be individualized," Elkin said. "You need to get them where it is most meaningfully painful for them."
Even among districts that paddle, leaders say it's not an option that works on every student.
"You've got to change the game plan if it's not working," DeSoto County School District Superintendent Milton Kuykendall said.
During the 2006-07 school year, corporal punishment was used 5,369 times in the 28,000-student district. In order to paddle a student, the school must have parental permission; children can't be hit more than three times with a district-approved paddle; a certified teacher must be a witness and children can opt to receive a different punishment, such as suspension, if they don't want to be paddled.
The parents in DeSoto, Kuykendall said, mostly support the practice. "We never got any parent that sent us a letter in criticism of the policy," Kuykendall said.
Jackson Public Schools board member Sollie Norwood sparked debate when he asked the board to consider reinstating the practice districtwide. JPS stopped using corporal punishment in 1991, when it was determined uneffective in preventing students from misbehaving.
Now board members say the district's gathering research for a public forum on the issue, which has not been scheduled.
Tonja Murphy, a JPS parent, does not like corporal punishment at school.
"I wouldn't feel comfortable with an administrator paddling my child at school," Murphy said. "If there was more input or more structure with the child at home, there wouldn't be a need for corporal punishment at school."
Her 17-year-old daughter, Murrah High School student Alexandria Lee, thought differently, though.
"I think that they should bring it back because it would be pretty beneficial," Lee said. "Some need it; some don't. Some need it more than others.
In the Rankin County district, deputy superintendent Suzanne French said teachers try to first use positive reinforcements to encourage good behavior before picking up the paddle.
She said psychologists work with students, teachers and principals to try to solve the discipline issue, too.
According to the Mississippi Department of Education, the Rankin County district used corporal punishment 1,184 times during the 2006-07 school year. The district has more than 17,000 students.
"There are some children that don't respond to corporal punishment and there are some students that do," French said.
© 2007 The Clarion-Ledger
The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi, 23 July 2007
Corporal punishment could help deter a life of crime
After reading Eric Stringfellow's column ("Corporal punishment deserves legitimate consideration" June 26), I have concluded that since Sollie Norwood is a "new" school board member, what Jackson Public Schools needs are a few more "new" board members who have faced the harsh reality that other public school systems have long concluded: If left unchecked, some of our schools will simply continue to grow up and run to ruins.
It is no secret that the desegregation of public schools in Mississippi was the driving force behind the removal of physical discipline in JPS as well as other public schools in the state. If the faces of racism are changing in the state, then it makes good sense to change some of the ways that our public school systems are governed.
For those who would oppose corporal punishment because of the physical and emotional harm that students might encounter, I would invite them to focus on what happens to these very same students when they end up in the justice system.
One can only guess how many of these lives could have been altered had they been introduced to corrective measures before entering a world of crime.
As a student of the late Professor J.P. Johnson, principal at George Washington Carver High School in Picayune, I, perhaps, escaped a world of crime because of Mr. Johnson's use of "old glory" which was followed by a letter home regarding my behaviors. This letter resulted in the usage of -- you name it, and there was no such creature known as "child abuse."
As sure as there is a need to reclaim our communities, there is a greater need to reclaim our public schools. If this does not happen soon, we will find ourselves allocating more and more money to build more prisons and training schools and less money for reading, writing, and arithmetic buildings for our youth.
James E. Jordan
© 2007 The Clarion-Ledger
myeyewitnessnews.com (WPTY-TV and WUXP-TV), Memphis, Tennessee, 31 July 2007
Memphis City Schools
Blue Ribbon Plan Criticized
By Rebecca Medina
While there some who applauded the behavioral plan that outlawed corporal punishment a couple years ago, there were more who said it just wasn't working.
Many frustrated teachers took the microphone to tell the school board they needed help. Teacher Cheryl Simmons told the members, "Sometimes it feels like the patients are running the asylum, and if we don't change what we're doing, one day the patients will run the asylum and we'll be the patients."
Some teachers said they flat out refused to begin paddling students again. Others told the school board members the behavioral problem runs deeper than many understand, and that most kids in the inner city are more concerned with their next meal instead of studies.
The Memphis City School board is planning four more meetings in the city, then it is expected to restructure the Blue Ribbon Plan.
© 2007 Clear Channel Broadcasting, Inc.
RELATED VIDEO CLIP
"Paddling debate", TV news item (3 minutes) of which the above is an abbreviated text version (ABC 24 Eyewitness News, 30 July 2007). Report from school board's town hall meeting about the Blue Ribbon Plan. Speakers seen calling for the return of corporal punishment. Reporter waves paddle at camera.
HERE IS THE CLIP:
IMPORTANT: Copyright in this video material rests with the original copyright holders. This brief excerpt is reproduced under the "fair use" doctrine for private, non-profit, historical research and education purposes only. It must not be redistributed or republished in any commercial context.
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