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www.corpun.com   :  Archive   :  2008   :  US Schools Apr 2008

-- THE ARCHIVE --


UNITED STATES
School CP - April 2008



Corpun file 20122

Citizen Tribune, Morriston, Tennessee, 1 April 2008

Grand jury does not indict Hancock principal

By Robert Moore

Corporal punishment at school -- even when it results in severe bruising -- is not a prosecutable offense, a Hancock County grand jury found on Tuesday.

The grand jury declined to indict Hancock County High School and Middle School principal Thomas Zachary for any offense.

District Attorney General C. Berkeley Bell Jr. gave the grand jury the option of indicting Zachary for aggravated assault, simple assault and child abuse.

A grand jury consists of 12 members and a foreman, who can vote. In order to obtain an indictment, 12 of the 13 grand jurors must vote to send the case to criminal court.

In other words, at least two grand jurors believed that Zachary should not be indicted.

In November, Zachary reportedly paddled a 13-year-old boy twice on the same day.

Zachary has been on paid administrative leave since Feb. 8 after several parents complained to the Hancock County Board of Education about a general lack of discipline in the schools.

Whether or not Zachary will return as principal remains unclear.

Mike Antrican, director of Hancock County schools, could not be reached for comment early Tuesday afternoon.




Corpun file 20123

Chillicothe Gazette, Ohio, 2 April 2008

School paddling on decline

One area district still spanking when needed

By Jona Ison
Gazette Staff Writer

(extracts)

LATHAM - The Center for Effective Discipline is hoping Ohio schools will soon be corporal punishment-free zones.

Although the center reports 13 districts in the state, including Western Local Schools in Pike County, continued to paddle students as a form of discipline last year, a bill has been introduced that would ban paddling entirely.

"Times change, and you have to change with them and research," said Nadine Block, center executive director, adding that there is no research that supports paddling as an effective means of discipline. Despite contradictory research, some communities continue to ask for paddling to remain in their schools. At Western, new Superintendent Terry Leeth reiterated what former Superintendent Joe Morrison has said in the past - the district had stopped paddling after a lawsuit connected to the paddling of a student was thrown out of court but reinstated it at the request of the community.

"I really don't have a problem with it as long as it's implemented as it is supposed to be," Leeth said.

Although numbers reflect 321 paddlings of 202 students (58 of those paddlings were administered to 33 of the students at Western) throughout the state in the 2006-07 school year, Block said those numbers were down about 25 percent from the last school year.

Block asks why is it that 600 other public school districts "can get along without it." That answer may lie in the fact the legislature banned corporal punishment in 1993. Although banned, there was an exception that allowed school boards, if they followed several procedures, to vote to keep paddling. If HB 406, which is cosponsored by Reps. Jon Peterson and Brian Williams, passes, it would repeal the language making the exception, therefore banning corporal punishment in schools throughout Ohio.

[...]

Paddling in Ohio, 2006-07
DISTRICT (COUNTY)
(# paddlings/students paddled)
Morgan Local (Morgan) – 66/36
Canton City (Stark) – 65/42
South Point (Lawrence) – 62/37
Western (Pike) – 58/33
Bloom-Vernon (Scioto) – 19/15
Lynchburg-Clay (Highland) – 11/9
Adams County (Adams) – 10/9
East Clinton (Clinton) – 10/5
Fayetteville-Perry (Brown) – 8/7
Hillsdale Local (Ashland) – 4/3
Symmes Valley (Lawrence) – 4/2
Edon-Northwest (Williams) – 3/3
East Guernsey (Guernsey) – 1/1

Source: Center for Effective Discipline based on district reports to the state and verified by surveys conducted by the center.

Copyright © 2008 Chillicothe Gazette All rights reserved.




Corpun file 20128

Shreveport Times, Louisiana, 4 April 2008

Superintendents oppose school discipline proposals

By Mike Hasten

(extracts)

BATON ROUGE -- School superintendents from throughout Louisiana made it clear Thursday they don't want the state Legislature telling them how to maintain discipline in their schools.

State Education Superintendent Paul Pastorek asked for comments from the Parish Superintendents' Advisory Council on several pieces of legislation and got an almost unanimous thumbs-down on the ones that would change school discipline laws.

Superintendents on both sides of the corporal punishment issue told Pastorek the current system, which allows each school system to set its own policy and enforce it, works well. They also opposed proposals they said would weaken their ability to get dangerous students out of schools.

The school leaders strongly disagreed with a proposal that calls for each school system, including those that don't allow corporal punishment, to send parents letters offering a choice of having their children subject to corporal punishment. Schools would be required to keep the letters on file and to file regular reports.

"I don't like corporal punishment," said Rapides schools Superintendent Gary Jones, although it is allowed in his system. "I'd rather have legislation abolishing corporal punishment."

Many Parish Superintendents' Advisory Council members agreed.

Jones said he has been wrapped up in corporal punishment lawsuits in two school systems as superintendent and one as an assistant and would prefer not to have another.

"In my own district, there are 15 different interpretations of what corporal punishment ought to be. There are probably 5,000 across the state."

St. Helena schools Superintendent Amy Westbrook said she "would hate to see the option of corporal punishment removed from state law" because she supports corporal punishment and uses it in her parish's schools.

Superintendents also disagreed with legislation that says all disruptive students would be sent to alternative schools rather than some being turned over to the juvenile justice system. State law requires that serious offenders be arrested.

[...]

If the Legislature adopts Senate Bill 304, the corporal punishment bill by Senate Education Committee Chairman Ben Nevers, of Bogalusa, "it will increase litigation and increase the paperwork load" because of the reporting involved, Jones said.

Pastorek told the group he proposed the change because "there are things (happening) that are inconsistent with our policy" and "we did have some incidents that caused me real concern."

In some schools, he said, the administration of corporal punishment is "cavalier or casual" and he wants a statewide standard.

With his plan, "parents ought to fully understand the rules of engagement," Pastorek said, such as whether students would be struck with a paddle, a ruler or a hand.

Superintendents said if forms are sent home with students to get parental permission for or against corporal punishment and the letters have to be kept on file, none of the forms would ever come back to school, so there would be no corporal punishment.

[...]




Corpun file 20173

logo

wdef.com (WDEF-TV News 12), Chattanooga, Tennessee, 7 April 2008

Marion County Sheriff's Office Investigates Case of Excessive Discipline

By Nordia Epps

The parents of a South Pittsburgh boy launch an investigation into what they call excessive punishment.

They say a teacher paddled the 11 year old special needs student against their wishes...leaving physical bruising and emotional scars.

"It was just excessive and it was brutal," says Daniel Turner.

Tuesday evening just before bedtime he and his wife made a disturbing discovery.

"He said 'Dad my behind is red' so I looked at it and that's when I noticed the bruises, a lot of bruises."

The parents say against their wishes, they say they'd signed a waiver against it, inside Richard Hardy Memorial School, a teacher paddled their 11 year old.

He's a special education student.

"He said his brain didn't work so immediately he thinks he's being punished because he's different than everybody else and that just breaks my heart," Turner says.

A police report and a letter from the child's pediatrician describe swelling and bruising. The police chief called it excessive discipline.

"I don't want to be the type of parent that runs to the school and defends my child every time a teacher argues with them or disciplines them or anything like that but this went above and beyond any kind of sensible punishment," he says.

The police report also indicates the teacher admitted to paddling the boy but said she didn't mean to hurt him.

"This is not about revenge. I was angry when it happened. I still am angry. I'm upset, but my main concern is my child's education and safety," he says.

And that of other students like their son.

"I don't want to see this happen no more," Turner says.

For now they're leary about sending their son back inside Richard Hardy Elementary.

"I have no idea what's going on behind those walls. I got a little bit lax. I got relaxed about it. That's what scares me now because anything could happen," he says.

Superintendent Grant Barnum acknowledged that the incident was under investigation but no charges have been filed and he couldn't comment any further.

Our call to the Sheriff's office didn't get returned.

Copyright © 2006 Morris Multimedia & WDEF-TV | All rights reserved.



blob RELATED VIDEO CLIP

TV news report (2 minutes 12 seconds) from WDEF12, Chattanooga (7 April 2008) of which the above is an online text version. The paddled boy's father is interviewed.


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 EXTERNAL LINK: opens in new window for private, non-profit, historical research and education purposes only. It must not be redistributed or republished in any commercial context.




Corpun file 20143

Marietta Times, Ohio, 14 April 2008

Some area schools still spank

By Connie Cartmell

Twenty-nine states in the U.S. have banned paddling. All Ohio Catholic schools and almost 600 public school districts educate children without corporal punishment, according to the Center for Effective Discipline in Columbus.

Legislation passed in 1993 discouraged corporal punishment in schools, and current Ohio law bans it, but allows a local school board to vote to keep it if they go through a number of special procedures.

Today, 13 Ohio counties, including Morgan and Guernsey in southeast Ohio, continue to paddle students.

If a school district does paddle, one requirement is reporting the number of incidents and number of students paddled. Another is involving parents.

"Every parent signs a paper if they don't want their child paddled," said Jeff Shaner, president of the Morgan Local School District Board of Education. "The school honors that parent's wishes."

Shaner, who has been on the board since 1995, said paddling was a topic of conversation in the district three to five years ago, but the issue hasn't come before the board in recent years.

"Local feedback is that this is not an issue," Shaner said. "We've gone from hundreds (of paddlings) to 66, the last I heard. Almost all are in the high school and almost none in K-6."

In the 2006-07 school year, a total of 321 paddling incidents were reported in the 13 Ohio districts which still paddle, carried out on 202 students.

In Morgan Local School District, 36 students were paddled and the total number of paddling incidents reported to the state was 66.

Morgan's statistics were the highest reported in the state that year.

In East Guernsey Local School District, one student was paddled at school in the 2006-07 school year, according to reports from the Education Management Information System of the Ohio Board of Education, verified through the Center for Effective Discipline.

"I am not opposed to paddling as an option," Shaner said. "But paddling every day? Absolutely not."

Paddling is a last resort in the district, he said, and at the bottom of a lengthy list of discipline policies and options, all part of the district's code of student conduct.

When Shaner was a teacher in the 1980s, he said corporal punishment was often the first discipline option.

"We're far removed from that today," he said.

A verbal reprimand, after-school or in-school detentions, Saturday school, assignment to Alternative Education Placement, out-of-school suspension or corporal punishment (swats) are all mentioned as options in the high school's handbook.

"In some instances," Shaner said, "a student might rather have a 'swat' and forget the detention time."

Former Morgan County teacher Karen Greer of McConnelsville isn't certain that totally banning paddling from the school district is a good thing.

"I think it needs to be on the books," she said. "I think there should always be that option -- a last resort."

Early in her teaching career, she did paddle a junior high student once. She had a reputation for being a strict disciplinarian, she said.

"I got physically ill after I did it," she said. "The student's mother and I cried on the phone afterward. The parent needs to know what you are doing and why. My principal did most of the paddling."

Greer remembers that when she was in public school in the 1950s, there was no hesitation to spank in the schools.

"I was a good kid, but one time the person in back of me was pulling my hair and I reached around at the wrong time, the teacher was walking by, and she smacked me in the back with a ruler," Greer said.

The whack left a large red mark, which she hid from her parents.

"Back then, whatever happened at school happened two times more at home," Greer said.

Greer, who taught junior high 10 years, has not taught for nine years because of health issues.

"That child today still remembers that I cried about it (the paddling)," she said.




Corpun file 20149

South Lake Press, Clermont, Florida, 15 April 2008

School Board Unanimously Approves Corporal Punishment Policy Revision

Local residents are campaigning to have the districts paddling rules revised. Their top priority is a district wide policy requiring schools to honor parents request for students to be excluded from paddling.

By Michael Hickmon

The Lake County School Board unanimously approved an amendment to the districts corporal punishment policy requiring that paddling only be administered when the school has a signed parent consent form on file.

The change to the policy was recommended by a group of local parents, headed by activist Michael Hickmon. It was placed on the agenda by Cindy Barrow, and seconded by Jimmy Conner. Mr. Hickmon addressed the board briefly before the vote. He stated that the policy change would enable parents to protect their children in the event that they felt a specific teacher or administrator was using corporal punishment inappropriately.

Superintendent Anna Cowin defended the old policy, and stated that state law provides students sufficient protection from excessive punishment. State and Federal courts have ruled that school paddling that resulted in significant bruising, welts, and fractured tail bones were all reasonable.

"I think that many parents in Lake County would disagree with those courts decisions and that those who do should be able to send their children to school without worrying that their children will be subjected to punishments that they consider unconscionable," Hickmon says. "There is no need for administrators to have more power than parents in making these significant decisions about child-rearing. These are our kids, not the governments."

In her remarks, Superintendent Cowin claimed that the changes would make it possible for parents to sue the district any time a student was "touched" by a teacher. Board member Scott Strong vehemently disagreed with the superintendent's remarks, which he characterized as "inflammatory" and "misleading".

Lake School's narrowly define corporal punishment as 'the moderate use of paddling in front of a witness.' "The Superintendents suggestion that people might confuse paddling with touching a student on the arm is absurd," Hickmon commented.

Florida Statute 1003.32(j) also gives teachers and administrators the right to use reasonable force as might be necessary to break up a fight or defend oneself from a violent student. This provision is separate from the disciplinary use of corporal punishment which is outlined later in 1003.32(k).

"This amendment does not keep teachers from touching students or breaking up fights. What it does is require principals to follow parent's directives regarding who may paddle their children. It should have been this way all along" Mr. Hickmon said. Board Member Scott Strong agreed, saying "It's a no-brainer."




Corpun file 20162

The Webster Progress-Times, Mississippi, 16 April 2008

Judge finds Brand not guilty in paddling case

By Russell Hood
The Webster Progress-Times

Supporters of Bill Brand erupted into applause last week in Webster County Justice Court when a judge said he was free to go after being tried for simple assault.

The misdemeanor charge against him stemmed from the paddling of a female student last school year when Brand was principal at East Webster High School, where he is now a teacher/coach.

Justice Judge Robert Jordan of Attala County, following closing arguments in the April 10 hearing, found Brand not guilty of simple assault.

"It's a bad situation," said Jordan, who heard the case after local judges recused themselves from doing so.

He told county Prosecutor Jan Butler that he did not believe the case had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt or that Brand intended to harm the student when he paddled her.

Linda Pee charged Brand with simple assault after he paddled her daughter, Audrey, on March 20, 2007. The charge originally concerned whether or not Audrey, then 18 and a senior, was on the "no paddle" list but her mother later amended it to also allege that Brand used excessive force and didn't follow School Board policy.

Those testifying were Audrey Pee; Dr. Timothy Whittle of West Point; Linda Pee; Superintendent of Education Jimmy Pittman; Justice Court Clerk Janice Brunty; Brand; East Webster coach/teacher Cliff Little, who witnessed the paddling; East Webster computer lab assistant Donna Fowler; and Melinda Butler, former office assistant at the school.

According to the testimony, Brand paddled Audrey Pee for being disrespectful to Fowler, who said she confronted Audrey before school began because the student was not complying with the dress code.

According to Fowler, the legs of her jogging pants were rolled up right below her knees, which was higher than allowed. Fowler said she believed the dress code change was made just the day before, when it was announced over the intercom.

She said Audrey told her she was not going to roll her pants legs down, while rolling her eyes and "flying her hair around." Fowler, who said she's not allowed to spank students, took Audrey to the principal's office for being rude and disrespectful.

Brand said he told Audrey the dress code wasn't the problem but rather her tone and attitude toward Fowler. He said he gave the option of in-school suspension or a paddling, and she chose the latter. Brand also said Audrey was respectful and understanding of the situation while in his office.

Brand said he gave her two licks, testifying, "It was a normal padding." Little called the paddling one that was standard and professional.

Hugh Gibson, who is attorney for the Webster County School Board, and law partner Thomas Jones represented Brand.

During his closing arguments, Gibson said he did not believe any evidence showed that Brand intended to hurt Audrey or that he went out of his way to hurt her.

"He had to get her attention," said Gibson. "He didn't beat her; he paddled her."

However, Butler said that corporal punishment was not on trial but rather the amount of force that Brand used on her. He claimed that Brand exceeded reasonable and moderate use of paddling because she was bruised. But according to testimony, Audrey stated in a text message after her paddling that she knew Brand did not intend to leave bruises.

Copyright © 2008 Webster Progress Times




Corpun file 20150

logo

ky3.com (KYTV-3), Springfield, Missouri, 21 April 2008

State, sheriff's department probe school paddling that left welts

By Chad Plein
KY3 News

Paddled: Marisa Fletcher
WASHBURN, Mo. -- A mother admits her daughter deserved punishment for breaking a rule but says the high school principal went too far. The Children's Division of the Department of Social Services is investigating a series of swats at Southwest High School.

The incident ended with Marisa Fletcher being treated at a hospital emergency room. That came after this Honor Society sophomore thought she was doing the right thing in accepting punishment for having a cellular telephone, which was not in use, sitting on her lap in class.

"I try to be the best student, but everyone messes up once in a while," said Marisa.

Willing to take the paddling punishment on Friday, the 15-year-old students didn't know the swats would leave marks that she says were still visible on Monday.

"Parents sign a waiver form to allow the swats," said Doug Lawyer, superintendent of the Southwest School District.

"I never would have allowed the swats if I knew there'd be physical harm," said Laura Fletcher, Marisa's mother.

The Southwest School Board adopted swats as a form of corporal punishment in 2003. It was revised a year later. The superintendent says this is the first complaint against the paddling.

"We've had no problem," said Lawyer.

Laura Fletcher and a teacher witnessed the swats by the high school principal.

"He took both hands and raised them up and, like a full golf swing, came down, forcing her forward, and before I could say 'Jesus', he hit her again," said Fletcher.

The firm eye-opening punishment that the Fletchers thought Marisa would receive was a firm slap.

"There's no way to gauge how hard a swat should be," said Lawyer.

Marisa said the pain was so severe that she was taken to the hospital.

"There were one-inch deep welts; she was starting to bruise," said Fletcher.

The Fletchers believe the corporal punishment measure should be re-evaluated by the school board, and the principal should be reprimanded.

Lawyer has not taken action against the principal, and has no plans to ask the school board to revise the policy.

"This has nothing to do with me. I just don't want anyone else hurt," said Marisa.

Lawyer says the principal will not perform any swattings while the Children's Division and the Barry County Sheriff's Department investigate this incident.

The Missouri State Teachers Association says there's no state law regarding paddling. Each school district's board votes on its own type of punishments.

© KYTV-TV. All Rights Reserved.



blob RELATED VIDEO CLIP

TV news report (2 minutes 46 seconds) from KY3 tv (21 April 2008) of which the above is an online text version. The paddled girl and her mother, and the school superintendent, are interviewed.


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 EXTERNAL LINK: opens in new window for private, non-profit, historical research and education purposes only. It must not be redistributed or republished in any commercial context.



blob Follow-up: 28 September 2008 - Principal not charged in paddling incident (with video clip)




Corpun file 20156

masthead

Ironton Tribune, Ohio, 27 April 2008

Paddle policy stuck in committee

By Teresa Moore
The Ironton Tribune

In the 1970s, they were hung on the wall in many a classroom and often were given a name: the "board of education," or "the teacher's friend."

Some were painted or drilled with holes to maximize their impact, figuratively if not literally.

The paddle, once as much of a staple in American classrooms as the desk or chalkboard, is becoming more and more relegated to the past. Only a handful of Ohio school districts still allow corporal punishment in schools. Some say it should be banned, others say they have no problem with the paddle.

Banning the board

Only 21 states allow corporal punishment in schools and Ohio is among them. Only 13 school districts in Ohio used corporal punishment in the 2006-07 school year, the last year for which figures are available, Symmes Valley and South Point schools are on that list.

In the 2006-07 school year, corporal punishment was meted out only two times in Symmes Valley and 37 times in South Point schools.

HB 406 would prohibit all corporal punishment. That legislation is right now in the House education committee and has been since December 2007.

Supporters concede it may not have much chance of getting out of committee, but they continue to try anyway.

In 1993 the Ohio Legislature banned corporal punishment but allowed school districts to continue using it provided certain specific procedures are followed, such as getting input from parents, teachers, principals, school nurses and other health professionals.

The Center for Effective Discipline was among the entities spearheading the move to get the 1993 law passed and continues to work to get a full, permanent ban on paddling.

Executive Director Nadine Block said her organization began in the mid-1980s to get a law passed to prohibit corporal punishment. It took nine years to get the limited ban on paddling and she harbors no illusions that passing a complete ban will be easy, though she says it should be.

"I know it's not a slam dunk although it should be a slam dunk. We have a number of organizations that support it, we have the governor's support. Almost 70 percent of Ohioans oppose corporal punishment in schools according to a United States survey done in 2005," she said. "There is just lots of weight of the argument on our side."

Why ban the board?

Block said there have been reported injuries in Ohio and elsewhere resulting from corporal punishment รข€” injuries that were unnecessary.

"If you pick up a board and hit someone with a board, how can you calculate how hard is too hard (to hit them)?" Block asked. "We want people to understand better alternatives exist for dealing with children. We have decades of research to show corporal punishment doesn't work and is harmful. We have better ways to teach kids to be constructive, caring, contributing adults."

Those who do

Tom Ben, superintendent of Symmes Valley schools, said several years ago when the decision was made to continue using corporal punishment, parents in his district were surveyed about their thoughts. At the time, he said they seemed to indicate their support, so long as it was administered properly.

Ben said paddling is usually a last resort and is used sparingly and is most often used on younger students whose parents have given their express consent for it.

"We have found out that when you get parents involved, there is usually a change in their behavior," Ben said.

Ben said paddling was more common when he began his career in public education in the early 1970s.

Ben said much of the trend away from it has been the result of liability issues that arise when a child is struck by an adult.

Efforts to contact representatives of South Point schools were unsuccessful.

Those who don't

Dawson-Bryant, like other schools, ended the use of corporal punishment several years ago and now favors a variety of disciplinary methods that varies with age level and progressively worsens, if necessary.

Superintendent James Payne said Dawson-Bryant uses "reteaching behavior" strategies that include talking with the child to find out why the infraction occurred, parental involvement and, if necessary, suspension.

"Sometimes the student did something and at first doesn't realize what they're being disciplined for," Payne explained. "I've found that what we do is fairly successful if done correctly and it has worked really well for us."

Parental thoughts

South Point parent Bill Winters said while it has never been an issue with his own children, he is not opposed to corporal punishment if it is applied correctly.

"You don't put bruises on the child, you don't lift the kid off the ground or do it just to see how hard you can hit," Winters said. "A teacher shouldn't spank any harder than the parent."

Winters said the threat of such discipline can be an effective tool.

"I've always told my kids if you do something to deserve a spanking then you'll get it," he said. "If you're in the right and the teacher is in the wrong we'll cross that bridge when we get to it."



blob Follow-up: 29 May 2008 - Bill to ban paddling in Ohio schools is hanging by a thin thread




Corpun file 20164

cbs11tv.com (CBS TV 11), Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, 28 April 2008

Mom Says School Took Corporal Punishment Too Far

Reporting: Carol Cavazos


JOSHUA (CBS 11 News) -- They call paddling "pops" or "swats," and it's perfectly legal in the Joshua Independent School District.

A Johnson County mother says she's filing charges after the result of two of those "pops" left welts on her 17-year-old son and made him bleed a little.

Julie Halcomb said her son, a junior at Joshua High School, was paddled so hard it left him with welts and red marks.

She said her son received them last Monday for missing one class, which she says was a misunderstanding between his band teachers.

"If their policy is to swat someone to make welts on them for a week and making it bleed, then they need to be changing their policy," said Halcomb.

Joshua ISD Superintendent Ray Dane said, "I hate that this happened. I do think policy was followed."

The district paddling policy comes up again for review next month. The superintendent said they'll consider abolishing it.

© MMVIII, CBS Stations Group of Texas L.P. All Rights Reserved.



blob RELATED VIDEO CLIP

TV news report (1 minute 44 seconds) from CBS 11 tv, Dallas/Fort Worth (28 April 2008) of which the above is an online text version. The paddled youth's mother is interviewed.


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 EXTERNAL LINK: opens in new window for private, non-profit, historical research and education purposes only. It must not be redistributed or republished in any commercial context.




Corpun file 20165

News & Observer, Raleigh, N. Carolina, 29 April 2008

Spare the rod, group urges

Schools asked to report discipline

By Peggy Lim
Staff Writer

North Carolina is one of 21 states that allows corporal punishment in public schools, but state education officials don't monitor these punishments closely enough, a child advocacy group said in a report it released today.

Teaming with UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work students, Action for Children surveyed all 115 of the state's school districts, finding 60 still permit corporal punishment. Those that do include Johnston, Franklin, Harnett and Nash-Rocky Mount. Corporal punishment bans are in effect in 55 school districts, including Wake, Durham, Orange and Chatham counties and most of the state's major metropolitan counties.

A statewide ban failed in the legislature by 16 votes last year, meaning it can't come up again until 2009. But in the meantime, Action for Children is working with a legislative commission to get a bill introduced in May that would require districts to report instances of corporal punishment to the State Board of Education.

Besides greater oversight, the North Carolina nonprofit agency also wants the state to adopt more clearly defined standards for acceptable corporal punishment. The group has recommended allowing only trained staff of the same sex as the student to administer punishment with "the use of the hand on the buttocks (spanking) to avoid injuries inherent in the use of the paddle."

"There are some folks that would think it inappropriate for a man to have his hand on the butt of a girl," said Tom Vitaglione, the senior fellow of Action for Children who led the analysis.

Wayne Doll, a Nash-Rocky Mount school administrator, said he knows corporal punishment can be appropriately administered as an effective deterrent of disciplinary problems. In his garage, he still keeps "Mr. Wood," the thin wooden paddle he used during his 15 years as principal of a middle school -- to give three licks to the behinds of misbehaving students. "I never used the hand," he said. "I would think the hand would leave a mark."

Doll said he knows of maybe one principal in the school district who still sparingly uses such methods. But that principal has been around for 40 years and knows the students' parents and parents' parents, he said. "He's part of the family," Doll said. "And when you're part of the family, they expect you to do some of those things."

It's not an approach Doll recommends to newer principals even though the district still allows staff members to paddle students with parents' permission. "Now, there's a whole lot more interventions to use," Doll said. "And of course, there's a lot more lawyers out there today that sometimes such things aren't worth it."

Anthony Parker, Johnston County superintendent, said even though his district's policy still allows for corporal punishment, it's not being used. The board simply hasn't gotten around to changing the policy, he said. "We have discouraged the use of physical punishment of children," Parker said. "We don't think that's the right thing to do nor would we condone it at all."

Howard Lee, SBOE chairman, knows officials in many school districts also discourage physical punishment of students even though they don't have a formal ban. The problem with not having a ban, though, is that a "renegade teacher" may choose to punish a student anyway go too far, he said.

"There's no option to tell the teacher that he or she was wrong," said Lee, who as a state senator in the 1990s introduced a bill that first gave local districts the right to ban corporal punishment.

State law excuses educators from liability for using "reasonable force" to control or discipline students.

That disturbs Johnston County parent Michelle Woodard, who said her daughter was shaken violently by a Riverwood Elementary kindergarten teacher. Another parent sued that teacher for allegedly banging a child's head into a wall, Woodard said. The teacher was arrested for "assault on a child" and resigned this school year. But a judge dismissed the case in court.

"The family has to prove that unreasonable methods were used," Vitaglione said. "And they have to go through all the contortions of the process."

© Copyright 2008, The News & Observer Publishing Company



Corpun file 20191

News & Observer, Raleigh, N. Carolina, 30 April 2008

Spanking is behind the times

By Ruth Sheehan
Staff Writer

Surely not. That was my first reaction to the study indicating that teachers are allowed to paddle, spank or otherwise accost their students in more than half the counties in North Carolina.

Surely not in this day and age. But Elizabeth Stevens set me straight.

On Dec. 11 2007, Stevens' 12-year-old son was walloped repeatedly by one of his McDowell County public school teachers with two boards held together with black electrical tape. The teacher, said to tip the scales past 300 pounds, referred to his disciplinary device as Black Betty.

Ol' Black Betty definitely left its mark. Stevens' son's backside was a crazy quilt of bruises and raised red welts. His mother rushed him to the emergency room and called the Sheriff's Office and county social workers to report her son's injuries.

Social services immediately informed her that because the case involved a teacher, it was outside the department's realm.

The sheriff's department investigated but the district attorney's office later told Stevens there were no grounds for charges. You see, paddling students is not illegal in McDowell County, out in the western part of the state.

"My son's behind was black and blue, but they told me they had no evidence of the teacher's intent to harm him," Stevens said.

In part, Stevens blames herself for the injury. Rightfully so. She had been informed a day earlier that the teachers wanted to paddle the boy for telling a classmate to "shut up" on three occasions. She gave her permission.

"I didn't really think about it," she said. "They assured me he wouldn't be hurt, and I thought it might get his attention. "Then I learned how far it can go."

Now Stevens is teaming up with Peggy Dean and other parents who believe there needs to be a statewide ban on corporal punishment, rather than the county-by-county approach currently in use. Last year, a statewide ban was defeated in the legislature by 15 or 16 votes.

Funny, I wrote about the same measure 20 years ago when I was a young reporter. It was defeated back then, too.

"I guess the majority of lawmakers in this state think it's still OK for kids to get beaten by adults in our schools," Dean said.

According to the study released Tuesday, there is a real divide on this issue between the rural and urban areas of the state, with rural counties more likely to allow corporal punishment. Rep. Ronnie Sutton from Robeson County famously remarked during last year's debate that he thinks the beatings he received at the hands of teachers helped make him the man he is today.

But Dean is not giving up. She persuaded the school board in Union County, where she lives, to adopt a ban a few years ago.

With Stevens' help, she is hauling out the ultimate heavy artillery. In February, Stevens and Dean flew to New York to tape a segment with Dr. Phil, whose staff had seen coverage of the Black Betty beating.

Stevens said she cannot reveal details until the segment airs. But if free publicity and a little national pressure don't raise awareness, I don't know what will.

After all, if people in North Carolina knew the sort of physical punishment and humiliation being administered to children, they wouldn't stand for it. Would they? Surely not.

© Copyright 2008, The News & Observer Publishing Company

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