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The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, 11 September 1992
Putnam City Swats Ban
By Robert Medley
Putnam City school officials took swings this week at eliminating a proposed ban on spanking students which they thought followed a statewide corporal punishment ban.
The school board swatted down a newly revised policy banning corporal punishment this week, even though memos had been sent to parents of elementary school students telling them their children would not be spanked for two years.
The state's fourth largest school district will continue to use corporal punishment.
"We use it sparingly and we respect the fact some parents choose to have corporal punishment," superintendent Randy Dewar said.
The district's plans for a two-year freeze on corporal punishment were made in August after state school superintendent Sandy Garrett was believed to have placed a two-year moratorium on it. Dewar said he originally believed it would have been appropriate to comply with a ban.
Corporal punishment has been an option in Putnam City schools, mostly on the elementary and junior high levels.
However, Putnam City officials changed their minds after Garrett announced late last week that her moratorium on spanking was supposed to be voluntary, not mandatory.
"I apologize for setting this situation up," Dewar said, adding that he believes the state superintendent seemed to have "a change of heart. "
A new policy to ban corporal punishment was already on the Putnam City school board agenda for a vote. So the school board postponed indefinitely an action to distribute a new policy complying with what they thought was a mandatory two-year ban.
"I think we will get a legal opinion to see where we will go from here," Sandy Wisley, director of the district's junior highs schools, said after the meeting.
She said no memos about spanking bans were sent home with junior high school students, although teachers had already told students they would not be spanked this year.
No high schools have used corporal punishment for several years so the issue has not been discussed at those schools, one principal said.
School board member Gloria Quaid, the only board member to vote against the postponement, voiced concerns about possible legal action against the district if students are spanked this year after parents of elementary students received a memo stating otherwise.
A suggestion to ban corporal punishment for one year while information is gathered on the effects on discipline was also made by school board member David Gillogly. However, fellow board member Kirk Humphreys disagreed.
Humphreys, who is in favor of students "taking licks," said he opposed banning anything based on confusion and contradicting reports on a moratorium request.
Humphreys summed up his frustration with the state school superintendent.
"They give us a job to do and then they take it away," he said.
Last school year, seven elementary schools in Putnam City spanked about 41 students, officials said.
Ten to 17 students at two of the three junior highs received spankings last year. Hefner Junior High did not use corporal punishment, officials said.
Dewar said he would check with the school district's attorney for legal advice on the issue and also would urge all principals to contact parents before any swats are administered this year.
He said if principals cannot reach parents, they can still use corporal punishment but must show they made an effort to contact the parents. He said any parent can make a written request that their child not be spanked and such a request will be honored.
He said he has no plans to bring the issue up in the future.
"I will bring it up if we find there are legal reasons to bring it up; we certainly are not going to break the law," he said.
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