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School CP - December 2012

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Keene Star, Burleson, Texas, 9 December 2012

School board's decision on corporal punishment criticized by child advocate groups

By Paul Gnadt


Click to enlarge

The Oct. 22 decision by the Keene ISD school board to support the request of two administrators to retain corporal punishment in the policy handbook has drawn criticism from a national organization that advocates for non violence against children.

"I challenge the school board to cite just one psychological study that indicates any positive change in behavior that is causally related to a minor pupil being struck from behind by a larger and more powerful district employee wielding a board," wrote Randy Cox, a licensed social worker and director of the Never Hit a Child organization in Little Rock, Ark., in a letter to the Burleson Area Star.

At the Keene ISD meeting, Superintendent Wanda Smith asked the board to remove the option of corporal punishment from the policy book.

"I recommend we do away with it because of liability issues and the danger of injury to a child," she said. "It's safer to call the parents and send the student home."

Corporal punishment is used only in the elementary school, not the junior high or high school, Smith said.

"We'd like to see it stay," elementary school principal Shannon Thompson said, sitting next to elementary school assistant principal Kelsa Blair, who nodded in agreement.

It is used as a last resort for repeat offenders and only after the student's parents have been notified, Thompson said.

"Most parents say, 'go ahead.'" Thompson said. "We use a paddle and there has to be an adult witness."

The policy states a student cannot be paddled without the parent's permission, Blair said.

"Teachers do not administer corporal punishment," Blair said. "I paddle the boys and Shannon paddles the girls."

For the student, the anticipation is worse than the actual paddling, Blair said. "It's the buildup that is the worst for them," he said.

The alternative is In-School Suspension or suspension from school, Thompson said.

"We have ISS and suspension (from school), but some students think suspension is a vacation," Blair said. "Either means a student is out of class. For some, ISS is it. But when a student is sent to the office, that means he or she has been disruptive all day."

Psychological studies indicate the student benefits from corporal punishment, board member Jerry Becker said.

"Studies show that the student thinks, 'I deserved it and it's over. I received what I deserved,'" Becker said. "I would hate to take this discipline tool away from the administrators."

Becker made a motion to retain corporal punishment in the elementary school only, not in the junior high or high school. The motion was seconded by board member Dan Roberts and passed unanimously.


Policies of area school districts

According to the Burleson ISD handbook, corporal punishment shall not be administered to a student whose parent has submitted to the principal a signed statement for the current school year prohibiting the use of corporal punishment with his or her child. The parent may reinstate permission to use corporal punishment at any time during the school year by submitting a signed statement to the principal.

"Our board policy allows us to retain corporal punishment as an option, but it is one that is rarely used," BISD Superintendent Richard Crummel said. "Our desire is to develop a cooperative relationship with our parents and for that reason we will not limit our options."

The BISD has its most success with all of the other options available when dealing with student discipline, so corporal punishment becomes a last resort, Crummel said.

"Corporal punishment is legal in Texas," Joshua ISD assistant superintendent Kevin Sellers said. "It's in the policy handbook that it can be used, but we don't recommend it."

At a recent meeting of campus principals, Sellers recommended they understand the legalities of using corporal punishment and told them that even if they're in the right, the risk of legalities is too great to use it, he said.

"We recommend it as a very, very last option with the parents involved in the decision," Sellers said. "We look for other options."

Sellers is in the process of completing a survey from the federal Office of Civil Rights and confirmed that Joshua ISD has not used corporal punishment this year, he said.

A review of Johnson County school districts' policies reveals they share similar guidelines for administering corporal punishment, which is limited to spanking or paddling.

The guidelines are:

-- The student shall be told the reason corporal punishment is being administered.
-- Corporal punishment shall be administered only by the principal or designee.
-- Corporal punishment shall be administered only by an employee who is the same sex as the student.
-- The instrument to be used in administering corporal punishment shall be approved by the principal.
-- Corporal punishment shall be administered in the presence of one other district professional employee and in a designated place out of view of other students.

Keeping students in school

Keeping students in the classroom is the major reason for the Alvarado ISD's support of corporal punishment, Superintendent Chester Juroska said.

But, the student is given the option of spending time in In-School Suspension or corporal punishment, Juroska said.

"If a student is disciplined and is sent to In-School Suspension, that student misses classroom time, valuable instruction and extracurricular activities" Juroska said. "However, if the discipline warrants corporal punishment and the student chooses that, it's taken care of and is over with. No class time is missed."

In the Alvarado ISD this year, two high school students have received corporal punishment, AISD public information officer Tommy Brown said.

"The parents must approve its use two times," Brown said. "First, when they sign a permission letter in the registration packet, and second when they are called before it is administered."

Corporal punishment is not administered to elementary students in the Alvarado ISD, Juroska said.

Through October in Alvarado, no junior high school students have received corporal punishment, but two high school students have, Brown said.

"We've always had it in the policy book, but if parents didn't want it, we wouldn't have it," Brown said. "As of now, the parents approve of us doing it."

Texas leads the nation

Nationwide, 29 states have banned corporal punishment in schools, while 21 permit its use, according to the Columbus, Ohio,-based Center for Effective Discipline.

In addition to Texas, the states where corporal punishment in school is legal are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wyoming.

Texas is the national leader in the number of students who have received corporal punishment, according to 2008 statistics compiled by the Center for Effective Discipline.

That year, Texas applied corporal punishment to 49,197 students. Mississippi was second at 38,131 students, followed by Alabama with 33,176, Arkansas with 22,314 and Georgia with 18,249.

There is no indication that the numbers include students who received corporal punishment multiple times.

The states applying corporal punishment the fewest times in 2008 were Colorado with eight, Arizona with 16 and Kansas with 50.


Copyright 2012 Keene Star. All rights reserved.

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