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Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Mississippi, 11 February 2000
Principal going to court over assault charges
By June Honea Gilbert
Gloster Elementary School principal George "Robbie" Robertson goes to Amite County justice Court Wednesday to answer simple assault charges filed by a school district parent after her child allegedly was paddled by Robertson in January.
Carolyn Sims, Lot No. 6, 145 Lee St. W, Gloster, filed the charges against Robertson after he reportedly paddled her 10-year-old nephew LaTravis Smith, whom she has guardianship over, on Jan. 5.
Sims claims Robertson paddled LaTravis, who is in the fourth grade at Gloster Elementary, on his behind and back, allegedly causing multiple bruises and swelling.
"He paddled him three times in his office and then three times in his classroom," Sims said. "When he came home, he was so swollen, I thought he had been raped or something."
Sims said Robertson paddled LaTravis because he was crying following a visit from her sister.
Robertson said he would rather not comment on the matter, as did Amite County Superintendent Bobbie Whittington.
Corporal punishment is allowed in Amite County Schools, but a parent has a right to request their child not be paddled.
Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Mississippi, 17 February 2000
Gloster principal cleared of charges
An Amite County Justice Court judge cleared Gloster Elementary School principal George "Robbie" Robertson of assault charges regarding the paddling of a student in January.
Justice Court Judge Roger Arnold said Wednesday he cleared Robertson, principal at Gloster for 20 years, of all charges.
Carolyn Sims of Gloster accused Robertson of assault and filed charges after he reportedly paddled her 10-year-old nephew, whom she has guardianship over, on Jan. 5.
Sims had claimed that Robertson's paddling on the behind and back of her nephew, a fourth grader at Gloster Elementary, caused multiple bruises and swelling.
Corporal punishment is allowed in Amite County schools, but a parent has a right to request their child not be paddled.
Sims, according to court officials, has been ill recently and required medical attention twice while at the courthouse for Wednesday's hearing. Sims refused to be taken to the emergency room.
Citizen Telegram, Rifle, Colorado, 25 February 2000
Corporal punishment still on the books in RE-2
By Mike McKibbin
RIFLE - At two recent public meetings where discipline of students at the high school was discussed, the subject of corporal punishment in the classroom was a topic. While many people at those meetings might have believed the practice had been outlawed by Colorado law, it is permitted. And the Garfield RE-2 School District has had such a policy for the past 18 years.
However, a Colorado Department of Education Field Representative, Morris Danielson, said such actions are rarely taken by teachers or principals.
"Because there is a thin line between corporal punishment and what could be considered child abuse," Danielson explained.
State laws regard corporal punishment as an issue largely of local concern, and do not specifically prohibit the action. Each of the state's 176 school districts is required to develop and adopt a written conduct and discipline code that sets forth "policies and procedures for the use of acts of reasonable and appropriate physical intervention or force in dealing with disruptive students." All such discipline codes may not conflict with definitions of child abuse found in the criminal code and the children's code.
"There are also provisions that give school boards and teachers who administer corporal punishment immunity from civil or criminal liability, as long as they acted in good faith, unless the actions are wanton or willful," added Danielson. "But it really becomes difficult to implement in the classroom."
He explained that even if corporal punishment, in the form of a swat on the rear or by grabbing an unruly and disruptive student by the arm, is administered correctly, "what happens if the teacher accidentally rips the pocket of the child's shirt? When his mom asks the student what happened, he tells her that his teacher grabbed him and tore it. That opens up a real can of worms, because then you have the parent claiming the teacher basically attacked her child."
"I think a teacher is much better off to have the patience of Job, and if the student refuses to behave in class, they should send them to the principal's office," Danielson continued. "Or have that student stay after school. Most of them get the message after a few times."
The RE-2 district has several policies, with rules and regulations implementing each of them, that address student discipline, a code of conduct, corporal punishment, and even secret societies and gang activity. Superintendent Lennard Eckhardt said to his knowledge, corporal punishment has not been used in the district in recent years.
"I do know that no teacher has been given the authority to use corporal punishment. That I would remember," Eckhardt added.
The policy was adopted in 1981, and Eckhardt said it was included in a complete review of all district policies five years ago.
"It wasn't removed then, so we still think it has its place, but there are just a lot of legal issues that come into play once corporal punishment is used," he said.
Eckhardt added he also believed there are better ways to control a disruptive or defiant student.
"If you have mutual respect between any two people, including adults and students, you'll get positive reactions," Eckhardt explained. "Once a kid knows that an adult cares about them and will help them, they'll do something when they're asked."
"There are just so many ways to deal with the issue" of disruptive students, he continued. "I don't think corporal punishment in and of itself is the answer to all disciplinary problems. But sometimes you do need to give some kids a good, firm grip to get their attention. It's a difficult issue."
The RE-2 policy does allow any employee to use reasonable and appropriate physical intervention or force to keep a student from performing an act of wrongdoing, to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to others, to obtain weapons or other dangerous objects from a student, for self defense, the protection of persons or property, and the preservation of order.
Danielson recalled a few recent court cases involving the use of corporal punishment in Jefferson County schools, which focused on the "good faith" provision in state law.
"I would want to make sure there was a witness present if I administered corporal punishment," Danielson said, "so they could testify that I was calm and acted without malice. There is such major brain surgery that goes into planning to administer it that I think the better way is just to sit down and talk to the student."
Out of the state's 176 school districts, Danielson added that he doubted there have been ten instances of corporal punishment administered in recent years.
In 1995, the Colorado legislature considered a bill that would have prohibited a school district from using physical punishment to enforce discipline, with some exceptions. However, the Senate Education Committee postponed the measure indefinitely. Since then, no other measures concerning corporal punishment in schools have been proposed.
Speaker of the House Russell George, R-Rifle, said there is nothing pending in this session of the legislature that would change this area of state law.
"I don't think the trend is toward returning to physical punishment, even though some of the problems haven't lessened," George said.
He also said he thought Rifle High School administrators are "going about things the right way," referring to the recent public meetings where discipline and attitude problems among some of the freshman students were discussed. "I really think it will be the parents who will sort this out."
State law also calls for accountability advisory committees of each school to submit written reports to their school board and superintendent, concerning that school's learning environment at the end of each school year. Those reports are to include specific information on conduct and discipline actions taken during the school year. The reports shall be made available to all parents and the public.
Garfield RE-2's policy calls for each principal to administer corporal punishment, and he or she may then delegate, in writing, that authority to teachers. It also requires corporal punishment to be administered in the presence of another staff member, "who will be told in the student's presence the reason for the punishment before the punishment is administered." The policy also requires that a determination be made that the student's physical and psychological condition does not preclude the use of corporal punishment. And the administration of corporal punishment will be done "by paddling the buttocks through the student's clothing, with the palm of the open hand or by a paddle." If a paddle is used, "the spanking paddle will be flat surfaced and a proper size and weight in relation to the size, age and grade level of the student in order to cause no more than temporary pain and not inflict visible bruising to the body. If the paddling is by hand, the force used shall cause no more than temporary pain and shall not cause visible bruising."
Written notice of corporal punishment having been used is then required to be given to the principal, who must send a copy to the students' parents, file another in the school and send one to the administration office. The principal shall also make a "reasonable attempt" to contact the parent or guardian before corporal punishment is used.
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