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School CP - October 2001

Amarillo Globe-News, Texas, 7 October 2001

Board of Education

Educators hang up the paddle

By Beth Wilson

Instrument of Discipline: Lewis Martin used a paddle similar to his college fraternity paddle while he was assistant principal at Tascosa High School. Martin said a fear of lawsuits and a focus on other discipline methods has reduced the number of schools giving swats for punishment.
Michael Lemmons

Paddling is an option for Amarillo and Canyon school principals, but most think spanking is an ineffective discipline tool and have hung up the paddle.

Amarillo Independent School District allows corporal punishment as a discipline option. Pat Williams, Caprock cluster director, said the choice is made by campus administrators.

Amarillo schools are following a statewide trend of downplaying or banning paddling. Houston ISD banned the practice of "swatting" this fall.

Highland Park and River Road school officials said they keep corporal punishment as a policy, but seldom give swats.

Palo Duro High Principal Mark Leach said he hasn't seen a paddle used at the school in years.

"I'm not saying it is never used, but only in rare, rare cases where we have tried every available discipline procedure and behavior has not changed," he said.

Leach said detention, Saturday school and community service projects are more effective for changing behavior.

Fred Rutherford, principal at Austin Middle School, said corporal punishment is not used there.

"It's been years since we used the board here at Austin," he said.

Rutherford said students might associate paddling at school with abuse at home, and any connection to abuse should be avoided.

Some parents have asked for paddling, looking for a quicker solution, but Rutherford said he tells them there are more effective means.

Avondale Elementary Principal Denzel Bencini said he is one of the few principals he knows that still gives swats.

"I am bucking a trend, but I do think it's effective with some kids and appropriate in some cases," he said.

Bencini said he gave about 10 swats last year, and the decision is made with parental input.

"It's a last resort when we've tried other forms of discipline and worked with the parents," he said. "It's generally done at the request of the parents."

Lewis Martin did more paddling in his days as an assistant principal at Tascosa High School from 1964 to 1991.

"It's a new generation and a different mind-set now," he said.

Martin said fear of lawsuits keeps most from giving swats now, but paddling has its place in school discipline.

"It can be very effective, but it's not the cure for everything," he said. "Paddling is not what is in question, but you have to have lots of smarts in when to use the paddle and how to use the paddle."

In addition to swats, Martin said he spent time counseling the students and trying to get behind the behavior that required the punishment.

Canyon ISD includes corporal punishment in its student code of conduct and handbook, but parental permission is required, said Duane Chapman, director of secondary programs.

"For many years at CISD, (corporal punishment) has been viewed as a last resort, a means of discipline if we were at the end of the rope," he said. The decision to paddle is left to campus administrators, most of whom prefer other methods.

"Sometimes the possibility of a swat is more of a deterrent than a swat itself," Chapman said.

Gene Howe Elementary Principal Donna Clopton said paddling has not proven effective in changing student behavior.

"Our goal in discipline is to change behavior, not punish," Clopton said.

Crestview Elementary Principal Bob Splawn agrees.

"I've found that corporal punishment very rarely corrects misbehavior," he said. "You can administer it and 30 minutes later the student is doing the same behavior."

Parent Janet Abbott said she discusses the corporal punishment policy with her sons, Wiley, 12, a Canyon Junior High student, and Matthew, 8, a Rex Reeves Elementary student.

"We let them know if they get in trouble at school they are going to get in trouble at home," she said.

The boys have not been spanked at school, but Abbott signed the paper that says corporal punishment can be administered if she is notified first. She said notification allows her to judge the seriousness of the offense and decide if the swat is appropriate.

Wiley Abbott said swats would be a reasonable punishment for such actions as vandalizing, being disrespectful and lying.

"I think it's OK because some kids need it, but I also think they should notify the parents first," he said.

Wiley said he would rather take swats than a prolonged in-school suspension.

"I would have the swat and learn from my mistakes so I wouldn't do it again," he said.

Parent Connie Martin also leaves the option for swats open. Daughters Kirby, 16, a Randall High School student, and Daphnie, 11, a Westover Park Intermediate student, have stayed out of trouble.

Martin and Kirby said such punishment options as running laps or writing essays are better choices.

"It depends on what they did," Kirby said.

2001 Amarillo Globe-News

Amarillo Globe-News, Texas, 7 October 2001

Area districts use other measures before swatting

By Jessica Raynor

Area school districts still have corporal punishment policies on the books, but rarely use the paddle and only as a last resort.

Schools try alternate means of punishment - in-school suspension, after- school detention or Saturday detention - before swatting. Many get parental permission or involvement in the process.

"It's not a first resort," said Clarendon superintendent Monty Hysinger. "We go through several different steps before using corporal punishment."

Districts use a similar policy to deal out corporal punishment: The paddling should be administered by a principal, assistant principal or principal's designee in a designated place away from the view of other students, sometimes with the parent present. Most have been in place as long as the school district.

Hysinger said his district has no set policy on corporal punishment, but parents can write the district to ask that their children not be subjected to physical punishment.

Borger ISD, with more than 3,000 students, has a policy that incorporates parental involvement and garners little controversy, said Rick Say, principal at Gateway Elementary in Borger.

"The great majority of parents want them (principals) to swat," he said. "Some want to be notified before the swats."

Elementary school students follow a discipline plan that calls for suspensions, timeouts and missed recesses and privileges before a principal raises the paddle, Say said.

Children who get paddled receive no more than two swats on the backside and only if the parents give permission at the start of the school year, he said.

The Groom school district, which has about 140 students, gives its students one warning before the swats, said Kevin Noack, principal/superintendent.

"We have some parents who want us to swing the paddle when their kid misbehaves," he said. "We just take care of business over here, I guess. We have good kids though. We don't have to do that very often."

Perryton ISD allows each campus to create their own policies for corporal punishment, Superintendent Robin Adkins said.

Tucumcari, N.M., and Guymon, Okla., schools have a rarely used policy that requires parental permission before administering swats. Dumas ISD has a policy used occasionally that gives the student the choice of swats or detention and also involves parents.

Pampa ISD used the policy so infrequently it took it off the books, said John Kendall, Pampa High School principal.

"We haven't used corporal punishment in the last five to six years. The school board took it off just last year. It's one thing that's just not wise to use anymore, I feel as an administrator, because of the legal ramifications."

2001 Amarillo Globe-News

Associated Press, 11 October 2001

Christian school teacher accused of injuring boy with dowel rod

Insists he used only one hand

CLAREMORE, OK - A Claremore Christian School teacher who swatted a boy with a 3-foot long dowel rod has been charged with injuring the child. Claremore police investigator Tim Norris said the bruises on the 12-year-old boy "were the most severe I've seen in a long time. One almost covered the whole buttocks."

Wendall Rayn Mullins, 28, was charged Tuesday in Rogers County District Court. He was freed on his own recognizance and returned to work at the school, which is owned and operated by the Church of Claremore.

The boy received the spanking Oct. 1 as punishment for passing notes in class, authorities said.

His mother, Cynthia Russell, took the boy to a Tulsa hospital where doctors characterized the bruises as "severe," she said.

Oklahoma law allows corporal punishment in schools. It requires that a witness be present and the paddling be delivered with only one hand.

The boy told authorities that Mullins held the dowel with two hands.

"We take strong issue with the theory two hands were used," said Stratton Taylor, who is representing the school. "There is a witness to bear that out."

Norris said at least three former students have since come forward and described similar bruising from swats they received at Claremore Christian School.

blob Follow-up: 8 January 2004 - Teacher receives sentence in corporal punishment case

Columbus Dispatch, Ohio, 25 October 2001

Spanking costs principal his job

By Mike Lafferty
Dispatch Staff Reporter

This time it was Bill Lee's turn to get spanked.

Despite a report from the Ohio Department of Education that said the Cambridge principal should not be fired for spanking a 7-year-old student in April, his school board dismissed him Tuesday.

"The board's decision is that they don't necessarily agree with everything in the report," said Bill Wilkinson, treasurer for the 2,800-student district in Guernsey County, about 75 miles east of Columbus.

Lee, who was suspended without pay in May from his Garfield Elementary School job, said he will appeal his firing in court.

"There's still a lot of public support for me," said Lee, 53.

In August, he held a public meeting at the Ohio National Guard armory and defended his actions.

The incident occurred April 18 after the boy allegedly attacked his mother outside the principal's office and Lee offered to drive them home. Lee and a school guidance counselor removed the first-grader from the building and took him to to Lee's car.

Lee said when the boy tried to kick him in the groin, he responded by spanking him and calling him a "little son of a bitch."

According to the report, Lee spanked the boy about 13 times.

Lee, who was paid $60,000 a year, requested that an independent referee review the case. Thomas Hazlett, a St. Clairsville attorney, wrote the report for the state Education Department.

He wrote that Lee was justified and that state law and school-board policy allow educators to use force in cases of self-defense and to control a child who is a threat to others.

He also noted that Superintendent Marvin Wourms supported Lee when the principal spanked another unruly student in December.

In its own report, however, the school board determined that Lee's conduct was inappropriate and said that Lee had twice been warned about violating the district's corporal-punishment policy.

The board also said Lee, a 23-year veteran educator, was dishonest in minimizing the April incident when he discussed it with Wourms.

Lee, who has been working construction jobs, said he wants to teach.

"I'm a good English teacher but that's not going to happen," he said. "I have all this education and I'm pouring concrete."

Lee said the boy, whose behavior was so bad that he was allowed to attend school only 2 hours a day, is now in a special-education class.

"We finally got him where he is supposed to be, but it cost me my job," he said.

Copyright 2001, The Columbus Dispatch

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