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School CP - October 2003
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia, 9 October 2003
Cherokee schools consider banning spankings
By Diane R. Stepp
Your misbehaving child could get a whipping in school under Cherokee school policy.
In practice, it hasn't happened in several years, but the policy permitting such discipline remains on the books.
On Oct. 16, school board members will consider officially wiping out authorization of corporal punishment.
That doesn't mean a school staff member couldn't lay a hand on a child under any circumstances. A proposed discipline policy would allow "reasonable force" against a student in self-defense, to protect others or school property, or to preserve order.
Cherokee is one of the last major metro school systems to eliminate corporal punishment as a means of discipline. Bartow and DeKalb still have policies allowing it.
In practice, Cherokee Superintendent Frank Petruzielo put a stop to corporal punishment about three years ago, telling principals he could envision no circumstances under which it would be appropriate.
His directive was supported by a student handbook discipline committee made up of teachers, parents and administrators, he said.
"It's not the same world it used to be," Petruzielo told board members last week in recommending the change. "We could be putting teachers in danger. If they're sued or arrested, it's them, not us," he said.
"There are more progressive methods of discipline."
Removing an unruly student from class to in-school suspension wasn't an option in the 1970s when retired E.T. Booth principal Phil Gramling began teaching high school in White County.
"Back then, if you suspended a fellow for getting into a fight or carrying a knife, you would expect his father on your doorstep expecting us to 'whup him' [the child], not send them home. Times were different. Parents wanted us to paddle," he said.
"We never sent anybody to the office. We took care of it out in the hall, then went on with our business."
Gramling has administered his share of paddlings, even after coming to Cherokee in 1988 as principal of Chapman Elementary. By that time, he said, the practice had mostly died out.
He wasn't disappointed to see it go.
"I personally saw some abuses of it when a principal or teacher would paddle a student on a whim or in anger or too severely. For that reason, my feelings have been tempered, and I say, 'Good riddance.' I'm glad it's going," he said.
Gramling said spanking is not only humiliating to the student, but demeaning to the one who gives it.
Former Cherokee Superintendent Marguerite Cline, who also was a Cherokee teacher, said that spanking was common and that parents expected it when she began teaching in 1958.
"It was the culture back then. Usually when the student got home, they'd get another one [spanking] from their parents," she said.
Occasionally, Cline said she would turn one of her third-graders across her knee.
"I'd use my hand as a measure to make sure I wasn't spanking too hard," she said.
By the time she was superintendent, from 1984 to 1992, corporal punishment had fallen out of favor.
"Most teachers and administrators didn't want to face the risks involved," she said. "We had become a suing society."
Cherokee rules do not allow a teacher or principal to strike a child on the spur of the moment or in anger, nor can a punishment be unduly severe.
Procedures for a paddling are more formalized and cannot be used as a "first line" of punishment unless a student has first been warned or has exhibited "shocking" antisocial or disruptive behavior.
The paddling must be witnessed by a principal or assistant principal and the child informed first of the reason. If requested, parents must be given a written explanation of the punishment. Only a statement from a student's doctor that corporal punishment would be detrimental to the child's mental or emotional stability would get the student off the hook.
School board member Fred Larsen said that in the past, in some systems, parents could sign permission slips allowing corporal punishment.
Even so, Petruzielo said that the risk of a child's being harmed was a liability for the school system and that there were better alternatives.
Decatur Daily, Alabama, 9 October 2003
Court: Schools liable for punishment
By Eric Fleischauer
School principals are not immune from lawsuits when they use excessive corporal punishment, according to a federal court decision.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court refused to dismiss a lawsuit alleging a Greene County principal beat Demario Jones, a student at Eutaw High School in Greene County, with a metal cane. Jones said James Morrow beat him on the head, ribs and back.
Judge Rosemary Barkett said principals have immunity from reasonable corporal punishment, but that immunity ends when the punishment "is excessive under the circumstances and when the force used presented a ... risk of serious bodily injury."
The court ruled that even otherwise-appropriate corporal punishment would lead to liability if the school's disciplinary policy did not authorize the employee to administer the punishment.
In Decatur City Schools, only the principal or his designee may administer corporal punishment, and then only with another certified employee witnessing the punishment, according to the disciplinary policy.
The policy prohibits corporal punishment until the school has tried to correct the misconduct by meeting with the student's parents. Before the principal administers the punishment, the student must be given an opportunity to explain his or her conduct.
The principal may not administer the punishment in the view of other students.
Decatur Daily, Alabama, 10 October 2003
School boards should revisit corporal punishment policies
School boards across Alabama may have to rethink corporal punishment policies after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to dismiss a lawsuit against a Green County principal who thought he had immunity.
The problem is not so much this particular lawsuit, but the use of the word "excessive" in the court's decision to remove immunity from Eutaw High School Principal James Morrow. "Excessive," at best, is a vague term, subject to wide interpretation. What's excessive to one person may not be considered excessive by another.
If Mr. Morrow did beat one of his students with a metal cane on the head, ribs, and back, the judge was right in this ruling. It's hard to imagine any circumstance that would cause a school official to take such action unless that official was in fear of his or her life.
Certainly, children should never be punished to the point where the punishment can be considered abuse or causes injury. Principals and teachers, however, do need to have a clear policy about what they can do to punish a student. In Decatur City Schools, only a principal or someone designated by a principal may administer corporal punishment. And, that punishment must also be witnessed by another certified employee.
This policy certainly goes a long way toward ensuring that proper disciplinary measures are taken when needed.
But in light of this court ruling, boards might want to revisit their disciplinary policy and make sure that everyone involved in disciplining students knows exactly what is expected.
No student should be beaten as Mr. Morrow is accused of doing to student Demario Jones. If he did as charged, the student's case should go to court.
The Town Talk, Alexandria, Louisiana, 12 October 2003
Price of the paddle
Will Rapides schools stop paddling to save legal fees?
Committee will discuss issue this month
By Emily Peters
Sometimes, Rapides Parish students have to face a few swift swats to the backside to pay the price for misbehaving at school.
But the Rapides Parish School Board is paying the real price in defense costs when some parents sue the school system because their children face corporal punishment at school.
That's why the board may ban the paddle, even though it's perfectly legal in Louisiana.
"The fact is, board members, you can't afford it," assistant superintendent Lyle Hutchinson said in addressing the Tuesday late-night agenda add-on item to ban corporal punishment. The board sent the issue to the discipline committee for consideration later this month.
"(Parents) lose the suits, but it costs us in defense costs," said District Attorney Jam Downs.
"I almost choked when I saw that on the agenda," said E.L. Paulk, board president and a staunch supporter of corporal punishment. "I don't care if it does cost us $50,000 per lawsuit. I'm still for it."
The School Board has spent only $1,603.20 defending this year's only corporal punishment lawsuit that cleared Walter D. Hadnot Principal Charles Moore from any wrongdoing in June. Parent Cindy Finister sued, claiming Moore left bruises when he swatted her 7-year-old daughter for biting another pupil.
The only other recent corporal punishment still pending is from a 2000-01 lawsuit at Northwood High School. The board could end up paying as much as $25,000 to resolve that case, but the final expenses will likely be less than that.
The Town Talk could not find any other corporal punishment lawsuits in the school system's recent history, although nearby parishes have faced trials over paddle usage.
Future lawsuits could cost a pretty penny, Hutchinson said. The school district's cash-strapped General Fund must cover any legal costs up to $250,000 for each case.
State law allows school districts to make up their own rules governing corporal punishment, and district policy lets principals decide. Some schools spare the rod, but most principals still have paddles in their offices.
Principal Emily Weatherford at Plainview High School said her school still paddles, but, "We don't do it very often."
She sends home a card at the beginning of every school year that parents must return, specifying whether they will allow school officials to paddle their children. Most parents approve, she said.
However, Weatherford said, she would not mind if the board banned the practice because, "It wouldn't put the burden on us anymore whether to do it." She said she would have no problems assigning more morning detention sentences.
Tioga Elementary School interim Principal Rebecca Pippen said corporal punishment still is used at her school, but not as a first resort, and children are never swatted unless their parents have been contacted. In fact, she said, most paddling at her school is at the parents' request.
"I personally spank my children at home," she said. "I believe to spare the rod is to spoil the child. But we would respect whatever the parents wanted."
Brame Middle School Principal Wally Fall has let his paddle collect dust in the bottom of his desk drawer since he took the chief seat at the parish's biggest middle school four years ago.
"It's just a personal conviction," he said. "If the student's a discipline problem to the point he needs paddling, I send him home and let the parents deal with it. The punishment is a little more effective when you get parents involved than just popping him on the butt and letting him go."
Brent Loewer, parent of a Brame pupil, said he would not mind if his son were swatted at school. "If he ever got sent home, he would get paddled at my house," he said.
Loewer said he would hate to leave teachers without that form of discipline.
"My wife was a teacher for years, and all she did was discipline all day," he said. "There are too many frivolous lawsuits. I think that's the problem with most kids today - they don't get spankings."
Copyright © 2003, The Town Talk, a division of Gannett Company Inc.
Daily Ardmoreite, Ardmore, Oklahoma, 13 October 2003
State ranks fifth nationally in corporal punishment
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Oklahoma ranks fifth nationwide in the use of corporal punishment, a recent report says.
Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have banned spanking and swatting as punishment for students. In Oklahoma, corporal punishment is up to each district.
Several state and national organizations, including the Oklahoma Parent-Teacher Association, oppose it. School administrators in the state disagree on its effectiveness.
The state's two largest districts, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, prohibit corporal punishment.
The Tecumseh School Board reinstated corporal punishment this fall -- the last district in Pottawatomie County to do so.
Clayton Public Schools also swats students, but only as a last resort, elementary school Principal Patricia Glenn said.
"I don't want to give kids paddlings if something else will work, but sometimes that's what it takes to make your school safe and make it to where they'll abide by the rules," she said.
Glenn said she first tries taking away recess or in-school suspension. Still, in any given month, she paddles about five students out of 235 enrolled in kindergarten through eighth-grade.
Most of the parents in the southeastern Oklahoma district support it, she said.
"Some of them want to come up (and watch), and that's fine with me," Glenn said. "Some just want to be called beforehand to let them know what's going on."
In the early 1990s, the state Board of Education issued a moratorium on corporal punishment, but less than a year later, the state Legislature overruled the move, allowing each school board to determine what procedure is best for their district.
The state PTA passed a resolution in 1990 discouraging corporal punishment.
"In some of our communities, they think the easy out is to give them three licks and send them back to the classroom," President Lois Breedlove said. "We need to hold our children accountable for misbehavior and find ways to enforce good behavior."
Oklahoma has ranked fifth for use of corporal punishment for more than a decade, according to the national Center for Effective Discipline in Washington.
Data released this year, based on the 1999-2000 school year, shows 17,764 Oklahoma students were paddled -- about 2.9 percent of enrollment.
Mississippi ranked first, paddling almost 10 percent or 48,627 students, according to the study.
More than 342,000 students were subjected to corporal punishment in 1999-2000 in the 23 states that allow paddling.
Cherokee Tribune, Canton, Georgia, 17 October 2003
Schools ban corporal punishment
By Sarah E. Alexander
Paddling unruly students in Cherokee County schools has gone the way of the slide rule and the typewriter.
The county school board voted unanimously Thursday to officially ban corporal punishment in the school district.
Corporal punishment has not been used in the past two years in county schools and board members voted to change the district discipline policy to make sure it's never used.
"I'm glad to see the policy change," Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo said. "As a practical matter, it is not going to change what we're doing in the schools on a daily basis."
School board member Kelly Campbell said she was pleased with the board's decision.
"By being a consent agenda item, I think it showed a pretty unanimous support," she said, referring to the board's decision to approve it without discussion. "I was surprised at the very little amount of feedback any of us got, so we took that as this really isn't a big deal since we haven't done it in two years."
Mrs. Campbell doesn't think the board's decision will have a big impact on students, adding most probably weren't aware corporal punishment was allowed.
"I think right now if you asked them, 'Can your teacher spank you?' they'd probably say 'No,'" she said.
While the board banned corporal punishment, teachers and administrators still can physically restrain students if they pose a threat to others or themselves.
"They cannot be allowed to harm somebody, and we won't let them hurt themselves," Mrs. Campbell said. "I think there is a huge difference between spanking for discipline and to physically restrain a person to keep them from harming themselves or someone else."
Petruzielo said he would rather educators used "time-outs" or provided incentives to encourage good behavior.
"I think it sends a message that certainly there will be discipline in Cherokee County public schools, but it will be progressive discipline," he said. "There are other more affective [sic] ways to get kids to listen and pay attention."
School board member Patty Baker said she voted to ban corporal punishment because it opened up the schools to too much liability.
"We can provide consequences, we can provide discipline, but we don't need to paddle kids," she said. "We haven't used it in over two years and our discipline problems have not increased in the past two years, so I think our teachers are doing a great job with the consequences that they are providing."
Copyright © 2003 Cherokee Tribune. All rights reserved.
Times & Democrat, Orangeburg, South Carolina, 23 October 2003
District 4 closer to retiring 'board of education'
By Lee Hendren
COPE -- Spankings might be coming to an end in Orangeburg Consolidated School District 4.
Following a discussion at the most recent leadership team meeting, the temporary moratorium on corporal punishment has been extended, said Dr. Sandra Tonnsen, superintendent.
"I am preparing to recommend at the November (board) meeting that we eliminate corporal punishment," Tonnsen informed the trustee board Tuesday.
That recommendation will be coupled with proposals for implementing alternative disciplinary measures, including in-school suspension, said Tonnsen, who added that she does not want to hurt student attendance rates.
Trustees approved second reading of revisions to bring district policies into compliance with new laws regarding Internet use in schools.
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