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The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, 4 November 2003
Cohen girls basketball coach suspended
Members of team paddled, they say
By Aesha Rasheed
A coach at Walter Cohen High School has been suspended for two months after she paddled several members of the girls basketball team, New Orleans public school officials said Monday.
Glynes Herbert, girls basketball head coach, was suspended Monday based on allegations raised last week by parents of one player, school system spokeswoman Tia Alexander said. At a team practice during the first week of October, Herbert paddled several members of the girls basketball team, Alexander said.
Herbert, who is also a social studies teacher at the school, will continue to teach during her suspension as coach, Alexander said. During her suspension, she will not be paid the extra money she gets as coach.
Herbert could not be reached for comment.
Orleans Parish School Board policy forbids corporal punishment of any kind, saying discipline measures "should be positive, constructive." The policy defines corporal punishment as any act "which might be used to cause pain upon a child."
Alexander did not provide specifics and did not know how many team members were paddled.
One team member who refused to be spanked said all 16 members of the team were to be paddled because one member cut a class.
Mydia Casimier, a senior and one of the team's two captains, said Herbert began paddling team members at the beginning of the year for misdeeds such as cutting class or skipping school. She said the spankings quickly became a routine part of practice.
Then, at a practice in early October, Herbert told the team that they all would be paddled if any member misbehaved, Casimier said. Herbert then began doling out three swats with a wooden paddle to each member of the team because one teammate had cut a class that day, Casimier said.
When Casimier's turn came, she refused.
"I told her that's not fair," she said. "I do all my (work). I have a high GPA. I go to all my classes."
Casimier said she was told to get out of the coach's office and that she was off the team. When Casimier returned to practice several days later, she was told she could not rejoin the team unless she submitted to a paddling or some other form of punishment, such as running laps.
On Monday, Alexander said Casimier is free to return to practice and rejoin the team and will not have to submit to punishment.
Although they aren't opposed to corporal punishment, Casimier's parents are angry that their daughter would be punished for another student's behavior.
"Normally if there is any spanking or discipline, I'm the one to do it," said Kevin Casimier, Mydia's father.
The Casimiers said they supported their daughter's refusal to take the paddling, even if it had meant that she would miss her senior year on the court and any scholarships that could follow.
"My mama told me I should stand up for what I believe," Mydia Casimier said. "And I don't think this is right."
The Denver Post, Colorado, 17 November 2003
School bans on violence fuel debate on spanking
By Monte Whaley
Denver Post Education Writer
Post / Helen H. Richardson
Kunsmiller Middle School principal Miguel Salazar walks among students during lunch. The school has a bullying-prevention program that spotlights bad behavior rather than applying corporal punishment.
While growing up in New Mexico, Miguel Salazar had plenty of encounters with the board of education.
His problems weren't with the group who ran the school district. It was with the thick, wooden paddle that hung in the principal's office.
"It got tested on me several times," said Salazar, 50, now principal at Kunsmiller Middle School in Denver.
Salazar laughs at the memory for good reason. The days of swatting a willful student are mostly gone in Colorado's public schools. Corporal punishment is still allowed under state law, but many school districts have banned it, mainly over worries it will bring lawsuits.
Currently, there are 27 states that have banned corporal punishment, with 10 others banning it in more than half of their school districts, according to World Corporal Punishment Research.
But it's still going on in some Colorado classrooms, including in Leadville, where principal Linda Lewis faces a misdemeanor charge of child abuse.
Lewis is accused of spanking a student up to eight times at Pitts Elementary School on Oct. 15, according to reports.
If convicted, Lewis faces up to two years in jail and a $5,000 fine, Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said. Lewis is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.
Witnesses told police that Lewis was helping restrain an out-of-control student. A teacher held the child's arms crossed over his chest so he would not harm himself or others, reports said.
The child continued to head-butt the teacher who was restraining him. After Lewis tried to calm him down, she turned him around and swatted him on the bottom. Some witnesses say she only spanked him once or twice, while others said she swatted him three to eight times, according to reports.
Lewis has been placed on administrative leave with pay, pending the end of an investigation, Lake County School District superintendent Bette Bullock said.
She declined to give specifics about the incident, but said the district will take any appropriate action.
"We take seriously any investigation we do," Bullock said. "We'll do a thorough job on that."
Lake County School District forbids corporal punishment, but like other school districts it allows employees to use "reasonable" physical intervention to deal with a disruptive student in order to protect themselves and others.
That also mirrors policies from metro-area school districts contacted by The Denver Post.
Jefferson County School District, for instance, simply states: "No corporal punishment shall be allowed in the district."
Jeffco also has a two-page explanation of what is allowed when it comes to restraining students.
"An act of physical force or restraint by a teacher or other employee against a student shall not be considered child abuse if the act was performed in good faith and in compliance with this policy," the district said. "Such acts shall not be construed to constitute corporal punishment."
Still, the fear of lawsuits and the advent of anti-violence policies at schools have effectively brought an end to spanking students, schools officials say.
"That's where you get into child-abuse issues and possible legal challenges from parents," said Gary Sibigtroth, assistant commissioner with the Colorado Department of Education. "Most schools to my knowledge don't use corporal punishment anymore just because of those reasons."
Schools started changing attitudes toward corporal punishment around the time Richard Nixon became the country's hard-nosed, law-and-order president.
"There was a turn in the 1970s," said Roger Magnuson, assistant principal at Cherry Creek High School and 25-year veteran of schools. "I think that was a point in time when educators started looking at different ways to discipline students, and corporal punishment went out the door."
One program being pushed in local schools is the Safe Communities-Safe Schools project, directed by the University of Colorado's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.
It is aimed at cutting down on bullying and violence by involving everyone in a school, students and staff, along with parents, proponents say.
Students are taught that violence is not acceptable and that bystanders must get involved in discouraging verbal and physical assaults on campus. Classes hold weekly meetings to talk about violence or bullying and students and teachers are encouraged to air their grievances.
Parents also are called when their children may be disciplined and asked to discourage their kids from acting out in class.
Kunsmiller Middle School recently implemented a violence and bully-proofing prevention program that includes taking aside a disobedient student and spotlighting his behavior, Salazar said. This method makes classroom disruptions unacceptable.
It's also better than a spanking, he said.
"When you used the board of education, sometimes you became scared of that teacher and of being in that classroom," Salazar said. "You are more worried about being hit than in learning anything."
Still, Americans have contradictory feelings about spanking.
A 2002 ABC News poll indicated that the public -- by a 2-1 margin -- approved of spanking children in principle, and half of parents said they sometimes do it to their own kids.
But an overwhelming majority said kids should not be spanked in school, according to the poll.
Former teacher and state legislator Dorothy Rupert tried at least four times to outlaw student spanking statewide but failed, meeting fierce resistance from other lawmakers and schools.
"A number of Christian schools came in to testify and said they had to use it to discipline their children," Rupert said.
She agrees with several studies that say spanking a student can emotionally scar the one being disciplined and the students who witness it.
"You can't hit people in the military, you can't hit a prisoner, you can't hit animals, but you can hit little children," Rupert said. "I just don't understand that."
Former state legislator Al Meiklejohn said a little smack on the behind keeps order and concentration in the classroom.
"Of course, kids shouldn't be beaten or abused for heaven's sake," Meiklejohn said. "But a swat is a great motivator for compliance and learning.
"School buildings have got to be tranquil and orderly for a proper learning environment. I don't see anything wrong with that."
All contents Copyright 2003 The Denver Post or other copyright holders. All rights reserved.
The Town Talk, Alexandria, Louisiana, 20 November 2003
School paddling issue focus of parents' lawsuit
By Julia Robb
Using a paddle to punish Rapides Parish students might end after plaintiffs George and Theresa Setliff present their case against the school district in Alexandria's 9th Judicial District Court.
The Setliffs are claiming Northwood High School principal William Floyd wrongfully paddled their 7-year-old son, Michael, in 2001. They had asked school personnel not to do so.
Parental rights trump school rights, they allege.
Meanwhile, the stage is set for the parish school board to vote on ending corporal punishment because of the number of suits it has caused.
Retaining corporal punishment carries a cost, school board attorney James Downs recently told the board.
Parents "lose the suits, but it costs us" to pay for legal defense, Downs said at an October school board meeting.
Assistant School Superintendent Lyle Hutchinson told board members, at the same meeting, they couldn't afford their corporal punishment policy. The school district's general fund must cover any legal costs up to $250,000.
In a Tuesday interview, Hutchinson said corporal punishment "doesn't just have economic consequences.
"Principals and administrators have been arrested and charged" with abuse, due to paddling students. We can't afford to have our administrators treated like thugs for appropriately administering corporal punishment," he said.
Parents also have charged at least three school administrators with child abuse in the last few years. None of the accused were found guilty in court.
Hutchinson said not all board members agree with him, and he doesn't anticipate an end to corporal punishment. Board members "will do what constituents want them to do," he said. "Corporal punishment is legal and board members by and large are supportive of that.
"... The board does have to make a decision, if corporal punishment is a discipline matter or an economic matter."
Two corporal punishment suits have been filed against the school board in the last three years, that he can remember, according Roy Rachal, the school system's risk manager. Downs estimates two to three corporal punishment suits are filed against the school board yearly, on the average.
At the board meeting in which corporal punishment was discussed, board President E.L. Paulk said he would favor corporal punishment even if each suit cost the board $50,000.
But this week, Paulk qualified those remarks. He still favors corporal punishment "but if it is costing us beyond our means, we would have to consider something else."
Before he makes a final decision on the issue, Paulk said he wants to hear what both school board staff members, and the new school superintendent, have to say about physical punishment in the schools.
The Setliffs, and any possible damage award, could be a deciding factor in the corporal punishment debate.
Judge George Metoyer refused to dismiss the suit this week, stating that parental rights could possibly trump the state statute on corporal punishment.
Metoyer's opinion counts as the trial, which opens Dec. 2, is a bench trial. Metoyer, not a jury, will rule on the verdict.
School board attorney Laura Sylvester told Metoyer at the hearing that state law absolutely gives school districts the right to physically punish their students. The law even requires the school districts to pay resulting legal fees.
Setliff attorney Silas O'Neal does not dispute state law. But O'Neal cites state statutes, article 220, titled "Delegation of parental authority," which says that fathers and mothers may "delegate a part of their authority to teachers, schoolmasters and others" for tasks like "restraint and correction."
Therefore, he believes school personnel have only partial authority over students.
But the same statute that O'Neal cites also says that parents have the "right to bind their children as apprentices."
The Setliffs said they were particularly angry that Floyd paddled their adopted son, because Michael was abused as a baby by his birth family. The state of Louisiana had specifically asked the Setliffs not to use corporal punishment at home, according to testimony.
Northwood personnel not only knew Michael had special needs, O'Neal said, but Floyd paddled Michael so hard that it caused bruises.
State law may shield the school system from criminal prosecution, he said, but it does not shield them from a civil suit.
If Michael was bruised physically and psychologically, as the Setliff's claim, the school system's defense might be in real trouble.
If administrators harm students while punishing them, the punishment has gone too far and can be challenged in court, according to Bill Miller, confidential assistant to the state superintendent of education.
"Corporal punishment is non-injurious," he said.
Miller said the use of corporal punishment is controversial everywhere, not just American schools. But, he said, "The pros and cons of corporal punishment tend to be subjective rather than quantifiable.
"Research is not clear on the subject, some say corporal punishment is good when it's appropriate and some say the opposite. Arguments tend to be philosophical, ideological and cultural rather than based on research."
Miller believes that "legitimate conflicting perspectives" exist on corporal punishment and its value to education.
But "In an age of violence and mistreatment of many people," he said, "when some are trying so hard to treat others humanely, you can say corporal punishment is inconsistent.
"I can easily say it is inconsistent."
Corporal punishment opinions divided
By Julia Robb
The Town Talk
Louisiana is not the only state where corporal punishment for students is controversial.
More than 20 states have forbidden school personnel to physically touch students. Also, professional organizations such as The American Academy of Pediatrics wants physical punishment outlawed in schools, as does the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), among others.
NASP's attitude on corporal punishment is typical of organizations that actively campaign against the paddle.
Corporal punishment "contributes to the cycle of child abuse and pro-violence attitudes of youth by teaching that it is an acceptable way of controlling the behavior of others," according to the NASP web site.
Rapides Parish parents are also divided in their opinions.
Parent Rose Roberts said she believes that "it's OK" for teachers to physically punish her son, as long as they don't hurt him.
"The Bible" teaches, she said, "if you spare the rod you spoil the child. When I was growing up I was paddled and it didn't hurt, it helped me."
Pat Wallace, who has two children in the public schools, said she doesn't want them paddled.
Her children have never been in trouble, she said, "but if a teacher has a bad day and a kid is cutting up in class," the teacher could take it out on the child. Parents, she said, can be arrested for "doing the same thing."
Give students extra assignments rather than physical whacks, she said.
Copyright © 2003, The Town Talk, a division of Gannett Company Inc.
Follow-up: 4 December 2003 - Judge rules schools can't paddle students if parents disagree with policy
Morning Journal, Lorain, Ohio, 20 November 2003
Teacher's supporters go to board
By Brian Bardwell
Morning Journal Writer
ELYRIA -- Protesters descended on last night's school board meeting to voice concerns about the removal of Sarah Jackson from her classroom after several alleged slapping incidents.
Jackson, a kindergarten teacher at Ely Elementary School, was placed on paid administrative leave a month ago after parents reported that Jackson hit students in her class.
She had previously been placed on leave and put into counseling after admitting to slapping a student in May, according to school officials.
At last night's meeting, though, about two dozen parents walked in, many carrying signs, to demand that Jackson be given her classroom back.
Three other people came to support the removal of Jackson, one of them carrying a sign that said, "We don't support Mrs. Jackson or corporal punishment."
The meeting was calm as the district accepted a commendation for improving scores on the state report card, approving a list of personnel items, and discussing the failed levy for a new high school.
When the floor was opened for public comment, though, Steven Abbe approached the board to ask for quick action to bring back Jackson, who teaches his son.
"I think it would be in his best interest if his teacher, who we chose for him, were allowed back in the classroom," Abbe said.
He cited the school district's concern for the students' welfare, but said that the allegations weren't credible enough to take a teacher away from the other students.
"You've taken all the other children in this classroom and made them the victims as well," he said.
Abbe had also organized a petition, in which he got the parents of 18 of 20 children in Jackson's morning class to ask for her reinstatement. Half of the parents in the afternoon class also signed up.
The parents who didn't sign only "wanted to know more before they did anything," he said.
Sherry Repas approached the board next to make a more impassioned speech.
Reading from a prepared statement, she told the board that her son "is being robbed of a spectacular first year" at Ely because he doesn't have his regular teacher.
"Rumors are rampant about Mrs. Jackson, from loss of employment to reassignment, none of which are acceptable to me," she said.
As her speech continued, she gave the board a loud "shame on you" and concluded: "I want this investigation finished. I want to know if my support of Mrs. Jackson is well founded. And if it is, I want her back in my son's classroom. I will settle for nothing less."
School officials said Jackson was removed from the classroom on Oct. 22 after parents alleged she had slapped two students in recent weeks.
She remains on paid leave while the school district completes an investigation, said Gary Taylor, Elyria City Schools director of human resources.
Jackson teaches morning and afternoon kindergarten classes at Ely Elementary School, school officials said. She has been with the school district 27 years and makes $54,129 annually.
Jackson admitted to hitting a student in May, but said it was an accident and was remorseful, Taylor said. She was placed on leave and completed three weeks of counseling before returning to the classroom, he said.
The most recent allegations are that Jackson slapped a boy on the buttocks and slapped another on the face, Taylor said.
After the boy told his parents about the alleged incident, Taylor said, they went to the Ely Elementary principal, who notified school district administrators.
Taylor said parents of other children in Jackson's class told the principal about hearing from children that Jackson had slapped a child on the face.
The school district then notified the parents of that child, Taylor said.
According to a police report on the May incident, a woman who came to the school to pick up her 6-year-old grandson said Jackson told her she slapped the boy across his left cheek for engaging in "horseplay."
"I just lost it," Jackson told the grandmother, the report said.
A substitute is teaching her classes, Taylor said.
© The Morning Journal 2003
Mexia Daily News, Texas, 26 November 2003
Mexia ISD puts up the paddles for now
By Bob Wright
Even before the action by trustees, the there were three campuses which had not been using corporal punishment (paddling).
Following regularly-scheduled meeting action, the Mexia Independent School District got rid of corporal punishment altogether -- at least for the time being.
Supt. Charlene Simpson cited today's societal makeup and possible legal liability which could result from administering such punishment. Former litigation measures most likely was one among several factors contributing to the board's decision.
"Corporal punishment is currently allowed in the Student Code of Conduct," Simpson explained. "However, there is a substantial body of research that shows corporal punishment is ineffective in schools. Use of corporal punishment puts the administrators and school board members at risk of liability when it is used," the Superintendent added.
The vote to eliminate corporal punishment was 4-2. Voting for elimination of the punishment were Walter Jackson, Bruce Sawyer, Gordon Lee and Kelly Lauderdale. Casting votes against the motion were Don Corbitt and Roxianne Schuster.
Follow-up: 28 February 2004 - Corporal punishment ban stays in Mexia ISD
The Gainesville Sun, Florida, 29 November 2003
Danny helps Mo make an impact on Desire Street
This is the part of New Orleans tourists never see.
If playwright Tennessee Williams hadn't immortalized this neighborhood with "A Street Car Named Desire," most visitors would never have heard of Desire Street. The public housing project, built in the mostly black neighborhood in the 1950s, earned it a reputation for crime and danger.
Today, Desire Street Ministries stands out like an oasis, a neat patch of green, surrounded by stark gray vacant lots and warehouses. The rumble of traffic rolling over the tall Interstate 10 bridge is a mere hum.
The giant cranes that load the cargo ships headed up the Mississippi River and around the world, tower over the distant treeline.
It's where Mo Leverett, a white pastor from Macon, Ga., moved with his wife, Ellen, when he graduated from seminary in 1990, long before there was a nice building to call home.
"I couldn't have done a typical church. I wouldn't have lasted in that, nor would they have wanted me," Leverett says with a smile as he relaxes in his office with one foot propped up on his desk. "Nobody sent me, nobody but God I guess. I felt called to urban ministry."
So in 1990, he and Ellen moved to New Orleans. They rented a place in the Desire Street neighborhood. He became a football coach at Carver High School and, after practices, began offering a Bible study program. One of his early converts was Kendrick Levy, who was then 16.
"I grew up right across the street," Levy says. "You can actually say I'm fruit of his ministry."
A bear-sized man with braided hair, Levy, now 29, is a program director for Desire Street Ministries.
"Somebody spending time with me, telling me I'm somebody," he says, is what "Coach Mo" offered. "I've seen this ministry grow in front of my eyes."
Danny Wuerffel first learned of Leverett's work before he arrived in New Orleans in 1997. Then he read a small brochure about the ministries and heard one of Leverett's music CDs.
Then the ministries were housed in an old warehouse that once had been home to a piledriving company. Wuerffel chaired the capital campaign that helped raise $3 million to build the facility that now also serves as a home to Desire Street Academy, a school for 110 seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade boys that eventually will expand into a full junior and senior high school.
At 38, Morgan "Mo" Leverett still has the look of an athlete. An ample frosting of freckles gives him the youthful look of a well-groomed grown-up Huck Finn. Students and staff treat him with respect. He's a magnetic presence who seems to exude a balance between fun loving and no-nonsense.
At a recent lunchtime at the school, Wuerffel is engaged in serious negotiations -- there is spaghetti to trade, if somebody is willing to part with some banana pudding.
Around him boys bordering on manhood are chowing down, talking and joking before heading back to class.
"He's just one of the guys," Jeremy McElveen says of Wuerffel, as he offers his buddy Barry Jeanmarie some extra vanilla wafers.
Barry, 13, and Jeremy, 14, both came from public school and acknowledge that life at Desire Street Academy offered quite a change. They get two classes of math and two classes of English daily, in addition to science, computer lab, music and Bible study. Both say their grades have gone up, way up, since coming there. There's another difference as well.
"We get disciplined. We get paddled," Barry says.
"Boy, do that hurt," says Jeremy.
"Teachers care about you more," Jeremy adds.
On Leverett's desk a paddle sits next to a Bible.
"That thing works," Leverett says.
"My principle is to use the rod sparingly, but not to spare the rod," he says.
As if on cue, a young man enters the office carrying a note from a teacher detailing a disciplinary offense. Leverett offers an option, one lick of the paddle, or leaps -- jumping up to touch a place high on the wall. The youngsters opt for leaps and leave panting for breath, 50 leaps later.
Later that morning the sharp crack of a paddle meeting butt sends a wince-inducing message to all within earshot. Repeat offenders and students caught fighting don't get an option. Leverett says he couldn't get the job done without it. He says in the public schools, students have no fear of retribution of any kind.
"They really don't feel loved because the parameters aren't enforced," Leverett says. "We care enough about these guys to make sure we do what's right for them."
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