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School CP - November 2004
Daily News Journal, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 9 November 2004
To paddle or not to paddle?
That is the question for county school board
By Scott Broden
Rather than paddle rule-breaking students, Blackman Elementary School Principal Cynthia Ford chooses to review character education with the children.
"There are children you can talk to one time, and they'll never come back," said Ford, who uses out-of-school suspension instead of corporal punishment as a last resort to deal with behavior issues.
Other administrators, though, including Walter Hill Elementary School Principal Butch Campbell, said in recent interviews that paddling with parental permission can be an effective way to maintain discipline.
"I have what I call my one-plus-one," said Campbell, who gives students an exemption from receiving a lick if they behave for six weeks or two licks if they fail to comply. "It is effective, particularly with the older kids. It's an opportunity for them to redo their behavior pattern and stay out of trouble."
To paddle or not to paddle?
Rutherford County School Board's policy committee will review the issue Wednesday. The meeting will begin at 3:30 p.m. at the teacher center within the district's central office at 2240 Southpark Blvd. near the South Church Street exit off Interstate 24.
Board member Mark Byrnes requested that the policy be reviewed. He questioned why educators should be permitted to strike students and at least wants the policy to require parental consent.
Principals at Walter Hill Elementary, Wilson Elementary and Stewartsboro Elementary said they paddle only if parents choose that punishment.
Some Walter Hill Elementary parents favor getting the two-lick punishment over with rather than having their child suspended and out of school for two days, Campbell said.
"Parents in the Walter Hill area are very supportive in making sure that their children behave in school," Campbell said. "(Parents) want the children to behave and do what they're supposed to do in order for the students to learn."
Walter Hill students always reply to faculty and staff members by saying, "Yes, sir" or "No, sir" or "Yes, ma'am" or "No, ma'am," Campbell added.
At Blackman Elementary, Ford said her method of reviewing character education lessons with students is just as effective as corporal punishment.
"When a child commits an offense and the consequence is to come see me, I let them know I am very disappointed in their behavior," Ford said. "We talk about what you did and why and what you're going to do. Kids definitely want to please. The majority of the kids at Blackman Elementary are pleasers. Kids don't want to misbehave."
At Stewartsboro Elementary, Principal Gary Seymore said he uses corporal punishment only if parents suggest it.
"I tell them what the problem is, and they recommend what direction they want taken," Seymore explained. "There's several options. They are the ones who have to bring up paddling. I do not, nor does Ms. (Assistant Principal Claudia) Belcher. If a parent says they don't want their child paddled, we don't. We just go in another direction."
Wilson Elementary Principal Jon Dinkins also said he paddles only as a last resort with parental permission.
"If that doesn't improve the behavior, we usually don't try to do it again," Dinkins said. "My teachers don't lean toward it much unless it's the only thing we haven't tried."
The key to maintaining discipline is good communication between the parents and the teachers, Dinkins added.
"I think our teachers communicate with the parents very well," Dinkins said. "(Parents) know when the kids are misbehaving."
In addition to reviewing corporal punishment, the policy committee will review whether to permit students to make up work during out-of-school suspensions, Byrnes said.
"If suspension just becomes a vacation from school work, I'm not so sure that's the message we're trying to send," said Byrnes, a political science professor at MTSU. "We should be giving them extra work. Not less work."
Byrnes, though, said he's concerned with increasing the work load of faculty members. Teachers, for example, might have to create make-up tests to prevent suspended students from being tipped off about what's on the exam.
The Tennessean, Nashville, 10 November 2004
Committee to discuss Rutherford paddling policy today
By Michelle E. Shaw
MURFREESBORO Tom Delbridge III, principal at Siegel Middle School in Rutherford County, doesn't have a paddle in his office, but he sure knows what one looks like.
He's more familiar with paddles their feel, texture and shape than most. Why? Because he made them as a shop teacher in Bedford County.
"Back in my early days, I was the shop teacher, and I made paddles for teachers," Delbridge said, laughing. "Yeah, I'd make them for teachers around the school out of scrap wood."
Delbridge said when he was a teacher in Bedford during the 1980s, it was commonplace for teachers to have paddles and to use them.
Things have certainly changed.
Although he used to make them, Delbridge does not paddle. He opts for alternative disciplinary measures such as in- and out-of-school suspension.
Paddling is legal in Tennessee, but today the fate of corporal punishment in Rutherford County schools will be discussed at the school board's policy committee meeting. The meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. at the Rutherford County Board of Education. The committee made up of parents, teachers, school board members and administrators will discuss the policy and pass any recommendations on to the school board for a vote.
Rutherford's district policy, as it is written, lets any teacher or administrator paddle a student, and it does not require parental consent.
School board member Mark Byrnes decided the policy needed to be examined after a Smyrna grandmother filed a lawsuit claiming that a paddling her grandson received last school year, from the assistant principal at Rock Springs Middle School, went too far.
The school board forwarded the issue to the policy committee last month.
State law does not address the degree of force used during a paddling or what should be used as a paddle. Principals who paddle in Rutherford County say they use various instruments to administer the punishment, but not many could think of where to find one now.
Robert Raikes, principal at Smyrna High School, said he does paddle when necessary, but he uses a paddle that was there when he became principal of the high school 30 years ago.
"I don't know that that's the kind of thing a person would go shopping for," he said.
Joe Phillips, principal of John Coleman Elementary School, said finding a paddle may be as close as the nearest toy store. "I think some principals may get them from a game called Jokari," he said, referring to an outdoor game that resembles badminton. The game includes two wooden paddles.
Delbridge said in his day, the object of a paddling was not to hurt kids, just to "get their attention."
"We really didn't have any particular guidelines," Delbridge said. "Other than you'd try to get a piece of wood that wouldn't break. Poplar was always a wood that would hold together pretty good. It wouldn't bruise, but it would get their attention."
The story so far
The Rutherford school board's paddling policy came under scrutiny after Judy Martinez filed a lawsuit in September, saying that her grandson, 14-year-old Wesley Martinez, had bruises on his knee, thigh and buttock after a paddling. He had to get medical treatment for torn back muscles.
The suit alleges that the punishment was carried out in an unreasonable manner.
School board member Mark Byrnes has said he hopes the board will at least consider amending the policy so parents must consent before their child is paddled.
© Copyright 2002 The Tennessean A Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper
The Tennessean, Nashville, 11 November 2004
Tougher paddling policy gets initial OK
By Michelle E. Shaw
Major changes in the Rutherford County School Board's paddling policy could be on the way.
The district's policy committee yesterday unanimously voted to require parental consent before a child is paddled and to allow only principals and assistant principals to paddle students.
The committees' recommendations will be forwarded to the school board, which must approve such changes. The board is expected to take up the issue at its next two meetings, Nov. 18 and in early December.
The additions to the existing corporal punishment policy, if approved, would go into effect immediately, said James Evans, district spokesman.
Currently, the district's paddling policy does not require parental consent. In addition, a teacher, principal or assistant principal can paddle a child.
Tom Serber, a La Vergne parent of two, said he thinks what the committee proposed was fair.
"I do think they missed the boat on one or two things, though," he said. "I think they should have said if the parents can't be contacted that the kid is suspended, and I think they should have discussed how hard you can paddle."
An attorney for a grandmother who is suing the district over the paddling of her grandson said he thinks the committee should have dealt with the severity of paddling.
"I think this committee is side-stepping the real issue here," attorney William Leech said. "And that issue is how hard you paddle a child."
Leech represents Judy Martinez and her grandson, 14-year-old Wesley Martinez, who filed a lawsuit in September. The grandmother says that a paddling Wesley received last school year at Rock Springs Middle School went too far and left substantial bruising.
That suit prompted school board member Mark Byrnes to ask the district to examine the paddling policy.
None of the policy committee's recommendations addresses how many times a student can be hit with a paddle and how hard those licks should be, but school board chairman and policy committee member Rick Wise said he believes principals will "use good judgment" about that.
"When I was a principal, no one ever questioned me about a paddling," he said. "I did have some teachers who were called into question, but I think principals have always used good judgment and they will continue to."
Paddling, an issue that also is being debated in the Memphis and Cumberland County school systems, is legal in Tennessee. It is up to each school system to apply the state law on corporal punishment.
Like Rutherford County, Cheatham, Robertson, Sumner and Wilson counties allow paddling. Metro and Williamson County schools do not allow corporal punishment.
© Copyright 2002 The Tennessean
Delta Democrat Times, Greenville, Mississippi, 12 November 2004
Leland mom files paddling complaint
By Amy Redwine
LELAND Lisa Lott had given Leland Elementary School
oral permission to paddle her 10-year-old son, and she witnessed
a paddling last week, where he received what she described as
"three light licks."
Lott said she gave permission last week for Principal Jeffrey
Blackmon to paddle her son in her presence with a wooden paddle.
What Lott saw was not the same thing she had seen when her son
was paddled a week earlier. Red and dark blue marks with touches
of black spread across Hunter's entire buttock area. He said it
hurts so bad that he cannot sit down. He had to stand while
writing a statement at the Police Department.
Copyright © 2004 All Rights Reserved.
Lufkin Daily News, Texas, 15 November 2004
Schools practice discipline with paddle
By Gary Bass
Angelina County school districts use corporal punishment as one of many disciplinary options, but Lufkin ISD Superintendent David Sharp predicted that public schools eventually will phase it out completely.
"We follow the state's guidelines regarding corporal punishment," Sharp said. "We try to use common sense in those situations, and paddling is not used a great deal in our lower grades.
"Paddling is effective with some students, and with others, it's not. In those cases, you just have to try some other type of disciplinary action."
A Groveton ISD fourth-grader in late September received a paddling for repeatedly failing to turn in his homework. Because the paddling by a high school principal left welts that lasted several days, the boy's parents filed a complaint with the Groveton school district. They have since asked the Texas Education Agency to investigate.
Sharp said only principals and assistant principals at Lufkin's campuses are allowed to paddle students. Whether a paddling is needed is left up to the administrator's discretion, he said.
In each case, the corporal punishment has to be done out of the view of the other students, and an LISD professional employee must be present to serve as a witness, Sharp said. Paddlings are usually given for "general misconduct" or breaking rules outlined in the campuses' codes of conduct.
Sharp said parents can request that their children not be paddled, by contacting their principals. In those cases, other options -- like taking away recess or other privileges, a conference with the child's parents, noon detention, in-school suspension, Saturday school or placement in the Alternative Education Program -- can be used as alternatives, he said. Which method is used often depends on the severity of the misconduct.
Lufkin guidelines do not set a limit on the number of "swats" that can be given at one time, Sharp said. He said principals and assistant principals rarely give more than three swats at a time, although the number can vary according to the individual circumstances.
"Paddling can be an effective disciplinary tool," Sharp said. "You just have to be really careful with how it's done."
When a student is paddled, it is important to let him or her know that it is a consequence for bad behavior, and that the school employee is not doing it to be mean, Sharp said. He said on the occasions when corporal punishment is used at Lufkin ISD campuses, the kids are told why they are getting a paddling.
"There's a right way to do it," Sharp said. "You follow up with the parent and the child, and you treat them with the same love and respect you give to your own kids."
Giving an example, Sharp said back when he was a principal, his daughter -- who is now grown -- committed some infraction when she was a third-grader, and as her principal, he paddled her. Because he told her she would get swats at home if she got in trouble at school, he spanked her again as her father.
"I told her why I was doing it, and I told her that I loved her," Sharp said. "She hugged me, and apologized for misbehaving."
Sometime in the future, Sharp said, school districts will no longer use corporal punishment. Because of the continuing threat of lawsuits and society's changing climate, schools will simply phase it out, he said.
Central ISD Superintendent Vernis Rogers echoed what Sharp said in reference to his own district's policies regarding corporal punishment. Paddlings at the Central school district have to be done in a designated area out of sight from the other students by a principal or vice principal with at least one witness present, he said. Parents can request that their children not receive corporal punishment.
"It used to be that a paddling was a teacher's first resort," Rogers said. "But that's not the case anymore. There are a lot of other options to choose from."
Like LISD, the other disciplinary tools available at Central ISD include things like loss of privileges, detention, in-school suspension, Saturday school and sending at child to the AEP campus in Redland, he said. Paddlings are usually reserved for more serious infractions like fighting, Rogers said.
Mary Ann Whiteker, Hudson ISD superintendent, said her district also has corporal punishment as one of its disciplinary tools. Hudson's policies are similar to those at the Lufkin and Central ISD school districts. Paddlings have to be done in a designated area by principals or assistant principals, and another district employee has to serve as a witness.
Parents of Hudson students can request that district officials not paddle their kids, she said.
Whether a paddling is warranted is up to the campus administrators, Whiteker said. While corporal punishment can be used to discipline a student who fails to comply with campus policies, it is usually reserved for more serious acts of misconduct like racial or ethnic slurs, verbal abuse, disruptive behavior in the classroom or violating safety rules, she said.
Zavalla ISD Superintendent Mike Ford said only principals and coaches are allowed to give swats in his school district. He said paddlings are usually a mid-range disciplinary tool; Zavalla teachers start with suspending privileges, and corporal punishment is reserved for major infractions or persistent bad behavior.
"Swats either work or they don't," Ford said. "If they don't work the first time, there's not much use in doing it again, so we move on to some other method of discipline."
© 2004 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. - The Lufkin Daily News
wsoctv.com (WSOC TV9), Charlotte, North Carolina, 15 November 2004
School Districts That Allow Or Don't Allow Corporal Punishment
Principal Donna Maye says it doesn't happen that often, maybe a half-dozen times a year. But when one of her 750 students at Unionville Elementary repeatedly breaks the rules, they can end up here.
"Right there it's where we do it, they put their hands on the chair and bend over and we're done," said Maye.
Paddling is exactly what Pat Robinson and Peggy Dean want to see banned. Both mothers have become activists in Union County, demanding that the school system's policy allowing corporal punishment be changed.
"I was just shocked that kids were being hit by teachers. I didn't feel like that was the proper role of education," said Robinson.
"I see it as not only an abuse, a physical abuse of our children, I see it as an abuse of power," said Dean.
Laurin McCarley agrees. She worked in Gaston County schools for several years, but didn't agree with the policy allowing corporal punishment. So now she teaches in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, where paddling is not allowed.
"If there's going to be physical discipline, then it should be parents," she said. "It should not be a principal, it should not be a teacher."
But Union County School Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thomas says paddling is always a last resort and that parental consent is highly recommended, although not required. He says many times, it's the parents themselves who request that their children be paddled.
"When you get to that point, you're probably looking at in-school or out-of school suspension. Both parents may work, there may not be a person to see after the child, that could occur," said Dr. Thomas.
Principal Donna Maye says paddling lets a child return to class quickly, whereas with suspension, they're not in class, and not learning.
"I would prefer it remain an option. I think it does have its place, it has been used prudently and not excessively," she said.
High Point Pediatrician Dubose Ravenel also thinks paddling has its place. He's been an outspoken advocate of corporal punishment in certain circumstances.
"If the parent is comfortable with the teacher and principal in that school, knows them, they know the child, parents give permission, parents have a good relationship with the child, it's reasonable," he said.
But Pat Robinson and Peggy Dean don't think paddling is reasonable in any situation. They want it taken out of schools entirely and they say they won't stop until that happens.
"I think we really need to advocate for more non-violent communication skills for the teacher, for the principals, conflict resolution," said Robinson.
"I plan to continue. It's that important," said Dean.
Corporal punishment is illegal in 27 states. North and South Carolina leave the decision up to individual school districts.
In the Channel 9 viewing area, we found 17 school systems that use it and nine that don't.
We've put together a county-by-county list of those school systems.
School districts that do allow corporal punishment:
Copyright 2004 All rights reserved.
Los Angeles Times, 20 November 2004
Paddling Against the Current
Some say spanking is central to child-rearing in the South. But a Memphis high school coach finds that times may be changing.
By Ellen Barry
MEMPHIS, Tenn. It is a comedown for Ted Anderson, at the
age of 60, to spend his days in a social studies classroom,
fighting for the attention of sixth-graders.
The Post-Tribune, Gary, Indiana, 21 November 2004
Mom says coach paddled boy, 12
By Lori Caldwell
GARY James Blue was thrilled to play on the Melton Elementary School basketball team.
That was last week.
"Now they've broken his spirit. That was his dream, but now he doesn't want to play basketball," his mother Ingrid said Friday.
James, 12, came home from practice Thursday with what she described as bloody, bruised buttocks. She said it was the result of a severe paddling by his coach, Blue said.
They lost a game earlier in the week, and the coach told team members it wouldn't happen again, his mother said she learned from her son and other players.
"He locked the gym doors and said he'd whoop anyone who missed a shot," she said.
Her son isn't tall, and he missed several free throws, she reported.
Thus the alleged paddling.
Blue made a police report Thursday night, the second such report in two days.
James was treated at The Methodist Hospitals here for his injuries.
"He cant sit down. He cant go to school. He has to lay down on his stomach all the time because it hurts him so much," Blue said.
After a meeting Friday afternoon with school officials, Blue said she believed the coach would be fired.
"But I want him arrested," she added.
The name of the coach could not be verified.
In a second incident, the mother of a 3-year-old preschooler said her son was paddled this week during a basketball practice at Duncan Elementary School, Lt. Roger Smith said Wednesday.
Detective Cpl. Lionel Hampton, who also works as a school security officer, is investigating both cases, Smith said.
School spokeswoman Chelsea Stalling said an investigation has begun. She said the identity of the coach was being withheld.
The Post-Tribune, Gary, Indiana, 23 November 2004
Gary school coach dismissed for paddling kids
By Lori Caldwell
GARY An elementary basketball coach who allegedly paddled his players for missing free throws has been replaced, and the School Board may consider changing its policy and ban corporal punishment.
Parents said the reported coach-administered paddlings were so severe that at least three Melton Elementary School students sought medical treatment.
The unidentified basketball coach, apparently angry about a game the team lost on Tuesday, told his players he would swat them every time they missed a shot at practice Wednesday, parents reported.
Three boys, Joshua Perry, 13, Eric Brown, 13, and James Blue, 12, ended up at The Methodist Hospitals with bruises and welts from the paddling. They told their parents they were hit 10 or more times with a paddle the coach brought with him to practice.
"When the doctor saw my son, he said it was unbelievable," Lisa Perry said Monday.
Citywide Athletic Director Earl Smith has temporarily taken over as coach.
The dismissed coach, known to parents and players as "Coach T," told his players he used the same paddling technique last year, and his team won every game, Perry said.
The Gary school district is one of a handful in the state that still allows paddling as a punishment. Most school districts banned corporal punishment in the early 1990s. No districts allow it in Porter County.
Chelsea Stalling, spokeswoman for school administration, said Monday the recent events may prompt the School Board to revisit the policy.
Cassandra Brown said her son was hit 15 times one for every missed shot.
"My son told me he quit counting," Perry said, adding that Joshua knew he'd been hit at least 10 times.
School officials have not released the coach's name, but Gary police Detective, Cpl. Lionel Hampton is investigating the three battery reports. Hampton is also employed as a school security officer.
Perry said the team had suffered a humiliating loss the day before.
"They were already broken down, and then they were attacked by a lion. They are just kittens and he is a lion," Perry said of the coach.
Perry said when she went to the school Thursday morning, the principal was talking to the players. Practice was suspended for the rest of the week while school officials sorted out the events.
The coach is believed to be a community member who is paid a stipend of about $600 to coach the team.
Stalling said such non-teacher coaches do undergo background checks by the district security department. The coaches report to the building principal and to Smith.
Reporter Carole Carlson contributed to this report.
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 23 November 2004
Schools ban the paddle
Board votes 5-4 for alternative ways to discipline students
By Jody Callahan
Beginning next fall, paddling will no longer be allowed in any Memphis public school.
In a tense marathon meeting Monday night, the school board voted 5-4 to abolish corporal punishment, replacing it with a package of alternative disciplinary measures.
"It's just gratifying to know that we have come to a place where we're going to respect our children and treat them with decency," said a grinning Lora Jobe, the outgoing board member who waged a seven-year fight to end corporal punishment.
The decision prompted mixed reactions from parents and teachers who packed the auditorium; based on applause, the crowd appeared to favor retaining the option to paddle.
Parent Tonya Harris predicted dire consequences.
"The kids are waiting up on this news, and there's going to be fights, starting (today)," she said.
Board member Michael Hooks, who voted against the proposal, also feared the potential for disruption.
"I just foresee it causing situations in the long run where students believe you can no longer be disciplined," he said. "I hope not."
South Side High teacher David Hill, though, praised the decision.
"I think it's a move in the right direction for Memphis City Schools," he said. "I think it's a vote of confidence in the teachers and administration."
Supt. Carol Johnson proposed a "Blue Ribbon Behavior Initiative" that offers alternative methods to enforce discipline, with work on the proposal beginning almost immediately. Johnson's plan calls for:
Behavior and social skills curriculum implemented in each school.
School problem-solving teams.
Consequences like Saturday school or community service to keep students on the right path.
"Alternative programming" that could include therapeutic or mental health support.
Loss of sports participation privileges for unruly students, as well as other possible sanctions.
Enhancing recognition for those who perform well.
"The real work begins now," said Johnson, who added that she was happy with the decision. "The vote is step one, the first tentative step to focusing on an efficient strategy for safe schools and respectful behavior."
Charles New, president of the Memphis Education Association, the teachers' union, hopes the new proposals will enforce discipline, but remains wary.
"Our position has been that if you wanted to abolish corporal punishment, you needed to have plans in place to deal with disruptive students," he said. "We feel that what was presented tonight was a plan, but it wasn't in place. We didn't see the money in there."
The meeting had its share of drama, beginning with the vote. With the tally tied at 4-4, board chairman Patrice Robinson cast the deciding "aye" vote, shocking Jobe and fellow board member Deni Hirsh, who thought the proposal was going to be voted down.
Corporal punishment opponent Timothy McKay was removed by security after he spoke without permission, calling paddling "racist" and "brutal."
Jobe, Hirsh, Robinson, Sara Lewis and Carl Johnson voted for the measure. Hooks, Hubon 'Dutch' Sandridge, Willie Brooks and Wanda Halbert voted against it.
Copyright 2004, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.
Los Angeles Times, 24 November 2004
In Memphis, a Battle Won, the Paddle Lost
In one of the last big-city school systems to use corporal punishment, a board member calls the district's 5-4 vote to ban it a 'small miracle.'
By Ellen Barry
The Memphis City School Board has voted to ban
corporal punishment in the public schools, forcing teachers to
replace the traditional wood paddle with tools like mental health
support, problem-solving teams and more recognition for students
who perform well.
Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 24 November 2004
Swing vote helped board banish paddling in schools
'If we have to reinstate it, we can'
By Jody Callahan
The votes came down, one checking the other, until the tally stood tied at four to abolish paddling, four to retain it.
That left Memphis City Schools board president Patrice Robinson -- who had remained fairly quiet on the issue -- to cast the deciding vote at the group's tense, 5½-hour meeting Monday night.
Barely hesitating, Robinson said "yes."
As a result, corporal punishment will no longer be allowed in the city schools beginning next fall. Instead, a "Blue Ribbon Behavior Initiative" that offers alternative methods to enforce discipline will be put in place. Robinson, who spanks her own children, said Tuesday she had no idea which way she'd vote when she walked into the meeting.
"As I listened to the debate, it just dawned on me that, in any situation, we could always change it," Robinson said. "If it doesn't work, you try something else. If we have to reinstate it, we can."
One of the main factors in Robinson's decision was the number of paddling incidents that violated policy.
Data from the 2003-2004 school year show 27,918 paddlings were administered to 13,804 students. Of those, more than 1,600 were for cutting classes while another 200 were for violating the dress code. Neither is a paddling offense under board policy.
Basketball players at Hamilton High also said they were paddled for missing shots in games, a violation that cost Ted Anderson his coaching job.
Over the next nine months, work will continue on Supt. Carol Johnson's proposal, which calls for several enforcement methods, including behavior and social skills curriculum in each school; consequences like Saturday school or community service; and loss of sports participation for unruly students.
Raleigh-Egypt High principal Oscar Love, known district-wide as a tough, no-nonsense disciplinarian, doesn't paddle.
"It's just not part of my philosophy. We try to work in every way to get parents involved when the students get into trouble. We call parents, use in-school suspension, cafeteria duty, those kinds of things," said Love, a Vietnam veteran and former Navy education specialist.
"I don't think paddling is effective. Philosophically, I'm just opposed to hitting kids. I just don't think it's a good idea. We try to teach our students to be responsible."
Principal Brett Lawson and his staff administered between 200 and 300 paddlings a year at Colonial Middle School until he banned the practice in March. Instead, the school relies on in-school suspensions, counselors and a strategy called the "Peace Initiative" to maintain discipline.
"What we did was counted days where we had no fights. We would announce each day, 'This is the 10th consecutive day of peace at Colonial Middle School.'"
Through a combination of the Peace Initiative and the removal of paddling, Lawson says, an already good school climate has shown improvement.
Fighting, for example, has gone from more than 100 incidents in 2002-2003 to fewer than 30 last school year.
"The difference between not paddling and paddling is, when you paddle, you get a quick fix and you don't really deal with the root problem," Lawson said. "It's much easier and quicker to just go ahead and use that corporal punishment. You feel like, 'If I lose this, I'm not going to have the time to maintain discipline.'"
Copyright 2004, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.
Orlando Sentinel, Florida, 26 November 2004
Going back home
Last spring, Dwight Howard was 1 in a graduating class of 16 at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. Today, he returns home as an NBA star.
By Tim Povtak
ATLANTA -- This was long after Dwight Howard became the
celebrated No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, well after he signed a
contract so big he got dizzy, soon after he and the Orlando Magic
had spent a week in Las Vegas at summer league play.
Thompson didn't spare the rod in Howard's case. And she didn't
spoil the child, either.
Copyright © 2004, Orlando Sentinel
Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 28 November 2004
Letters to the editor
Schools, children, principals, parents and discipline
As a teacher in the Memphis City Schools, I cannot adequately express how disappointed I am to see the end of corporal punishment in the schools (Nov. 23 article, "Schools ban the paddle / Board votes 5-4 for alternative ways to discipline students").
While it is true that most of our students don't need negative consequences, paddling serves as a last resort for those who can't follow the most basic rules of conduct. Consider this: I have not paddled any of the 120 students directly under my supervision this year, and we are almost four months into the school year.
I know from personal experience that even the threat of corporal punishment is valuable to the often-disrespected classroom teacher.
Some of the conduct that I have observed in our schools is reprehensible and should never be tolerated. Last Tuesday, for example, I asked a male seventh-grader to tuck in his shirt and he responded by telling me to "shut up"; I asked a female seventh-grader to get to homeroom on time and she cursed me; later that day I asked a girl to move to her new assigned seat and she bragged in a loud voice that she "still was going to talk and play" in her new seat.
Students who believe that cursing, fighting and disrespecting teachers regularly is acceptable and who assume (sometimes correctly) that they will not be adequately punished will continue this behavior. Most important, they probably won't become lifelong learners and critical thinkers.
I tell my students that there is a direct correlation between poor behavior and poor grades, and that you can't learn anything when your mouth is running. Most parents agree and encourage teachers to paddle their children if they are out of control: if only we could.
Discipline promotes respect
It appalls me that the leaders of the Memphis City Schools system think that corporal punishment is inappropriate. Let's look at the whole picture. Back in the days when we actually had discipline in the schools, the students at least had some sort of respect for their teachers.
Now -- because of the race card being played again, as it always is in Memphis -- the statistics show that a black male middle school student is more likely to be punished than a student from any other demographic group. Did it ever occur to anyone that they might be the ones who cause the most trouble?
When I was at Christian Brothers High School, if you got hit or paddled you knew why. You did not ask questions and you took it like a man. The youth of today think that taking it like a man means to take a bullet.
God help us all.
Discipline calls for zero tolerance
I believe that the school board and the superintendent have the students' best interest in mind, but has this thing really been thought through? What about the teachers and the parents, who by a large majority wanted to keep paddling in the Memphis City Schools?
I have seen students who, even when paddling was allowed, show no fear of teachers or administrators. Some are disrespectful and could care less about being in school. What about these students?
If alternative measures are to be initiated, respect for the teacher should be paramount. There should be zero tolerance for student insubordination, mandatory parent conferences for those who violate the rules and Saturday school for those who disrupt the educational environment.
Maybe if the schools inconvenience the parents and the students, parents will take the responsibility to teach their children the social skills needed to succeed in our diverse society.
Credit Johnson for positive change
The high drama of the narrow split vote to end corporal punishment recalls the delicate balance of differing perspectives apparent across the country in the recent national election.
Memphians should heartily welcome the school board's decision, which rejected the view that corporal punishment is essential for the maintenance of teacher authority (and hence effectiveness) in favor of the realization that the most urgent task of our schools is to mold the citizenry of a thriving future community -- one based on ethical enterprise and civil discourse and that eschews violent behavior.
This outcome was due in no small part to the insightful leadership of Supt. Carol Johnson. She has instituted a bold Blue Ribbon Behavior Initiative designed to create safe school environments and foster respectful and nurturing relationships among students, teachers and parents that will obviate any need for corporal disciplinary practices.
The success of this strategy is not a foregone conclusion. We can only hope that the Memphis City Council, the Shelby County Commission, the Memphis Education Association, parent-teacher organizations, the students and the public will enthusiastically embrace the tremendous opportunity this transformation presents and afford the new expenditures and personal commitments needed to make it work.
Carolyne Lamar Jordan
Ban on paddling works
Congratulations to the Memphis City Schools board for finally prohibiting corporal punishment. Educators in 28 states and in 91 of the 100 largest school districts in the country have been successfully educating children without hitting them with boards, and that will happen now in Memphis.
Banning paddling works. No state or urban district in which paddling was voted out ever went back to using it again.
To the contrary, districts that ban find that with time graduation rates increase, scores on national tests improve and school vandalism decreases. Surveys of teachers taken two to three years after a ban is in place show little support for a return to paddling.
Supt. Carol Johnson and school board member Lora Jobe are to be commended for looking at the research, studying the precedents and leading the way to the right decision. The children of Memphis will have less anger instilled in them. They will learn lessons of nonviolent conflict resolution through the professionalism of their teachers who model more creative and rational methods of classroom order.
Next, the Shelby County Schools? It is one of the eight remaining 100 largest districts in the nation where students still can be hit.
Dr. Robert E. Fathman President of the National Coalition to
Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools
Train children by example
For all their foot-stomping, psalm-singing and Bible-thumping, Memphians seem to have forgotten the Biblical concept that to spare the rod is to spoil the child.
Training a child is the job of the parents. Teaching is the job of the teachers. The failure of the Memphis City Schools lies in the failure of the parents to train their children how to behave and how to respect themselves and others.
I was born in 1940 on the Perry Plantation in Tunica County, Miss. I knew many people who could not read their names, but all of them knew how to behave. They were respectful of their elders. They were honest. No one I knew had locks on their doors.
Although we didn't have money we were rich in the things that count -- kindness, honesty, respect for self and others. We considered it a privilege to go to school. We respected our teachers because we knew they would tell our parents and you would get two whippings in one day.
We are doing today's children a disservice by not training them. We should set a good example for them to follow. Shame on parents for abrogating their responsibilities. Wait and see what kind of sanctions are meted out by prison inmates and guards.
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