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Delaware State News, Dover, 1 April 2006
Paddling bill out of whack?
Some can't get behind reviving spanking in schools
By Elizabeth Redden and Joe Rogalsky
DOVER -- A Downstate lawmaker's legislation to give school districts the ability to spank misbehaving students has set off a stinging debate.
Rep. John C. Atkins, R-Millsboro, said he recently filed House Bill 376 at the behest of officials from the Indian River School District, which he represents.
"They are having a hard time controlling students and this would serve as a deterrent, especially if the kids see a teacher or administrator holding the paddle in the hallway when they walk by," he said.
"A lot of parents get upset when you talk about disciplining kids, but we are talking about a paddling, not a beating.
"Right now, what can you do? You can suspend or expel kids, but that takes them out of the classroom, which is what they want, and they don't learn anything."
Delaware joined about 30 other states in 2003 when it passed legislation outlawing corporal punishment in public schools.
Rep. Atkins, who voted against that bill, and other supporters say they are not advocating abuse.
They are talking about a couple of swats on a student's buttocks, done in the privacy of an administrator's office.
"I went to school in the Indian River district and I was paddled and turned out fine," said Rep. Atkins, who has three sons.
"I spank my kids. If one of them was misbehaving so much that he disrupted class and distracted other students, he should be paddled.
"This is a way to bring discipline back to the classroom."
Charles Hudson, the Indian River School District's administrator for pupil services who oversees student discipline, was one of the administrators who met with Rep. Atkins and other lawmakers to encourage them to support returning corporal punishment.
According to the Indian River district, the last year corporal punishment was in effect only seven students out of more than 7,000 were paddled.
"Since the repeal of corporal punishment, we've had situations where parents have asked us to paddle their children in lieu of another form of discipline," Mr. Hudson said.
"If there are parents out there who want their children paddled, why can't we do that at school if it's requested?
"I think, overall, if students know there's a possibility they could be paddled, I think that would help with school discipline. But it would only be with parental consent or by request."
The bill, assigned to the House Education Committee, faces a tough road to becoming law.
Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and Rep. Nancy H. Wagner, R-Dover, the committee chair, oppose it.
Sen. David P. Sokola, D-Newark, the chair of the Senate Education Committee and the sponsor of the 2003 law banning corporal punishment in schools, has said he will fight the measure if it ever wins House approval.
He introduced the ban at the behest of students at Polytech High School.
"My position has not changed since I signed legislation banning corporal punishment," Gov. Minner said.
"I believe there are more appropriate ways to instill discipline in the classroom."
Ten other legislators, besides Rep. Atkins, have signed as co-sponsors of HB 376. All of them represent Downstate areas.
"This is something that has support from districts and parents in the more conservative parts of the state," Rep. Atkins said.
Rep. Gerald W. Hocker, R-Ocean View, said he signed as a supporter because the bill contained the parental-permission provision.
Decades ago, he said, his school had children from grades one through 12 but only one administrator, unlike today's schools that feature fewer grades, more administrators and sometimes police officers.
"We respected teachers and the administrator who knew how to use the paddle," said Rep. Hocker, who attended Lord Baltimore School in Ocean View.
"If we got paddled at school, we knew were going to get it again when we got home. It wasn't abuse, it was discipline."
Sen. James T. Vaughn, D-Clayton, supported corporal punishment during his time on the Smyrna school board from 1966-81 and gladly voted to allow paddling.
"If my child was acting up, and wouldn't listen and was keeping other students from learning, I would have no problem with him being paddled," Sen. Vaughn said.
"It wouldn't be the only tanning he would get that day.
"When we had it in Smyrna, it was not used often but when it was, it was effective. It got their attention."
Unlike the House bill, the Smyrna district did not require parental permission.
"The parents didn't have a blooming thing to say about it," Sen. Vaughn said.
Sen. Robert L. Venables, D-Laurel, said corporal punishment corrects students' misbehavior before the problems turn more serious as the child grows up.
"I got paddled once, real gosh-darn hard, and it straightened me out," he said.
"It really hurt because the paddles had holes in them back then.
"People who were spanked in school support it now because they know it did them a lot of good. They needed it."
The paddling, Sen. Venables said, would serve to help children by teaching them lessons.
"I spank my grandchildren when they don't do right because I love them," he said.
"The guy who spanked me helped me later by trying to get me a scholarship as an artist in New York City. He spanked me because he wanted me to be a good person."
Nina Bunting, a member of the Indian River board of education who spoke on the matter as a former teacher, said that having paddling as an option makes a world of difference.
"I know that it was quite a deterrent to misbehavior, just having it there," she said.
"I propped it up on my blackboard," the 1979 Delaware Teacher of the Year said of what she called a "small, little, thin paddle, sort of like something that you would hit a ping pong ball with."
Ms. Bunting said she testified on spanking to the General Assembly in 1979, after legislators had reinstated the practice.
"I did not use (the paddle), probably never would have, but (students) didn't know that," she said.
"Just the fact that the children were aware that I could was the deterrent that I needed to maintain order in my classroom sometimes."
Ms. Bunting stressed that parental permission is necessary, and spanking should only be done privately.
And not with too much force.
"Oh, heavens no," she said. "We aren't talking about beating here; we're talking just a little tap to get their attention."
Delaware School Boards Association Executive Director Susan Francis said the organization's legislative committee met prior to the introduction of the bill and has not formed a stance.
But several Downstate school board members have given the proposed measure some thought.
"Generally, I do support local control, local discretion, in situations like this," said Douglas Van Sant, a member of the Capital School District board.
"However, if this bill were to be passed -- and right now, I frankly would not oppose the bill -- but if it were to be passed, I probably would not favor our district utilizing it.
"I know that some teachers are probably very frustrated. They have unruly, profane, disruptive, confrontational students and would probably like nothing better than to swat one. But I do think that spanking is really the responsibility of the parent."
Dr. William Parmelee, president of the Seaford board of education, said he's opposed to schools using corporal punishment.
"But the big thing on this is, why are they going after this issue when there are so many more critical issues having to do with education?" he asked.
"They want to give me discretion, or the local boards discretion, then give us the discretion that they give to the charter schools with the way they spend their money."
Dr. Parmelee suggested that the state could provide additional funding for alternative placements to better serve disruptive students targeted by the legislation.
"There are so many things that they should be looking at and addressing that are much, much more pressing than this," he said.
Barbara Grogg, president of the Delaware State Education Association, the state's teachers' union, said she is working with an informal committee gathered by House Speaker Rep. Terry R. Spence, R-New Castle, to consider options for improving school discipline.
"When the legislature dealt with the corporal punishment bill a couple years ago, we think they got it right then," she said.
"We think that some of the problems in schools around discipline are much deeper than a paddling bill could fix."
Sussex Post news editor James Diehl contributed to this article.
All Rights Reserved - Independent Newspapers, Inc.
Shelbyville Times-Gazette, Tennessee, 4 April 2006
Community paddling wasn't child abuse, says state
By Clint Confehr
No child abuse was found by a state investigation into the paddling of a Community High School boy late last year, according to a recent statement from the Department of Children's Services.
Freddy and Tracy Manus of Virgil Crowell Road, Unionville, complained in late October, alleging that their 14-year-old son, Samuel, was paddled and suffered a bruise. A doctor in Smyrna said it was a result of child abuse.
Samuel was paddled by Vice Principal Keith Williams for misbehaving on a school bus and the paddling and bruise had been linked. They might be still if civil litigation is filed, but no decision on that has been made.
And while the Bedford County Sheriff's Department exonerated Williams in November, the state investigation continued and it wasn't until last week that its spokesman, Rob Johnson, confirmed what some of Williams' associates had said they'd already known.
"Investigators determined that allegations of child abuse were unfounded," Johnson said. "The paddling case was handled by the Department of Children's Services' Special Investigations Unit, and that case has closed by the department."
No other statement could be made by the department, Johnson said.
"Due to the state's confidentiality laws regarding child abuse, DCS cannot release the contents of that investigative file," he said.
Williams said he had not received any written, or official statement on the case from the state, so he didn't know the investigation had been closed with a finding of no abuse, although a state investigator did meet with him last fall.
"She told me her feelings on it," Williams said. "I felt totally comfortable talking with her."
However, that left him with an assumption that if investigators find something to pursue, the subject becomes aware of it because of the arrest, but if an allegation isn't substantiated then no action is taken.
Having been accused, and knowing through his own personal belief that he'd not bruised the boy, Williams was interested in knowing what happened to him. His conclusion is: "He hurt himself on a four-wheeler chasing a hay ride on the Saturday night," Williams said.
Samuel Manus told his father, Freddy, of his bruise on a Sunday. The family said the delay was a result of the child's fear after having had an earlier experience with the school administrator.
Information Williams received indicates Samuel Manus had been a passenger on the four-wheeler riding on a metal rack, the vice principal said.
"I've had some children say they witnessed that," Williams said.
Samuel Manus' injury seemed consistent with that, he said, noting that if he'd been injured while being paddled, then the paddle had to be turned sideways.
As for why he'd not been notified that the investigation had been closed, Williams said DCS employees "are probably very busy people ... [and] ... have their hands full investigating real abuse."
Williams had never experienced such circumstances that developed from Freddy and Tracy Manus' complaint and he consistently denied the allegations.
"That's not me," he said.
Phone calls to speak with the Manus family were answered by voice mail and no return call was received.
They had consulted with Cara E. Gruszecki-Smalley of the Norton Law Firm about the possibility of civil litigation.
"At this point, our investigation has not been completed," Gruszecki-Smalley said last week. We hope to have a resolution in a few weeks. We have not ruled out the possibility of litigation."
Gruszecki-Smalley had not seen a copy of the state investigation report, but she'd learned "through various sources" that it had concluded there was no abuse.
If the Manuses filed civil litigation it might allege "that the vice principal went beyond the scope of his duties and the written school policy regarding corporal discipline," the lawyer said.
© Copyright 2006, Shelbyville Times-Gazette
Delmarva Daily Times, Salisbury, Maryland, 5 April 2006
Empowering legislation for local officials
There has been a great deal of controversy and misinformation connected to a bill I'm sponsoring that seeks to help teachers maintain a stable learning environment in their classrooms. I would like to clarify exactly what this legislation would do and why I believe our public schools would benefit from its enactment.
House Bill 376 would allow each school district to choose whether it wanted to adopt a corporal punishment policy. Note that HB 376 is "empowering" legislation, putting the decision into the hands of local officials. Additionally, it needs to be stressed that even if a district were to adopt such a policy under this bill, the parents or guardians of the students would still need to give prior permission for physical discipline to be carried out.
School officials I've spoken with say the state made a serious error when it barred the use of corporal punishment in the public school systems three years ago. I agreed to sponsor this legislation because those officials requested it. Indian River Superintendent Lois Hobbs has stated that she does not "see anything wrong with having [corporal punishment] as an option." Neither do I.
Published comments by Charles Hudson, an administrator with the Indian River School District, indicate that some parents have even requested that their children be paddled in lieu of another form of punishment. Remember, HB 376 would only make this option available if the school district approved the policy and if parents specifically gave prior consent.
I'm at a loss to understand the knee-jerk negative reaction to HB 376. Physical punishment -- used sparingly, appropriately and moderately -- has a long history of being an effective means of encouraging acceptable behavior.
It is not even the actual use of corporal punishment, but rather the threat that it could be used, that is the most effective thing about re-establishing it as an option. Just a few years ago, administrators tell me they could keep students in line just by walking down the hall with a paddle. Today, children know that threat is hollow and empty. By barring physical punishment, we have removed an effective deterrent to bad behavior.
I'm the father of three boys, and while I would not like to see any of them punished, my wife and I would allow our sons to be disciplined by the school should they commit an offense that warranted it. That wouldn't negate our responsibility as parents to reprimand our children ourselves. As I indicated, HB 376 would keep authority in the hands of parents and would in no way replace them as the primary decision-makers of what is good and proper for their kids.
We live in a civilized world where, increasingly, punishments like spanking are viewed as old-fashioned and backward. Maybe such policies are antiquated, but they're also effective. The classroom discipline issues that constantly disrupt our classrooms today would not have been tolerated in the schools of my youth.
I would argue that anyone over the age of 35 likely attended a public, private or religious school that incorporated corporal punishment into its overall discipline policies. I've not met many adults that can honestly tell me their scholastic experience suffered from having attended a school that practiced corporal punishment. Examined from a different angle, I can find few Delawareans that can tell me our schools are better places for having barred corporal punishment in 2003.
We spend more than one-third of our annual $2.3 billion state operating budget on our public schools. We've spent tens-of-millions of dollars reforming our education system and toughening testing and academic standards. Yet none of these investments will pay dividends unless we can provide a safe, stable learning environment for our children. At the very least, we should give parents, teachers and administrators the option of reacquiring a valuable tool for maintaining that environment.
DeSoto County Tribune, Mississippi, 6 April 2006
Corporal Punishment Committee 'In Hopper'
By Jamie Mercer
Two months after parents and anti-corporal punishment
advocates originally brought the issue before the DeSoto County School Board, district officials have yet to form a committee to
review current policy.
"This is unacceptable," Olive Branch parent Sam
Martin told the board. "If I had done this to my child I
would be locked up."
Macon Telegraph, Georgia, 7 April 2006
Teacher resigns over paddling
Report: Band director put hot sauce in sleeping student's mouth
By Julie Hubbard
Central High School's band director, accused by school officials of paddling three students and pouring hot sauce and Listerine in the mouth of another, resigned Thursday.
Bibb County school board members were set to decide whether to fire Thetheus White at a Thursday night personnel hearing, but five minutes before the hearing started, White announced he would resign.
White had worked for the school system for about two years, he said.
"I'm really disappointed right now," White said Thursday. "I'd rather not talk any more about it."
After the allegations surfaced, Bibb County schools Superintendent Sharon Patterson recommended that White's contract not be renewed next school year.
School officials accused White of violating the school system's corporal punishment policy by paddling three students in front of a band class in December.
White also put hot sauce and Listerine in the mouth of a fourth student who had fallen asleep in class, transcripts from White's tribunal hearing said.
It said that during the course of the investigation White lied to the school investigator about the incidents.
Witnesses told the investigator that some students had gone to band class and there were not any chairs in the room. Students were left without a place to sit and began to play around, according to the transcripts.
"Mr. White entered the room, he saw the boys horsing around and announced to the class that he had been waiting for his opportunity to use his new paddle," a school attorney argued, according to the transcripts. "He then lined the three boys up against the wall and paddled each of them three times on their behind."
In a separate incident, White was accused of disciplining a student who often fell asleep in class on different occasions by putting hot sauce or Listerine in the student's mouth "to wake him up."
White described the incidents as jokes, saying he "was just playing around with the kids."
© 2006 Macon Telegraph and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
The News-Press, Fort Myers, Florida, 8 April 2006
Official seeks end to paddling
Carter Academy to end punishment
By Carl-John X. Veraja
A Lee County school administrator wants paddling stopped
immediately at Lee Charter Academy.
Principal Shirley Chapman said Friday she had still not
received the memo. However, she said she would stop the practice immediately.
Paddling is frowned upon by many child experts and school
districts nationwide. Many districts also avoid it for legal reasons.
"There are better ways to discipline students," Donzelli said.
Before the letter went out, Lee Charter officials supported
paddling, saying it still is an effective way to discipline youngsters.
The paddling was done with the school paddle or by the parent
with their instrument of choice.
She called back later to say she doesn't do the paddling
"Mark Gotz told me to have a nice day when I complained
about the paddling," Kimble said.
Another adult is present for the paddling and it is not done
in front of other children, she said. The other adult is present
but does not restrain the child. The child must place their hands
on the back of a chair.
Chapman said corporal punishment was used at Lee Charter Academy because it is a Christian principle. "Like the Bible says, 'Spare the rod and spoil the child,'" Chapman said.
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 13 April 2006
Mom rips Horn Lake school's dress code
By Jimmie Covington
A 13-year-old student who received a three-day suspension from Horn Lake Middle School for wearing capri pants with the manufacturer's name on the back was "excessively" punished, her mother charges.
But Principal George Loper said the dress code violation was the second one this year for the student, Haley Whittington, and the school followed school board policy in the recent incident.
The board-adopted dress code says, "No writing is to be on the seat of the pants, even the cheerleader's uniform and dance team."
The school district's discipline policy sets a three-day school suspension as the punishment for a second violation of the dress code during a year.
Whittington's mother, Teresa Dees, said that in October, her daughter forgot to wear her belt to school. She said she took the belt to school after her daughter reported to the school office herself that she had forgotten it and asked to call her mother.
Loper said students are given a handbook at the start of the year. And, he said, "We call them (students) into the gym the first day of school and we tell them what they can wear and can't wear."
He said that on a second violation, school personnel do offer to allow a student to receive a paddling rather than a suspension.
In an e-mail to the newspaper, Dees said, "I refused to allow her to get a paddling for such a ridiculous issue."
Copyright 2006 E.W. Scripps Company
Hope Star, Hope, Arkansas, 20 April 2006
Spring Hill principal charged after spanking student
Authorities say mother gave permission for corporal punishment
By Todd Burrow
Spring Hill High School principal Steve Britton was arrested on Tuesday and charged with battery in the third degree after he spanked a student on March 13 for disrupting a class.
Hempstead County Sheriff's Investigator, James Singleton, said the complaint from the student's mother occurred once the student arrived at home, complaining of pain.
"The complaint came to our attention after the 13-year-old was sent to the principal's office because of a disruption in a classroom," Singleton said.
Shortly after the disruption incident in the classroom occurred, Britton called the student's mother to alert her of the situation.
"The student's mother gave permission to the principal to spank the student before any corporal punishment was applied," Singleton said.
He said Britton discussed the incident over the telephone with the mother and she gave permission to spank the child.
"When the student got home from school, the student complained of pain, and that's when the mother found the bruises and called authorities," Singleton said.
Prosecuting Attorney, Randy Wright, completed the investigation and a warrant for Britton's arrest was issued by the District Court of Hempstead County.
The charge is a Class A misdemeanor and a court date of May 8 was set.
Britton was released on his own recognizance.
RELATED VIDEO CLIP (1 minute 14 seconds) from TV news (KTBS3, Shreveport, just across the State line in Louisiana, 19 Apr 2006). Report to camera, background scenes of school, still picture of accused principal:
The Decatur Daily, Alabama, 30 April 2006
Mom: Paddling of student went too far
By Clyde L. Stancil
SPEAKE -- Evelyn Cottingham wishes she had heard her son's request to change his mind halfway through a school paddling as clearly as she heard the first strike.
Had she listened to her son's request, Cottingham said, she might have spared him a trip to the emergency room for bruised buttocks.
She told her son that he had to take the second and last hit, and went inside to witness it. She described the paddle as 4 inches wide, 1½ inches thick and 18 inches to 2 feet in length.
Once inside, Cottingham said, she saw assistant principal Heath Grimes extend his arm as far as he could and strike her son with what she described as tremendous force.
Now, she said, she can't get anyone to take action against Grimes.
"I would love to comment," Grimes said, "but I can't."
How it happened
The spanking happened about three weeks ago. Cottingham and her mother, Brenda Hagemaker, went to school at the request of Cottingham's crying son, a 10-year-old fourth-grader.
He had, for the second time, threatened to kill a child on the playground, and administrators were giving him the option of paddling or two days suspension.
"From what I can understand, he was playing around and the little boy was teasing him about something," Cottingham said. "My son told him that he was going to kill him. He doesn't mean it when he says it. I understand they have to take that seriously."
Students were taking standardized tests, so Cottingham told him to take the paddling rather than miss the tests.
Grimes administered the first strike while Cottingham and her mother waited in another room.
"There were three doors between us, and I could hear it," Hagemaker said.
The child came out of the office after the first strike and told his mother that he could not stand another one.
"I just thought that he didn't want to take his punishment," Cottingham said.
She went in to witness the second strike.
"It was loud and it looked hard, but it's a paddling," Cottingham said. "I didn't know he was doing this to my son. His whole backside looks like he's been kicked with a boot. I took him to the emergency room at Lawrence Medical Center that night, and they asked me if I wanted to call the Sheriff's Department."
As a deputy filled out an incident report, a doctor gave her son numbing medicine that would allow him to sit down without pain, she said.
She has photographs that show bruises on her son's buttocks.
Social workers at the Lawrence County Department of Human Resources said they could not investigate.
DHR Director Tyron Newton said he could not comment on a specific case. He said, however, "Corporal punishment in schools is not our thing to deal with."
"The law does not allow us to do that," Newton said.
Cottingham said Superintendent Dexter Rutherford said the paddling was within the rules.
"He said it was an unfortunate incident," she said. "(He said) that if it had been on his head or upper body it would have been (abuse), but since it was not, it is not abuse."
Rutherford said he was not trying to make light of the child's bruises, and said no administrator wants to bruise a child.
"At the time nothing was said about it being excessive," he said. "And she was in the room."
He said he told Cottingham that he had to make a judgment call on her complaint, and that Grimes has rights as an employee that he cannot violate, especially since Grimes followed school board policy during the paddling.
Cottingham went to the courthouse to try to have Grimes arrested, but Assistant District Attorney Bob Lang referred her back to Rutherford.
Lang read THE DAILY a state law that gives school officials "qualified privilege" against claims for assault for educators who are disciplining a student.
Attorneys gave her similar advice.
"I haven't found anyone who wants to help me," Cottingham said. "They want $2,500, and they both told me that it is an unwinnable case."
Cottingham said she is transferring her son to another school in the county. She said she is not trying to excuse what her son said.
"You can't say stuff like that, and he knows it's wrong," Cottingham said. "We all say stuff that we shouldn't say, and I think they (administrators) need to take it serious. I'm not saying he shouldn't have been punished, even if it's a paddling. But this is more than a paddling. It's just not right."
The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio, 30 April 2006
Outdated punishment or effective discipline?
Paddle still leaving its mark at some schools
By Aaron Marshall
Wednesday was a busy day of discipline for Western Elementary School Principal Peter Dunn.
Three times by midafternoon, Dunn had headed down the hallway for an empty room with a misbehaving student. With an adult witness observing -- as required by Ohio law -- and the doors closed, Dunn delivered one or two swats with a wooden paddle to the butts of the pint-size scofflaws.
"Most of the students are crying before you paddle them because of the fear of it," said Dunn, of Pike County's Western School District.
He estimated that two-thirds of the parents in his school have signed slips allowing their child to be spanked.
"I don't like to paddle, but I believe it's a tool that can be used as negative reinforcement to train a student," he said.
Discipline meted out old-school style is becoming increasingly rare in Ohio schools. Only 17 of 612 Ohio school districts used corporal punishment during the 2004-05 school year, according to a report from the Center for Effective Discipline, a Columbus-based advocacy group hoping to stop paddlings.
Western led the state by paddling 44 students a total of 92 times, according to the center's report. In all, the nonprofit center found that 362 paddlings were applied to 231 students, mostly in rural southern Ohio. That's 47 percent fewer students than were spanked the previous year.
Dunn disagrees that there is no educational value in breaking out the paddle.
"There's plenty of evidence. I see it every day. We're not talking about abuse. This is about disciplining a child that is going the wrong way."
The Morgan County School District, which handed out the most swats in the 2000-01 school year, registered none in the latest report. Outgoing Superintendent Gary Davis said the turnaround resulted from increased training of the staff and his desire to "put it into extinction."
The report said that one school district -- Symmes Valley in Lawrence County -- paddled one elementary school child 18 times last school year.
Superintendent Thomas Ben said the schoolboy was paddled only nine times and that it was done at the explicit request of the child's parents.
"We got to a point where we felt like we shouldn't paddle this child anymore and that it wasn't effective," he said. "But perhaps the parents were seeing progress and wanted to see it keep occurring."
Ben called it an exception and said paddling is rare in his district.
"Community values" dictated the policy in several southern Ohio districts that still allow paddling, superintendents such as Ben said.
"We have traditional values that you might not find in urban or city settings."
Copyright © 2006, The Columbus Dispatch
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