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The Times, Gainesville, Georgia, 6 May 1981
Principal defends discipline
Suspended Hall County principal Ronald Sharpley publicly defended his action this morning in allowing the father of a fourth-grade boy to spank the child with a belt in front of several classes at White Sulphur Springs Elementary School.
Sharpley testified for nearly two hours as a hearing opened before a three-member panel of the state Professional Practices Commission, convened at the request of the Hall County Board of Education. A crowd of about 75 people was present for the hearing at the Instructional Services Center.
Sharpley, the county's only black administrator, told the panel he thought the punishment was appropriate and also thought it was appropriate for other students to witness the discipline. The child, Antonio Stephens, was spanked by his father, Roger Stephens, at about noon April 9 for bringing a knife to school. The Stephenses are black.
Sharpley said he had disciplined Antonio 30 or 40 times during the school year, including about 15 spankings. "Every measure I had tried with Antonio had failed," Sharpley said, adding that he thought embarrassment of the child might help.
The principal said he counted the times the child was spanked and that it was 20 licks. He said Antonio did not cry until his father told him he would spank him until he cried.
Questioned by Sam Harben, attorney for Superintendent C.W. Davis, who suspended Sharpley pending action on dismissal by the board of education, Sharpley denied having said to a teacher at the school, "How did you enjoy the show? How did your students enjoy the show?"
Harben got Sharpley to state the school's policy on corporal punishment called for it being administered in private and that sarcasm was never an appropriate part of discipline.
"Do you consider a classroom in front of a student's peers to be a private place?" Harben asked. "No," Sharpley replied.
Sharpley said that Stephens had told him he would whip the child if he was called by the principal again in regard to behavior problems. It was in response to a call from Sharpley that Stephens came to the school and spanked Antonio.
Hearing officer Robert McDuff sustained Harben's motion to quash the admissibility of notes and memorandums from the files of other principals and teachers in the county system. However, McDuff reserved the right to admit such evidence if it could be shown as relevant.
Allan Myres, Sharpley's attorney, repeatedly objected to Harben's questioning of the witness.
The panel hearing the case is composed of Yvonne Lee, a teacher from Rome, and Robert Bonner, principal of Columbia High School in DeKalb County, both black; and George Thompson, principal of Berkmar High School in Gwinnett County, white.
The hearing was expected to continue at least through today.
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