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School CP - May 1983

Corpun file 3902

State Journal-Register, Springfield, Illinois, 3 May 1983

Double discipline standard charged

Half don't give permission to paddle

By Max Baker

Fifty percent of the parents of Springfield grade school students have refused or otherwise neglected to grant teachers permission to paddle their children, prompting charges that there may be an improper double standard for discipline.

Springfield School Board President Bruce Johnson questioned the propriety of a corporal punishment policy that permits paddling of only half of the district's grade school students.

Press cutting"It scares me that we have 50 percent that said 'Yes' and 50 percent that said 'No,'" which may establish an unfair, two-tier system for disciplining students, Johnson said.

In February, the Springfield School Board gave grade school teachers and administrators the right to paddle students once the parents gave written permission to do so. The new policy was adopted when elementary teachers complained last year about grade school disciplinary policies.

The policy was also an about face from the district's previous policy, which assumed permission to paddle unless forbidden by parents.

Deputy Superintendent Charles Matthews, citing an April 15 survey, said the district, after sending permission slips to the homes of students, received responses from 74 percent of the parents.

Of that 74 percent, 67 percent granted teachers and administrators the right to paddle their children, while 33 percent refused to gave anyone in the schools that right.

Johnson said this kind of response, or lack of response, from parents was exactly what he had feared when the new paddling policy was adopted by the board.

But Superintendent Donald Miedema and board Vice-President John Lambert were not as concerned about the number of parents who had granted or denied paddling privileges.

Miedema said it is too early to tell how many parents eventually will give the teachers the right to paddle students. He said the district will continue to seek permission until all parents have replied.

Lambert, the board member who proposed getting written permission from the parents to paddle students, was pleased with the response.

"It appears to be a good response. I think the most significant thing is that it (also) opens a line of dialogue with parents around the whole issue of discipline," he said.

Corpun file 4540


The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, 19 May 1983

Lax-discipline plaints heard

By Diane Hust

Fair and consistent discipline has lapsed in Oklahoma City schools because some administrators are leery of reprisals through lawsuits, some Oklahoma City teachers charged Wednesday.

"If parents complain enough, the rules are not enforced for their student," said Sallye Geyer, listed in the school district's personnel directory as a Jefferson Middle School teacher.

"Parents are quick to sue and go to the authorities, so principals are intimidated by parents," said Darla Armstrong, listed as a John Marshall High School teacher.

The two were among more than 15 Oklahoma City teachers who recited horror stories of widespread defiance, drug use, weapons and assaults among students. The claims were made in a special public hearing sponsored by the Oklahoma City Federation of Teachers.

Teachers were cautioned not to reveal the school or people involved in the incidents.

Also appearing were union officials, a student, a campus police officer, a social worker, a retired teacher and a parent.

School officials are reserving comment about specific charges until the union presents the full report at the June 6 school board meeting.

However, school board president Betty Hill said the hearings "can be a constructive approach to examining discipline in the district and renewed teacher interest. Concern over this nationwide problem is a development the board and I welcome."

Union president Dave Renfro said another hearing will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the union office, 1524 Linwood Blvd. Several teachers have come forward to testify after news accounts of the hearings, he said.

No teachers have reported reprisals yet from administrators for their testimony, Renfro said.

"Much of the media coverage was devoted to lack of administrative support and action, but just as much testimony centered on lack of parental involvement and support and other external factors beyond the teacher's or administrator's control," Renfro said.

Many teachers complained that rules are in place but not enforced. An administrator who does not enforce the rules undermines the education process because student troublemakers then feel free to misbehave again, several teachers claimed.

Teachers are also stymied by the discipline process, which calls for more severe punishments, such as spanking, to be handed out after going through administrative channels.

Teachers must write up "referrals" on a child to be sent to the office. Steve Snider, listed as a Taft Middle School teacher, said the form takes several minutes to fill out.

Then the teacher has a choice of sending the child, unescorted, with the referral to the office or accompanying the child.

"For the punishment to be effective, I feel I must take the child and administer the punishment in front of the principal," Snider said.

"Meanwhile what's happening to my class?

"The discipline today is not as effective as 15 years ago when you could give corporal punishment on the spot. I don't get a kick out of hitting someone with a board, but, for some people, that's the only thing they understand.

"One time at the beginning of the year, I wish I could go "ka-bam!' when somebody acted up, and that would be the end of (the discipline problem) that year."

Snider said the system often hamstrings administrators, too. A recent gang fight at his school drew little punishment for those involved because, under district rules, the principal would have had to call an evidentiary hearing to suspend the children more than five days.

Such a hearing requires witnesses and may include lawyers, Snider said. "The principal didn't have time to have a hearing, by the time it was through, school would be over."

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