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School CP - March 1984

Corpun file 8766 at

Miami Herald, Florida, 23 March 1984

Paddling down in Dade schools

The bottom is falling out of paddling in the public schools.

cuttingIn schools throughout Dade County, new statistics show, some principals are swinging their wooden boards less freely, while others are hanging up paddles altogether. In more than half the county's schools this year, records show, there simply is no paddling.

Although state law allows students to be paddled for misbehavior, principals say the Dade School Board has discouraged corporal punishment. Board members are divided in their paddling philosophies, but a majority of the board has prevailed in asking administrators to try alternatives before resorting to paddling.

And principals, even those who still spank their students, say the message coming from above is clear: Paddling is unpopular.

"I think everyone is being a bit more cautious now," says Norman Lindeblad, principal at Redland Junior High School in South Dade.

The records support what the principals are saying:

  • During the first half of the 1983-84 school year, only 1,642 students felt the punishment of a paddle -- down 65 per cent from the 4,704 Dade students paddled during the first semester last year.
  • The number of students paddled so far this year represents less than 1 per cent of Dade's 223,700 daytime students. Statewide, a task force has found, one of every eight students is paddled each year.
  • In 105 of Dade's 174 elementary schools during the most recent grading period, there was no paddling. In 15 of the 46 junior highs, there was none. Only five of the 24 high schools paddled students.
  • This year's dramatic decline in paddling continues a trend of dwindling corporal punishment that became apparent last year.

Despite the pressure to spare the rod that principals feel from administrators above them, they often face a different kind of pressure from parents at home. Says Lindeblad: "A lot of parents would prefer to just have their kids paddled and sent back to class."

At Miami Edison Middle School, principal Jim Cash began the school year with a vow to stop paddling. But, as hard as Cash tried to refrain from paddling, he was unable to avoid it in a few cases this year.

"In two cases, parents just insisted," Cash says.

Still, the 11 students paddled at Edison first semester signify a remarkable change from last year, when 209 students were paddled, and from the year before, when 529 were paddled.

"We still hold on to our philosophy of an alternative to corporal punishment," Cash says. "My strongest thing is in the area of parental involvement. [Paddling] is the last kind of thing we ought to think about doing."

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