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School CP - May 1987

The Journal, Flint, MI, 1 May 1987

Bill would ban school punishment

By Mark Hornbeck
Journal Lansing Bureau

LANSING -- Ten students in public school classroom across Michigan are paddled, rapped or spanked by a teacher every hour during the school day.

These statistics and other concerns are prompting some educators and lawmakers to renew a call to spare the rod in state schools.

cutting"We can't hit people in mental institutions, we can't hit our prisoners, but public employees can hit our children in school ... it just doesn't make sense," said Sen. Lana S., Pollack, D-Ann Arbor.

Pollack has introduced legislation to ban corporal punishment in schools. Her bill will get a hearing in the Senate Education Committee next month.

The Civil Rights Office of the U.S. Department of Education projects there were 10,749 disciplinary actions against students involving corporal punishment in the state in 1984. That report was based on a survey of 83 of Michigan's 525 school districts.

Since most public schools hold class 1,080 hours a year, that averages 10 such incidents an hour statewide.

The report also indicates less than 1 per cent of Michigan students are victims of corporal punishment. That percentage ranks Michigan 26th among the 50 states.

A separate study by the National Coalition of Advocates for Students ranked Flint first and placed Bendle, Owosso, Lake Fenton and Flushing in the top 10 for corporal punishment.

Michigan has few restrictions on the practice, although a number of local districts have banned corporal punishment. The state school code says teachers may use "reasonable physical force" to maintain discipline.

The code also protects school employees who use corporal punishment from civil action "except in case of gross abuse and disregard for the health and safety of the pupil."

Pollack's bill would prohibit corporal punishment but would permit teachers to use "reasonable physical restraint" when trying to protect themselves or to wrest a weapon away from a student.

Corpun file 07029

Houston Chronicle, Texas, 1 May 1987

School officials asked for explanation in wake of paddling complaint

By Cathy Gordon

CONROE - The superintendent of Conroe schools has asked Neal Knox Junior High officials to explain their disciplinary methods after a mother complained that her son was spanked with a wooden paddle for dropping grade points.

Superintendent Richard Griffin said he has requested a report from the school to determine if corporal punishment was administered to students because of failing grades, a policy not condoned by the district.

Thomas Randle, the junior high principal, said 63 seventh-grade male students in an athletics class - including his son - were given the option Tuesday of being "popped" with a wooden board or running 100 yards on all fours - using their hands and feet - as punishment for unsatisfactory conduct.

Fifty students chose one pop with the paddle; 13 chose the "bear crawls." School officials said only students receiving "unsatisfactory" or "needs improvement" marks are punished by the paddling or bear crawls.

But Kristi Kitchens said her son Scott, 13, was punished for receiving an N on his report card, indicating he had dropped eight grade points in a science class from the previous six-week period.

Her son chose one pop with the wooden paddle, she said, "because he said kids said rather than have blisters on their hands, it's better to take five seconds of stinging from the paddle."

She said the paddling was against her written orders to the school district, but school officials said they could find no such notation in her son's student file.

"The information I got from my son's teacher three weeks ago was that he was missing an assignment for a major grade and unless he turned it in, his grade would drop substantially," said Kitchens. "They're punishing these kids in athletics class for something totally unrelated that should be dealt with in the other class."

Another parent, Lynn Bean, said his stepson Sheldon Black, 14, did 400 yards of bear crawls despite having a cast taken off his arm just two weeks ago. He said he was punished for failing a history course and making a poor grade in conduct.

Griffin said he will take swift action to end the disciplinary procedure if an investigation shows corporal punishment has been used on students whose grades are slipping.

"Corporal punishment is permitted in the school district as one of a variety of techniques, but we do recommend it be used as a last resort. We never would condone it as a way to punish students for failing courses."

Griffin said school guidelines dictating the use of corporal punishment are as follows: That other means of discipline are exhausted first%3B that the paddling be done in front of a professional witness and out of other students' view with an effort made to contact the child's parents%3B and that the punishment fit the discipline problem.

Knox officials said two teachers witnessed the students' paddlings, which were done individually.

Griffin said he could not comment on whether the "pops and bear crawls" form of punishment fit school guidelines until reviewing the junior high officials' report.

Corpun file 07028

Houston Chronicle, Texas, 6 May 1987

Woodlands junior high changes 'pops' policy

By Cathy Gordon

THE WOODLANDS - Neal Knox Junior High School officials are modifying their "pops or bear crawl" disciplinary policy, allowing paddling only as a last resort and after telephoning parents for permission.

School officials, criticized last week by some parents for giving seventh-grade male students the choice of being paddled or crawling on their hands and feet the length of a football field, said the new policy will begin in the fall term.

The option of punishment was given to 63 male students in a seventh-grade athletics class last Tuesday as discipline for poor conduct marks on their six-week report cards, Principal Thomas Randle said.

He said it is uncertain if the school will continue using the "bear crawls" to discipline students.

Randle said the new policy allows coaches to use corporal punishment as a last resort on students who misbehave in their athletics class. But it prohibits coaches from using the practice to discipline students for poor conduct marks in other academic classes.

"We're going to maintain control here at Knox Junior High School," Randle said. "When you deal with middle school preadolescents, especially boys in the spring of the year, the adrenaline, everything begins to take affect. I don't know what they do at home, but we have to have a way to handle them here. We have to come up with a way to support the rest of the school."

Conroe schools Superintendent Richard Griffin had asked Randle to explain the school's disciplinary methods after a mother complained that her son was spanked with a wooden paddle for dropping grade points.

Woodlands resident Kristi Kitchens said her son, Scott, 13, was punished for receiving an N on his report card, indicting he had dropped eight grade points in a science class. She said she had received no complaints from the school about her son's conduct and had informed officials that she was against corporal punishment.

Randle said an investigation of the school's disciplinary actions showed students received the punishment only for poor conduct marks, not for failing grades.

Randle said Kitchens' son had been disciplined for talking in class. "The teacher had talked to him about his attitude and even moved his desk to keep him from talking," Randle said. "He wasn't punished for his grade.

"I've talked to coaches and they will not give pops anymore for conduct grades on report cards," he said. "And they will also always call parents when there is an incident that calls for a pop. They didn't telephone parents last time. All we're trying to do is keep some order at the school."

Randle said school officials have not had to consider such discipline methods for girls "because just talking to them usually settles the problems."

Griffin said he is satisfied with Randle's investigation. "I think it was a thorough investigation and what needs to be changed will be changed," Griffin said.

Atlanta Journal, Georgia, 7 May 1987

Lawsuit claims paddling of boy was too severe

Toombs parents fight school policy in court

By Jane O. Hansen
Staff Writer

Dr Leon Martin was on duty Dec. 15 when Estell Miller brought his 12-year-old son into the emergency room of a Vidalia, Ga., hospital. Martin took one look at the hardened bruises covering Brian Miller's buttocks -- the raised red-and-black welts that crept down the back of the boy's right thigh -- and ordered a nurse to call the Department of Family and Children Services.

Sandra Williams, a caseworker who investigates child abuse, arrived at the hospital less than an hour later. She learned that Brian's teacher had paddled the boy at school.

Miller said Mrs Williams told him that if he had inflicted such injuries on his son, he would be in jail. A beating by a teacher, however, was out of her jurisdiction, she said. There was nothing she could do.

In an effort to change that, attorneys filed a lawsuit Monday against the Toombs County School Board in U.S. District Court in Statesboro. The suit, filed by Attorney Louisa Abbot on behalf of the Millers and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), charges the board with maintaining a policy that permits "unduly severe" corporal punishment. Also named as a defendant is Wilbur Mallory, a teacher and coach at Toombs Central School.

In a state that ranks eighth in the nation in the number of paddlings meted out by its public schools, attorneys maintain that the Miller case is not an isolated incident.

The suit, however, does not seek to outlaw corporal punishment, which is strongly supported in the South. But it does maintain that schoolchildren in the 11th Federal Court District should have the same constitutional protection against "excessive" punishment that prisoners have. Currently they do not.

And it argues that at least in Toombs County, stronger steps should be taken to limit a practice that, some contend, has sanctioned child abuse in the schools.

The Miller saying that they sought the ACLU's help only after the local school board refused to grant them a hearing. But Toombs County Superintendent Johnie Sikes said last week that she had investigated Brian's case and determined the boy's punishment had not been excessive.

"Even though the child had some bruises, the teacher had followed policy," she said. "Many students bruise easily."

Mallory, head basketball coach and assistant football coach at the school for the past four years, refused to comment last week on Brian's paddling. "It's none of your business," he told a reporter.

In recent years, there have been other protests by Georgia parents against excessive corporal punishment. Three years ago, Fannin County parents unsuccessfully sought to outlaw a policy allowing teachers to paddle children for failing to complete their homework.


Nine states and a number of large, urban school systems have banned corporal punishment. Organizations such as the American Medical Association have taken formal stances against it.

Brian and his family CLAIMS PADDLING TOO HARSH: Brian Miller, who was treated for bruises at a Videlia, Ga., hospital last year, is surrounded by his sister Amanda (front); his mother, Marcell; his sister, Lisa; and his father, Estell, at their home in Uvalda, Ga.

But in Toombs County, even the Millers support the practice but feel there should be restraints. "When you don't whip your own child like that, it's not right for someone else to do it," Marcell Miller, Brian's mother, said last week.


The gnats are already swarming in the South Georgia town of Lyons, where a landscape of dry, freshly tilled fields is interrupted by irrigation pumps and satellite dishes.

White clapboard churches and a sign that greets visitors -- "Welcome to Lyons, Jesus Lives" -- make it clear that this is Bible Belt country.

Estell Miller, who at times works 12 hours a day hauling logs, was at home in the families double-wide trailer with a broken knee the day Brian came home from school with red, puffy eyes.

When he asked his son what was wrong, Brian began to cry, then pulled down his pants to show his father where he said Coach Mallory had hit him with a wooden paddle.

Brian said he had been "goofing off" in a gym class basketball game when Mallory ordered him into his office. Mrs Sikes said Brian was disrupting shooting practice, running in the wrong direction and knocking students down.

Accompanying Mallory as witnesses to the punishment where a teacher, Kay Yarbrough, and a teacher's aide, Lenora Burkette. They would later tell school officials the paddling was not overly severe, according to school principal Kendall Brantley. Brian said what was to have been five "licks" turned into eight to 10 because each time he moved, Mallory started over.

Michael Poole, who later found his friend crying in the boys' room, said Brian's backside "looked like he'd been thrown on top of a grill or something."

Miller put his boy in the car and drove him to the Dr. John M. Meadows Memorial Hospital in Vidalia. On the hospital report, Martin described Brian's injuries as "multiple buttocks confusion secondary to severe paddle beating."

"I don't see anybody beating their child that bad, not even a parent," he said last week.


"Brian gets into things. If he deserves punishment, I'm all for it," said Mrs Miller, who uses her hand or a fly swatter to spank Brian and their other three children. She described her son as an "everyday, normal rambunctious child" who likes to sneak away on his bicycle and go fishing with his friends.

A slight, sandy-haired boy with brown eyes, Brian speaks with his head down and admits he gets into trouble "a bunch." He insisted he is no longer afraid of Mallory but then added "I am sometimes, when he looks at you mean."


Mrs Sikes said last week that she wrote Mallory, telling him he was no longer to administer corporal punishment. She also took Brian out of Mallory's physical education class and put him in a third-grade class where Brian said he now spends most of the class by himself, sitting on the swings.

At Toombs Central, children are paddled only as a last resort, school principal Brantley said, and always in the presence of a witness. With 550 pupils in grades kindergarten through 12, he said a maximum of five pupils are paddled each day, no more than 20 a week.

"A lot of parents actually write letters to us asking us to do corporal punishment," he said. "It is an acceptable standard in this particular community."


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