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School CP - December 1993

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The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, 20 December 1993

School Paddlings Going Out of Style

By Lillie-Beth Sanger

Spanking students to discipline them has nearly gone out of style in central Oklahoma schools, The Oklahoman has learned.

Many school districts in the area have banned corporal punishment altogether, while others use paddling sparingly, according to a survey of 12 central Oklahoma school districts.

"We just feel that spanking or any kind of corporal punishment does not send a positive message," said Norman schools' public relations Director Mike Marshall.

The Norman School District issued a moratorium on corporal punishment for the 1988-89 school year, pending further study. The next year, the school board adopted a formal policy against it, she said.

At the time, Norman was one of the first districts in the state to ban paddling, Marshall said. In 1992, the state Department of Education followed suit by requesting a two-year moratorium on swatting kids in school.

The school districts that do have a corporal punishment policy on the books use paddling only as a last resort and after consulting with parents, principals, or superintendents, The Oklahoman's survey showed.

"In a nutshell, corporal punishment is prohibited in the school district expect in very specific exceptions. Those exceptions involve parental permission in advance," Millwood Superintendent Leon Edd said.

Some parents request in writing corporal punishment to be used if discipline is necessary.

"We trust they have a better idea of what their child responds to," he said.

In Bethany, schools still allows spanking in policy but is observing the state's moratorium in practice, Superintendent Gerald Dickerson said. The last time schools administered spankings occurred during the 1991-92 school year, when about 12 to 20 students were spanked, he estimated.

But the district has had to hire another part-time counselor to handle student discipline problems because of the moratorium, he said.

"Discipline takes a longer time when you don't have the physical reinforcement," Dickerson said.

Wayland Bonds, executive director of curriculum and instruction in the Moore School District, thinks just the opposite. For him, in-school suspension and detentions work just as well or better than paddling children.

Students don't like to be isolated from their peers, he said.

The district still allows corporal punishment, but it is rarely, if ever, used.

Corporal punishment in schools has become a part of national debate in recent years.

In Oklahoma, the use of spankings to discipline children has decreased in part due to liability pressures and more sophisticated training in alternate discipline methods, The Oklahoman has reported.

Last month, the National Conference to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools cited Oklahoma for making the most progress toward eliminating paddling in schools.

Oklahoma was chosen for the recognition among 24 states that have school districts with corporal punishment policies.

Central Oklahoma administrators listed in-school and out-of-school suspensions, Saturday school, time-outs, and detention as discipline actions their principals chose over paddling.

In Shawnee and Mustang, administrators have noticed an increase in the number of suspensions since spanking has been eliminated.

But Shawnee Superintendent John Broberg does not give his permission for students to be paddled, although policy dictates he can.

Whether the rule against paddling has made a difference in student discipline problems "depends on your political leaning," Broberg said.

But "I see no difference in education."

Staff writers Bryan Painter, Ellie Sutter, Brian Brus and Lisa Beckloff contributed to this story.

A sampling of 12 school districts in central Oklahoma shows the schools vary in their opinions about the importance of corporal punishment in disciplining their students.

Following is a list of their policies and how corporal punishment is used:

BETHANY: banned corporal punishment after the state issued its moratorium.

CHOCTAW-NICOMA PARK: allows corporal punishment only under strict circumstances.

EDMOND: allows corporal punishment but its use is rare.

MIDWEST CITY-DEL CITY: prohibits corporal punishment on school grounds.

MILLWOOD: allows corporal punishment, but only upon parental request or permission.

MOORE: allows corporal punishment, but is rarely used.

MUSTANG: still has a provision for corporal punishment in its school policy but does not use it in practice.

NORMAN: has prohibited corporal punishment since 1988.

OKLAHOMA CITY: prohibits corporal punishment.

PUTNAM CITY: allows reasonable corporal punishment as a last resort after consulting with the principal. A staff member may use physical force against a student when "it is essential for self-defense, the preservation of order, or for the protection of other persons or the property of the board."

SHAWNEE: has a policy that allows corporal punishment with superintendent's permission, but Superintendent John Broberg told The Oklahoman he does not give that permission.

WESTERN HEIGHTS: prohibits corporal punishment.

YUKON: allows "reasonable" corporal punishment as a last resort and only after consultation with the principal.

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