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rainbow ruler   :  Archive   :  1997   :  US Schools May 1997


School CP - May 1997

Corpun file 19693


Log Cabin Democrat, Conway, Arkansas, 9 May 1997

Paddling discussed at Guy-Perkins

By Ray Sessions
Special to the Log Cabin


GUY -- The school district here discussed the use of corporal punishment in its schools at a hearing requested for a 15-year old student's mother during its regular meeting Thursday.

The female student's grandfather addressed the board on the mother's behalf and asked the Guy-Perkins School District's Board of Education to investigate a recent incident in which the student was bruised after being paddled by a teacher for disciplinary reasons. The grandfather said that the student was so bruised she could hardly sit down, and school officials were allegedly going to spank her again the next day.

"They were going to whip her on top of her bruises," he said. "We send our kids to school to be protected, not abused."

He added that the girl was taken to a doctor, who notified the Department of Human Services about the case. Superintendent Donald Rowlett said he has been contacted by DHS and that they are investigating the matter. Rowlett said paddling was used as a second measure after the student failed to go to detention and that there was a witness present.

"They followed the student handbook to the letter," Rowlett said.

The grandfather disagreed. He said the witness did not stop the paddling when it became excessive. If the witness had, the policy would have been followed, he said. He added that he did not agree with 15-year-old students being paddled anyway.

"At 15, if they need a whipping, you just suspend them," the grandfather said. "Paddling a 15-year-old is improper. If you can't reach their minds, paddling will not do any good."

He added that he wants the board to aggressively investigate the situation.

"Don't just take my word for it," he said. "Find out for yourselves."

The board agreed to wait until an investigation is complete before taking any action on this matter.


All board members were present at the meeting.

Copyright 1997 The Log Cabin Democrat

blob Follow-up: 13 June 1997 - No maltreatment in Guy paddlings, DHS finds

Corpun file 1811


Erie Times News, Erie, Pennsylvania, 15 May 1997

Erie School Board says 'no' to sports program and corporal punishment


The Erie School Board Wednesday voted down a proposal to start a sports program at the Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, approved a ban on corporal punishment in Erie schools and awarded bids for the new East High School.


The resolution forbidding corporal punishment "by hand or paddle" in Erie schools passed without comment from the board. It was sponsored by Director Richard Hilinski in response to a "zero tolerance" for aggressive acts by Erie students, a policy he voted against last month. Hilinski wrote in the resolution, "If we believe that physical assault of any sort is unworthy of our students to each other and teachers, then the same should apply to educators in the application of discipline to students."

During the citizens' comment portion of the meeting, Erma Lindsey of Holland Street said of the resolution, "If I spank my grandchildren, it's called child abuse. If I can't do it, I suggest you keep your hands off."

But Diann Cutri, president of the Erie City Council of PTA, said, "I'm in your schools all the time and I'll tell you that kids don't have any kind of respect for teachers. They need more discipline."


Corpun file 1286


The Detroit News, Michigan, 22 May 1997

In Mississippi

Street-smart kids discover wisdom at rural academy

By Larry Bivins
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Students leading a goat

Photos by David Guralnick / The Detroit News
Piney Woods students return a goat to the flock during an agricultural studies class. The lives the students lead at the Mississippi boarding school can be dramatically different than urban life.

PINEY WOODS, Miss. - Winston Glass appreciates the decision that brought him from the treacherous streets of Detroit to a pastoral campus in the deep South.

"Piney Woods is like a bullet-proof vest," Glass, 17, said about the school where he has spent his past four years. "You don't have to worry about anything here."

Daniel Ishmel of Lansing agreed. "I don't have to worry about drive-bys (shootings) or that someone might try to get me for my jacket or my sneakers."

Glass and Ishmel are among about 10 students from Michigan who have left inner-city public schools for a more tranquil and disciplined life at Piney Woods Country Life School, a historically black private boarding school in rural Mississippi.

For many of the 286 students enrolled in seventh grade through high school at Piney Woods, the 65-acre campus set on 2,000 acres of land is a haven from the everyday dangers and distractions that hamper learning in many of the nation's public schools.

And that, faculty members and students say, is a major factor in their ability to excel academically.

"If you've got them 24-seven, they will succeed," said Denauvo Robinson, the school's vice-president for development talking about the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week regime. "There's not a whole lot they can get into."

Encouraged by a faculty that believes in the school's motto to educate "head, heart and hands," more than 90 percent of Piney Woods graduates go to college.

"Not only do they go, but once there they tend to do well," said Charles Beady, who grew up in Flint and earned a doctoral degree from Michigan State University. Beady is just the third president the school has had in its 88-year history.

"One of the things you have to have is a safe, orderly environment," Beady said. "If you don't have that order in place, you're not going to have teaching and learning."

At a time when national social activists, political and educational leaders are decrying the failures of public schools, Piney Woods looms as a successful alternative.

Trying methods in Detroit

Inspired by the Piney Woods story and experiments with after-school and weekend programs in Detroit and elsewhere, the faculty of the Paul Robeson Academy in Detroit wants to phase in a project this fall in which students will stay in a school dormitory Monday through Friday.

"If we're serious about reclaiming our youths, we must try some of these alternatives," Principal Ray Johnson said.

The Battle Creek-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation has provided Piney Woods with a $400,000 grant to determine if it can replicate what it does at schools such as Robeson Academy.

"It's such a wonderful model," said Bobby Austin, program director at the Kellogg Foundation. "There's something right going on here, and I want to know what that is and how do we transfer it."

The right stuff at Piney Woods is a blend of strict discipline, high expectations, Christian values and a dedicated staff. Many of the students come from poor socio-economic backgrounds and enter the school with low self-esteem.

"We convince them that they are just as capable as anybody else of high levels of achievement," Beady said. "Everything we do is aimed at erasing that sense of futility."

Students toe the line

student doing push-ups

Justin O'Neal does push-ups after incorrectly performing drills during JROTC training. The school advocates strict discipline.

Students are required to attend prayer service each morning and church service on Sundays. Classes last two hours, about twice the time of most public school classes. And there is a required two-hour study period in the evenings.

The goal of the school is to prepare students for higher education, but there are vocational programs as well. The curriculum is traditional, highlighted by a special program called Writing Across the Curriculum, aimed at stimulating thinking in all subject areas. Maintaining a "C" average is required.

Students wear uniforms with no trousers sagging below the waist. Earrings are banned for boys. Gang and sexual activity and drug and alcohol abuse are grounds for dismissal. Corporal punishment is allowed.

"Any program that is successful has discipline at the foundation," Beady said. "So we spend a lot of time making sure the students are where they're supposed to be and doing what they're supposed to be doing."

The school requires students to work 10 hours a week to help defray the $8,300-a-year tuition. Most of the students receive some scholarship aid.

Modest start in 1909

Piney Woods was founded under a cedar tree in 1909 by Laurence Jones, who went to Mississippi to teach uneducated blacks after he graduated from the University of Iowa. The school is one of six historically black boarding schools left in the country. The school's property includes a 500-acre farm, five lakes, 87 head of cattle, horses and other livestock.

Joan Davis Ratterray, founder and president of the Institute for Independent Education in Washington, D.C., attributes part of Piney Woods' stability to its founder's recognition of the need to develop steady funding streams.

"Families supported it in various parts of the country, and now it has a very strong family network," Ratterray said.

In 1954, Piney Woods gained national attention when it was featured on the television show This Is Your Life. The host was so impressed that he asked viewers to send in $1 each. The appeal netted close to $1 million, which was used to create the school's endowment.

More recently, the school has been featured on CBS' 60 Minutes and other news programs. Stories about Piney Woods have appeared in numerous publications, including Jet and Essence magazines, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Television talk show host Oprah Winfrey donated $43,000 last year so that it could hire a social worker.

Building black support

Piney Woods officials say they would like to see more support from blacks such as Winfrey. Raising enough money to cover the school's $6.8-million annual budget is a constant concern.

"Historically, our support has come from the white community, and we appreciate that," said Marvin Jones, director of special appeals. "But it's time for the brothers and sisters to step up to the plate."

Some 200 churches have stepped up to the challenge, including Holy Cross Baptist Church in Detroit.

"We have made some generous contributions to the school because of its holistic approach," said the Rev. Edwon Brown, pastor of Holy Cross. "Our people are very impressed by the discipline, the cultural diversity, the awareness" of the students.

Brown said that his congregation agreed to donate $10,000 a year to Piney Woods beginning in 1998 and wants to send three or four of the church's young members to the school next year.

Not everyone adapts to life at Piney Woods, and some students have renamed the school "Prison Woods." But they also concede that they have become better students full of ambition.

Tough but worthwhile

It helped me grow up," said Andre Caldwell, 16, a sophomore from Detroit who plays on the school's championship basketball team.

Nicole McCollum, 16, beams with pride that she is now an honor student; in Detroit, she struggled to earn average grades.

Ishmel, 16, who sings on the school's renowned traveling troupe called the Cotton Blossom Singers and wants to study criminal law at Howard University, said the Piney Woods experience "taught me to be dedicated to the things I do. It taught me life is not all fun and games."

Comparing his Piney Woods experience with public schools, Detroiter Kelvin Brown, 20, a senior, said, "You get more one-on-one attention from a teacher here."

Still for some youths, adapting to life at Piney Woods requires patience and will.

"It gets boring," said Glass, the senior class president, campus "computer guru" and a member of the Cotton Blossom Singers, who has been accepted to Michigan State University and Rochester Institute of Technology.

"You have to drive half an hour or an hour to get to anything; whereas in Detroit, you jump on the Lodge (Freeway) and you're there," Glass said.

Amirah Al-Ugdah, an 18-year-old senior who wants to major in international studies, said that when she first arrived, "It was weird. The mall was like 20 miles away. There's only one radio station. And it was hot. But I adjusted."

One less troubled teen

So did Nevia Brown, whose mother, Debora, saw her child slipping away from her three years ago.

Debora Brown, a production buyer at General Motors and a single mother, recalls that she began considering an alternative school when Nevia, 15, began getting into fights at Roosevelt Middle School in Oak Park.

"School let out at 2:30, and I didn't get off until 4," Brown said. "She had a lot of free time to start getting into trouble. I could see I was losing control, and I wasn't going to let that happen."

Brown said she first sent Nevia to Piney Woods two years ago for a four-week summer program. After a year on the waiting list, Nevia was enrolled.

At first, Brown said, "she was so angry, so cantankerous. But at the end of the program, she didn't want to come home. She's more ambitious now. She has higher self-esteem. She's in ROTC, which I never imagined because she's always been resistant to authority."

Nevia Brown agrees that Piney Woods was a wise choice.

"It's helped me to strengthen myself," Nevia Brown said. "I plan on graduating with honors. Hopefully, I'll get a scholarship. It's in my mind to go to West Point. My major will be biochemical or molecular biology. I'm really working hard in math, because I know how important it is."

Rigorous rules at Piney Woods

These are among key ingredients contributing to the success of Piney Woods Country Life School:

Four years of study in the core subjects of English and literature, social science, mathematics and science.

A program designed to stimulate reading, writing and thinking in each subject area.

Weekly evaluations. Any student dropping below a "C" grade in any subject is placed on academic probation and barred from extracurricular activities until the grade improves.

Class sizes average about 15 students.

An emphasis on discipline, including a dress code.

Two-hour classes.

Peer tutoring.

Required study periods in each dormitory.

An emphasis on Christian principles.

A conviction that all children can learn.

Copyright © 1997, The Detroit News

blob Further articles about Piney Woods School and its paddling regime:

9 February 1998 -- A school with 2 R's: rules and results
24 May 1998 -- Choosing to succeed

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