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School CP - November 1997

Corpun file 1848 at

River Bend Review, Florida, 1 November 1997

St. Johns stops tracking spanking

By Mary Maraghy
Staff writer

Pingpong paddles, once used to spank students in St. Johns County schools, for the most part have been returned to gymnasiums.

Implementing corporal punishment, or swatting a student's behind with a paddle for misbehaving, has dwindled in the last five years in St. Johns County public schools.

Because it is so rarely used, the district quit tracking incidences of spanking three years ago, said Jim Welu, the district's student services director.

Concerns about liability and research showing that violence begets violence is the reason paddles have been set aside, school administrators said.

However, a wooden paddle still lands on a butt occasionally at some district schools, but only with parents' permission and sometimes, at the parents' request.

Dean Kelvin Blue at Landrum Middle School said he spanked less than 10 boys last year, mainly for fighting. He said often parents choose the swats for their child over a suspension from school.

Though it's not often used, some administrators strongly believe spanking works. They say it is the embarrassment, and not the physical pain, that keeps students from repeating misconduct. However, even proponents of corporal punishment now shy away.

"There's no way I'd use it in 1997 because of the legal ramifications. It's not worth it. Educators can end up in child abuse registries," said George McLatchey, assistant principal at Switzerland Point Middle School.

Other administrators say spanking is archaic and ineffective.

Paul Goricki, the new principal at Julington Creek Elementary School, said in his former Delaware school district, corporal punishment was unheard of.

"Research shows pretty clearly that it isn't effective. It doesn't help kids grow," he said.

That type of research and new forms of discipline are what has made spanking nearly obsolete in St. Johns County.

For example, schools have behavioral specialists, behavioral counselors, conflict management education and peer mediation to deal with problems.

"As a whole, society is looking that way. I think we're being a little more humane with discipline now," Welu said.

Corpun file 1696 at


The Macon Telegraph, Georgia, 4 November 1997

Crime & Punishment

Bibb permits spankings, but often students don't take rap

By Michael Cass
The Macon Telegraph

Bibb County school principals are allowed to spank and paddle chronically misbehaving students, and Mike Rozier is among the principals who think such discipline can be effective.

But as long as angry parents are allowed to take him to court, Rozier, a first-year principal at Appling Middle School on Shurling Drive, won't be applying his hand or paddle to any child's rear.

"You can't prevent a person from suing," he said. "Even if you're correct, you still have those issues to deal with."

Rozier's hesitancy to use corporal punishment isn't unusual among the county's 43 principals, despite a school board policy that gives them that option in certain circumstances. An informal survey of five administrators found that four oppose the practice.

But most of the naysayers resist for reasons that are more philosophical than pragmatic.

Like the researchers who concluded from a recent study that regular spanking actually is likely to do children more harm than good, these administrators said they've decided corporal punishment just doesn't work.

"We're trying to change behavior, and spanking doesn't change behavior," said Karen Konke, principal of Clisby Magnet School, an elementary school on Vineville Avenue. "Spanking is a temporary solution, and if you're looking to make long-term changes, it's not an answer."

Konke said she will allow a misbehaving student's parent or guardian to come to the school, pick up the child and take him or her elsewhere for a spanking. But even with parental permission, Konke and several other principals said they wouldn't be the ones to do the spanking or paddling.

Some schools' discipline plans even go so far as to prohibit the practice. Gail Gilbert, principal at Burghard Elementary School in south Bibb County, said she and her staff look for other ways to punish troublesome students.

"We feel like so many of our students already receive so much of that at home," she said. "We practice due process in terms of listening to both sides and counseling the student. And if the parents need to be brought in, we bring them in."

What about children who are completely unrepentant? How can administrators show them that their behavior is unacceptable?

At Porter Elementary School, also in south Bibb County, first-year Principal Kathryn Blanks said she's found a more peaceful solution to that problem.

"We do have a situation right now where a child has us at wit's end," Blanks said. "You know what we did? We called (the child's) mama. She came to sit in his class, and he's behaving much better now."

But not every principal is opposed to corporal punishment. At Tinsley Elementary School on Pierce Avenue, new Principal Pam Wacter has paddled four of the 25 students who have been referred to her for discipline. Wacter said she's found the practice has positive effects on students who are "chronic disruptions in the classroom."

"I think if it's used sparingly and appropriately, for the most part it really turns (students) around," she said.

Wacter, who said paddling appears to hurt students' pride more than their fannies, added that it seems to work especially well with younger students.

"There's something about that paddling, maybe the humiliation, that straightens them out."

But Konke said she came to a different conclusion early in her years as a principal.

"It was the same students who kept coming back," she said. "We could see it wasn't helping. We had to try a different approach to changing behavior."

At Clisby, misbehaving students have an opportunity to write an "action plan" designed to keep them from repeating the behavior in question. If they can refrain from that behavior for 30 days, their offenses are expunged from their files.

School board policy requires spankings or paddlings to be administered in the presence of a witness, and the school must provide a child's parent or guardian with a written explanation of the reasons for the punishment and the name of the witness. A school may not use corporal punishment "as a first line of punishment."

And if a child's parent or guardian requests in writing that the child not be spanked or paddled, the school must find other methods of discipline.

The policy does not require the school to contact a parent or guardian before the punishment. But Wacter said she always gets approval first, and she warns a child who's skating on thin ice that his or her next offense will warrant a paddling.

"It's the second visit or later before it's even considered," Wacter said. "It has to be discussed."

Cindy Sams, a Tinsley parent who was waiting for her daughter one recent afternoon, said that's the way it should be.

Asked if teachers and administrators have a right to spank or paddle her child, Sams said: "Not unless it's something I know about. That's something I'd want to be consulted about. I would only spank as a last resort, and I would hope schools would only be using it as a last resort."

Lea Harned, sitting on a bench outside the school while waiting for her two children, said parents should have enough control so school personnel wouldn't need such a "last resort."

"If the parent is called and there's that much trouble with the child," Harned said, "the parent should have stopped it long before the child had to be spanked by the principal."

Corpun file 1695 at

Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, 5 November 1997

Duval schools gradually giving up paddling

By Mary MacDonald
Shorelines staff writer

The oblong paddle used to be the backbone of discipline in Duval County public schools. Children who misbehaved faced a swat.

Corporal punishment remains an option for all principals, but many have abandoned its use. Incidents of spankings have dropped substantially in the past decade, from 23,000 in 1985 to fewer than 3,000 last year.

Principals say they increasingly question its effectiveness as a deterrent, are reticent to spank a child or are leery of lawsuits.

In 75 of 128 schools last year, the paddle was never used, school records show.

"My function is not to beat kids," said Theresa Hodge, principal of Paxon Middle School. Last year, before she became principal, 120 students there received spankings.

By comparison, no children were spanked at Arlington Middle School, where Hodge was principal until July.

"Corporal punishment, to me, only makes a child rebel," Hodge said.

Her opinion is backed by many child advocates and recent research.

A report published in August by the American Medical Association found spanking children ages 6 to 9 backfires on parents.

The more a parent spanks a child, over time, the worse the behavior becomes, according to the findings of Murray A. Straus, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire.

Spanking is most frequent in the sixth through eighth grades in Jacksonville. Those grades accounted for more than 2,000 of the 3,000 punishments reported to central administrators. By comparison, elementary school pupils received 612 punishments and high school students 305.

The punishment is one of many options principals have under the code of student conduct. An adult witness is required during the paddling, one who has been informed of the reason for the punishment beforehand in the presence of the child.

Elsewhere, some are pressing for the end of corporal punishment.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Education Association are among the groups opposed.

The racial disparity among those punished is among the reasons.

In Jacksonville, as in other school systems nationwide, black students were more likely to receive corporal punishment last year.

African-American students were 41 percent of the school population last year, but were 68 percent of the students who received corporal punishment.

White students, who were 53 percent of the school enrollment, were 30 percent of the students who received the punishment.

"I have always been bothered by that, and the disparity has existed for a long time," said School Board Chairwoman Gwen Gibson, who opposes corporal punishment.

In her seven years on the board, Gibson said, she could not recall members ever discussing whether to drop corporal punishment.

By School Board policy, parents can have their children exempted from corporal punishment. But few parents return the forms, and principals say many want school officials to continue paddling.

Some of these parents came through the Jacksonville school system when it was commonplace, or were spanked at home as children. They see its merit.

"I don't think a swat would hurt any kid. A swat, not a beating," said Kevin Scheer, whose son attends Mandarin Middle School. "It's a far cry from giving a kid a swat and beating them. There's no fine line."

Principals say when they call to report misbehavior and talk about options for discipline, parents often request a paddling.

"There are even times, when the very first time you call a parent, they'll say, 'Just give him a spanking,'" said Marilyn Myrick, principal of Lone Star Elementary School in Arlington.

Like many principals, Myrick is loath to use paddling. Twenty-three of her 862 students received corporal punishment last year. So far this year, Myrick said, she is aware of none.

"Spanking a child is something we use less and less often," Myrick said. "You spank a child when you've tried all other means and you want to see if spanking a child will make a difference."

Corporal punishment is not used more than twice on a child at her school, she said. If the student hasn't changed behavior by then, change is unlikely.

"Regretfully, some children have been punished in such a manner throughout their lives, they don't feel timeout and other means of discipline -- they don't see that as punishment," Myrick said.

In addition to questioning its value, Myrick and other principals say they are leery of using the paddle because it is difficult to interpret how a parent may react.

Sometimes, the same parents who request principals to paddle a child will file a complaint once the technique is used.

Jacksonville police could not provide statistics about how many complaints of excessive force were filed last year.

Diane Peterson, whose grandson attends Ed White High School, wishes the school system would drop the idea. Her son was paddled as a high school student in the early 1970s.

As a sophomore, he was caught smoking a cigarette in the bathroom.

"It did not affect him in a positive way," Peterson said. "When you physically paddle someone, the indignity of it really affects your attitude about your school."

The United States, South Africa, Canada and Australia are the only industrialized nations that allow school spankings, according to the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools.

Florida is among 23 states that allow the practice. Among the states that have dropped it, there is no groundswell to bring it back, said Nadine Block, director of the coalition.

"It doesn't really work," Block said. "It may be teaching kids that it's OK to beat people up to control them."

In Florida, other large school systems have phased out paddling. Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando are among those that have dropped the paddle.

Hodge, the principal at Paxon Middle, said she has found through a 10-year career as an administrator that other techniques are more effective.

One method she has used forces a student to be trailed by a parent for a day.

It works on two levels. "That child understands 'I do not want my parent here with me all day long,'" Hodge said. "And that parent now has been inconvenienced. That parent will then bear down on that child."

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