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School CP - February 1998

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Star Tribune, Minneapolis, 9 February 1998

A school with 2 R's: rules and results

Piney Woods Country Life School, a boarding school for blacks in Mississippi, is a model for Gov. Arne Carlson's plan for Minnesota

By Rob Hotakainen
Staff Writer

For 15-year-old Raeisha Williams, skipping out at North High School in Minneapolis last year was all too easy, but she'd never try it at her new school in the woods of Mississippi.

"Here at Piney Woods, you don't want to skip, because you don't want to get paddled," she said.

Students who don't go to class, won't wear their uniforms or who are insubordinate can get three to five swats with a 3-by-14-inch paddle.

"The Bible says, 'Spare the rod, spoil the child,'" said Charles Beady, president of Piney Woods Country Life School. "I kind of believe in that."

Minnesota officials are touting Piney Woods, one of the last black boarding school in the nation, as a model for Gov. Arne Carlson's plan to open three new residential boarding schools in the state.

It's a school that focuses on rules and results.

At Piney Woods, 300 students in grades 7-12 attend prayer services every morning, and they're forced to study for two hours every night. If they drink, use drugs or have inappropriate sex, they can be expelled. They're required to make their beds, hospital-style. Boys wear regulation haircuts and no earrings. All students must maintain at least a "C" average and work 10 hours a week to help pay their tuition. Most stay for an average of three years and, when they graduate, nearly all go on to college.

A delegation of Minnesotans, including three legislators and officials from two state agencies, returned home Sunday after visiting Piney Woods. Most of them said they were impressed with the 89-year-old school, which first served children of sharecroppers. They'll report their findings Wednesday to a Senate subcommittee.

"It's one of the best-kept secrets in the country," said Fred LaFleur, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Nowhere to run

Plopped amid the magnolia trees and kudzu in rural Rankin County, 20 miles south of Jackson, the school is in the heart of nowhere.

Even if you wanted to cut classes, Williams said: "Basically, there's nowhere to go."

The campus is part of a 2,000-acre site that includes five man-made lakes and a 500-acre farm, where students tend to 87 cattle and countless horses, sheep, goats and pigs. Those pigs supply the pork for the school cafeteria.

The place is so big that it has its own post office. Many teachers, along with the superintendent and the president, live on campus. And the school houses a Save the Males Center, where academics study the motivation and achievement of at-risk boys.

According to its motto, Piney Woods is a school that educates "the head, heart and hands." Each day, when the bell of love and freedom is rung at 11:40 a.m., students freeze for a quick moment of prayer. Worship on Sundays is mandatory.

"We're Christian-oriented," said Beady, only the third president since the school's founding in 1909. "It's critical to what we do. We believe that a strong moral foundation is essential to training future leaders. And we exploit it to the max."

Beady makes no apologies for the school's insistence on making students comply with orders.

"We tell them where to be, when they're supposed to be there," he said. "Not everybody can survive in this kind of environment. We're strict and disciplined. And a lot of teenagers are not used to that world."

Piney Woods, which runs on private donations and its endowment, is one of only five predominantly black boarding schools left in the United States: Only one of its students is white. At one time, the country had 83 black boarding schools, but most of them closed in the '50s and '60s when desegregation brought more blacks to mainstream public schools.

The school has won national acclaim, including a feature on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes." TV talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, a Mississippi native, saw the report and contributed $43,000. Donations help many students, including Williams, get scholarships to help pay the tuition, which now costs $8,418 per year; on average, it costs $18,500 to educate a student. The students, who come from 25 different states and a handful of foreign countries, pay based on their family income. Many are poor.

To offset her tuition, Williams earns $5.50 an hour at the school's dry-cleaning shop, work that she hopes will help her land a similar summer job in Minneapolis. She loves the job but is still adjusting to the school: She's been there less than a month.

"I'm getting used to it," Williams said. "I need to be here."

So far, the worst thing has been sharing a dormitory room at Dulany Hall with three roommates.

"Can you imagine having to lock things up in your own room?" she asked.

Hangin' in Minneapolis

Her life started to fall apart when she was at North High.

"I started messing up, hangin' out with the wrong crowd, skipping every day," she said. "I would go get high. At North High, you can do whatever you want: It's not hard to leave. . . . You can walk out the door without any questions being asked."

She tried to get things together by transferring to a school at the Mall of America, run by the Metropolitan Learning Alliance.

"My grades still weren't up like they should've been," she said. "My mom said, 'Enough is enough: You've got to go.'"

Last month, she landed at Piney Woods, where her grandfather attended school 50 years ago. Back home, two of her 14-year-old friends got pregnant, and that makes her sad.

"That takes away everything," she said.

School officials say that many of their students come to Piney Woods with a sense of academic futility and low motivation, with a fear of violence they've experienced in their neighborhoods. At Piney Woods, they feel safer.

Riza Mahmoud, 15, of Brooklyn Park, attended Franklin Middle School in Minneapolis last year. He came to Piney Woods in August.

"It's more peaceful here," he said. "At Franklin, we had students who brought knives and stuff there. People would beat up the teachers and stuff like that." At Piney Woods, he said, there's "nothing of the sort."

Wearing his Junior ROTC uniform, Mahmoud is a picture of cleanliness, neatness and good manners, things that are drilled into the students. When you ask him questions, he responds with a crisp, "Yes, sir," just as he's told to do by teachers and administrators. He's familiar with the paddle.

"I got it five times," he said, reciting the offenses: horseplay, tardiness and being out of uniform. "Here, you don't want to get into trouble. You better respect the teachers and the adults and stuff."

Too militaristic for some

Legislators, who will act on Carlson's request for $12 million to open boarding schools for at-risk kids in Minnesota, left Piney Woods with mixed feelings.

"I am a big believer of alternatives and choices, so I think having something this extreme - and I think it is extreme - fits the needs for some people," said Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, a member of the House Education Committee. "Whether a school like this would attract enough people in Minnesota, I don't know. . . . For me and my family, this would be too militaristic. I don't buy corporal punishment in any circumstances for any kids."

Sen. David Knutson, R-Burnsville, said he was "very impressed" with the school. As the chief sponsor of the boarding-schools bill, he expects state educators to "take a Piney Woods concept and put a Minnesota spin on it." He said Minnesota students deserve another educational option.

"It's high achievement based on high expectations," said Knutson. "That's what this school represents more than anything: high expectations in individual conduct and high expectations of academic performance."

Sen. Linda Scheid, DFL- Brooklyn Park, said she was impressed with the school, but she had questions.

"One of the things I'm struggling with is the concept of a virtually all-black school," she said.

Knutson said he expects Minnesota boarding schools to serve "a mixture of kids from all walks of life" and not focus on any specific race. But LaFleur, the corrections commissioner, said the trip to Mississippi was important because it showed legislators that children of color can succeed in boarding schools that cater specifically to them.

Can Minnesota replicate a black boarding school?

"I really do believe that that's something that should be on the table," said LaFleur. "I know that it's really difficult for people to talk about."

For his part, LaFleur said he has tried to distance himself from the project as administration officials try to sell the boarding-schools plan as an education initiative.

"I don't ever want people to think this is a corrections program," he said.

In his State of the State speech last week, Carlson gave a passionate plea for the boarding-schools plan. The schools would open at undetermined sites, perhaps as early as the end of the year.

DFLers are calling it a line-in-the-sand issue for the governor, comparing it to his aggressive push for school tax credits in 1997.

"I think we will pass it, after a certain amount of wrangling," said Greiling.

Copyright 1998 Star Tribune.

blob Related: For another story about Piney Woods School, see 24 May 1998, Choosing to succeed.

Corpun file 2096 at

Bradenton Herald, Florida, 15 February 1998

School board to discuss paddling

By Nick Mason
Herald Staff Writer

Corporal punishment may seem like a thing of the past, but the Manatee County School Board will talk about it at Tuesday's meeting.

School board members are scheduled to receive a staff report about corporal punishment, which is spanking by hand or paddling with a wooden board.

Corporal punishment was allowed in the schools until Sept. 1989, when the school board voted 3-2 to ban it. Board member Frank Brunner asked for the staff report.

Brunner has said corporal punishment may be beneficial for administrators of younger students, but would likely be less effective for high school students.

Chairman Harry Kinnan does not want to see spanking or paddling return to Manatee County's schools.

"At this time, I am not in favor of reintroducing it," Kinnan said. "You have to have discipline in the classroom to have learning, but in the area of corporal punishment, I would move slowly and with great deliberation."

Kinnan said teachers have several options for dealing with disruptive children, including a new state law that allows teachers to remove unruly students from class.

"There are some enlightened forms of discipline that have come through the past few years," he said.

Board member Larry Simmons paddled misbehaving students when he was an elementary school principal. He saw mixed results then and has mixed feelings now about restoring it.

"I would like our school administrators to have every tool available to them, but, on the other hand, I also know at some point in time it is not an effective tool," Simmons said.

"I say that because for some students the threat of corporal punishment would keep them from ever breaking the rules," Simmons said. "For some other students, that's all they know, so it doesn't mean anything to them. It's 15 seconds and it's over and done with."

Simmons said he hopes to hear from parents as well as staff and wants to review any "statistics or research or analysis there is" about use of corporal punishment before making a decision.

"If we were to change our policy, I would think we would want to have some very definitive guidelines about how and when, who would administer it, if you hit somebody once or twice," Simmons said. "There is room for discussion. I think what you'll find is if you can set the right kind of guidelines, for some kids it's very effective."

Board members Joe Miller and Chuck Wilhoite could not be reached at home for comment Sunday.

Lynette Edwards, assistant superintendent for academics, oversees disciplinary matters for the system. She paddled students when she was a dean at Lincoln Middle School in Palmetto.

Edwards does not want the paddle to return for three reasons -- it doesn't work in solving the behavioral problem, it sends out the wrong message to students and it exposes the paddler to the risk of lawsuits and child abuse complaints.

"I believe for us to reinstate that would be sending a double message to our students," Edwards said. "We are trying to convince students to be non-violent, stay away from violent acts, fighting and all those things ...

"I'm also concerned about the liability issues," Edwards said. "I wouldn't want any administrator to be put in that type of situation."

Staff writer Annette Gillespie contributed to this report.

All content © 1998 Bradenton Herald Internet Plus

Corpun file 2097 at

Bradenton Herald, Florida, 17 February 1998

Paddling pro/cons debated

By Annette Gillespie
Herald Staff Writer

Manatee County School Board member Frank Brunner said he didn't expect a debate about corporal punishment when he asked staff to prepare a report about it for Tuesday's board meeting.

When the issue came up, people spoke out.

A former school board member, a representative from the League of Women Voters and a parent told the board Tuesday they were against the idea of re-introducing corporal punishment in local schools.

One parent, who cited rising juvenile crime statistics, spoke in favor of "spanking not beating" as an option worthy of consideration for parents who would give their consent to school administrators.

No action was scheduled on the subject and it is unclear when or if it may be placed on a future agenda for further discussion.

"In 1989, we saw (as a board) the need at that time to say that corporal punishment was not what we wanted to do," former school board member Ruby Byrd said Tuesday. "I don't feel government should have more control over children than their parents."

Byrd said children should be taught with love, not punishment.

A representative from the League of Women Voters asked the board to drop the discussion and raised the concern about minority students being disproportionately disciplined in past years.

Sandra Jordan, a parent and preschool teacher, said if someone hits a child, that person is only teaching that child how to hit.

"I'm shocked that it's even being discussed," Jordan said.

Brunner responded by saying he was not in favor of anyone "beating" children. He said it would be "ridiculous" for the board to mandate a district-wide policy about corporal punishment, but he would like to make it an option for interested parents and to allow administrators some flexibility to use it as a deterrent.

Corpun file 2098 at

Bradenton Herald, Florida, 17 February 1998

Paddling: moot point

Corporal punishment would bring schools big trouble

It is hard to believe that the Manatee School Board is resurrecting the corporal punishment issue. In this era of heightened sensitivity to violence and child abuse, we can't imagine a school policy more fraught with pitfalls than allowing principals and teachers to use physical force against misbehaving children.

Board member Frank Brunner asked that the issue be researched by school staff, and a report will be given at tonight's board meeting. According to a memo issued by board attorney Gavin O'Brien, corporal punishment is legal, based on U.S. Supreme Court rulings and Florida statutes. But that doesn't mean it's a form of discipline our school board should once again take up.

Times and attitudes have changed a great deal since the board discarded corporal punishment nine years ago. There is far less tolerance for any form of touching of students by school staff. The very real problem of child abuse has made people super-sensitive about hitting a child for any reason. Parents have been prosecuted for swatting their children in public.

Regardless of whether the Supreme Court says paddling is legal, a policy reversal would open the school board to a flood of litigation no matter how carefully the guidelines were written. Besides the high cost of defending such suits, protracted legal battles would distract teachers and administrators from their primary mission: helping students learn.

Teachers who feel their hands are tied by strict rules governing discipline have more options for removing unruly students from their classrooms today than in the past. There are many alternative education programs for chronic trouble-makers.

Then, too, there is the question of whether paddling is effective at all. With some students, just the threat of a paddling is enough to make them stay in line. But to others it's nothing and may in fact reinforce the violent behavior they face at home. What does a paddling teach such children except that violence is the way to handle problems?

It's important, too, to consider why children might be misbehaving. Are they acting out because of family problems they can't deal with at home -- divorce, fighting, physical abuse? Doubtless some of these children need counseling more than spanking.

As much as we might want to return to the "good old days" when teachers taught "readin', writin' and 'rithmetic' ... to the tune of a hickory stick," they are long gone. What worked then may not work today. Student problems are more complex, and human behavior is better understood, than in previous generations. Paddling will solve none of the problems and most likely will make them worse.

Corpun file 2095 at

Cedar Rapids Gazette, Iowa, 17 February 1998

Branstad reconsiders corporal punishment

Governor open to returning disciplinary option to teachers

Gazette Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES -- Gov. Terry Branstad is willing to consider legislation giving local school districts the authority to decide whether to allow corporal punishment of students.

But Branstad cautioned that there are better ways to discipline disruptive students than merely spanking them.

Branstad, who signed a ban on corporal punishment into law several years ago, said the prohibition was a reaction to concern about educators resorting to spanking when physical discipline wasn't appropriate.

Sen. Jeff Angelo, R-Creston, has introduced legislation allowing school districts to decide whether they want to reinstate the practice.

"I'm certainly open to considering that if it's a local-control issue," Branstad said Monday.

"I know that there is real concerns about the restrictions placed on teachers to be able to deal with schoolchildren that are not abiding by the rules," he said, noting that some students and parents threaten teachers with lawsuits for disciplining a child.

"I think teachers also have to be careful and restrained, and kids shouldn't be slapped around," he said.

"Those that don't abide by the rules need to know that there's punishment for that. I'm not sure that corporal punishment is the answer."

Corpun file 2133 at

The State, Columbia, South Carolina, 22 February 1998

Lawmakers provide paddling shield for school administrators

By Bill Robinson
Staff Writer

Paddling is a permissible form of punishment in South Carolina's public schools. But those who can administer that kind of discipline are reluctant to do so, fearing it could land them in legal trouble.

As the House of Representatives debated an education reform bill last month, lawmakers added an amendment to shield school employees from civil and criminal lawsuits if they use corporal punishment to enforce discipline.

"Discipline is the one thing that needs to be controlled," said Rep. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington. "I hear that from constituents more than any other thing when they want to talk about schools."

"Every paddling I got I deserved," said Rep. Ron Fleming, R-Union. "It made an impression on me."

Fleming cosponsored the amendment because he's bothered by methods schools employ to make campuses safe, things like metal detectors and police officers patrolling the hallways.

"Why go out and build alternative schools when you've got the answer staring you in the face?" Fleming said.

Rep. Andre Bauer, R-Lexington, occasionally works as a substitute teacher at schools in his Irmo-area House district.

"It's unbelievable what one disruptive student can do," Bauer said. "I'm amazed at some of the behavior I've seen -- the lack of respect for adults and fellow students."

Bauer said spanking can be a low-cost approach to emphasizing discipline.

The corporal punishment amendment doesn't give the paddler carte blanche. Fleming, an attorney, included a phrase that says spanking should be "absent gross negligence or recklessness." That clause gives parents recourse if a spanking is overzealous.

"The message we're trying to send is: 'We're serious about restoring discipline to our schools,'" Knotts said.

However, the education reform bill -- with the corporal punishment amendment —- is a long way from becoming law. It still must be combined with the Senate's version, which was still being debated last week.

Corpun file 2134 at

The State, Columbia, South Carolina, 22 February 1998

Discipline: tough problem to define, tougher to enforce

By Lezlie Patterson
Staff Writer
Linda Stelter/The State

Brookland-Cayce assistant principal Linda Brown keeps her old paddle in her office as a memento of how she disciplined students in the early '80s.
Richland County Sheriff's Deputy David Soto, a school resource officer, spends three months recovering from injuries to his arm after a Richland Northeast High student shoves him into a wall.

In a classroom somewhere else, lessons are interrupted because a student won't stop talking when her teacher asks her to.

And at Lower Richland High School, teacher Beth Akers Simons breaks up a fight and needs two hours of surgery to repair a 6-inch slash across the back of her leg.

Ask South Carolinians whether discipline is a problem in the schools, and many will say yes. But what do they mean? Are they talking about sticks and stones or words that don't break bones?

"We define behaviors very differently, as far as what's a discipline problem and what is not," said Aretha Pigford, an education professor at the University of South Carolina. "For one teacher, a discipline problem is when a student rolls his eyes at her. Another teacher ignores it and goes on."

Amid a frenzy of education reform, South Carolinians emphatically say poor discipline hurts the quality of education. And they want the discipline problem settled: 84 percent of those surveyed told the nonprofit group Public Agenda last year that a top priority for schools should be "teaching kids to respect adults and people in authority."

But before educators can deal with the "discipline problem," they must grapple not only with the rare, dramatic physical violence, but also with the subtler rebellions they see every day.

"Problems that involve violence are not common every day," Brookland-Cayce High Principal Barry Bolen said. "Apathy and lack of respect for adult authority figures are more common."

How teachers handle the little things can vary greatly.

"You have to pick your battles very carefully," said Julie Allen, a social studies teacher at Dutch Fork High. "If a child doesn't have a pencil, I can solve that problem. If two students are quietly talking, I can go stand near them.

"But I know some teachers that are tighter strung. Things bother them that don't bother me."

Stereotypes sometimes further cloud the issue.

"Black kids who raise questions may be viewed as being disruptive," said J.T. McLawhorn, executive director of the Columbia Urban League. "The same question could be raised by others and could be viewed as being inquisitive."

Schools are often blamed for society's ills, educators say. But children don't learn bad behavior at school — they learn it at home, or in their community.

And they don't just sass teachers, snarl at principals or glare at school secretaries.

How many times have you walked into a fast-food restaurant and been greeted by an indifferent stare from the teen-ager behind the counter? How often have you been shoved or bumped by an adolescent at the mall, who turns and wrinkles his or her face in defiance rather than apologize?

Often, they're mimicking adults.

"The ugly American is now just younger," Richland District 1 Superintendent Don Henderson said. "There is an aura of rudeness in this country, and that's not lost on the young people."

Families are less stable, and that's bound to be a factor in the changing behavior of our youth.

Consider the following U.S. Census Bureau statistics:

  • In 1970, married couples with children made up 40 percent of U.S. households; in 1995, they comprised 25 percent.

  • In 1970, 40 percent of married mothers with children age 17 or younger worked outside the home; in 1995, 70 percent of mothers worked.

  • In 1970, 5.6 million families were maintained by women with no husband present; in 1995, 12.2 million families were.

  • In 1970, 1.2 million families were maintained by men with no wife present; in 1995, 3.2 million families were absent a mother.

The world reflected on our television screens isn't Rob and Laura Petrie in twin beds anymore; it's graphic violence and sex on "NYPD Blue" and scanty clothing on MTV.

"Kids have a little more independence than they've had in the past. That's in part because they grow up fast due to latchkey situations," said Roger Wiley, principal of Arden Elementary. "It's also due to television. Television has been so effective that it's educating our kids to many things, much sooner than we like."

When children are given adult responsibilities at home, returning to a subservient role at school is often difficult.

And, at school, "Independence can be inappropriate at times," Wiley said.

"A lot of these students who get in trouble now, if they were students in the 1960s or 1970s, these students would be dropping out," said Eveline "Boots" Morgan, a substitute teacher in Lexington District 2. "Now, parents are forced to keep them in school. And some are just not academic students. Some days, they resent coming in the classroom."

That's because kids who once would have dropped out of school because they were troublemakers are now staying in school longer. In fact, efforts are made to keep them in school longer. Of the first-graders in 1948-49, only 28 percent graduated in the class of 1960. But 71 percent of the first-graders in 1978-79 stuck with it and graduated in 1990.

But educators say it's not just low-achieving students who cause problems. It's not just poor kids or just rich kids, just black kids or just white kids.

"We just have a disconnection, where parents are not paying attention to kids," S.C. Superintendent Barbara Nielsen said. "It's very much a community issue we need to talk about."

When Tony Thomas was growing up, communities embraced schools.

"Teachers lived in the neighborhoods," said Thomas, a 21-year veteran physical education teacher at Arden Elementary and a C.A. Johnson alumnus. "Parents expected the same thing as teachers, and they really worked together.

"Today, you don't have that close-knit relationship between parents and teachers. Children knew what was expected, and were taught that they were supposed to respect all adults in charge. And today, they're not."

Once upon a time, the worst thing that could happen to a child was a phone call from teacher to parent. Today, many children shrug at that threat.

"There are parents who will defend their children no matter what," Henderson said. " 'It's the teacher's fault. It's the principal's fault. It's the school's fault. But it's not the child's fault.' "

"We have parents who, if they saw a match in their child's hand, and saw them lighting a fire, would say, 'Oh, my child would never do that,'" said Libby Barrineau, a parent at Dutch Fork High School.

Her assessment supports the Public Agenda survey's finding that 88 percent of respondents blame parents for students' behavior problems. Some cited lack of parental responsibility. Others pointed to single-parent or two-income families.

"A lot of it comes from the home," Barrineau said. "Many parents have a hard time saying 'no' this day and age.'"

Patricia S. Duggan isn't one of them. She has children at C.A. Johnson High and Arden Elementary, and she makes sure they know their first priority is getting an education.

"Without discipline, it's impossible to obtain a good education," Duggan said. "Rules should be set, and when rules are broken, a child needs to be punished.

"The bottom line: It takes a conscious effort on behalf of the child, teacher and the parent, and working together for a common goal. It takes everybody working together to make this work."

Not only do many parents fail to back up teachers — or lack the time or transportation to work with school officials — but Public Agenda found that educators who do try to discipline their children are intimidated by the threat of lawsuits.

"The problem is a basic lack of trust on the part of the family, student and school," said Bolen, the Brookland-Cayce principal. "Several years ago, the family trusted school people, like doctors, to do what is right. Now, people question everything. Kids pick up on that, and bring that same attitude in the classroom."

Many local students agree with adults' assessment of school behavior.

"Lack of respect of people, that's the biggest problem," Dutch Fork High School senior Joey Livingston said. "Some students don't have respect for teachers, other students or themselves."

Many students misbehave for the attention.

"It's a problem when others see someone misbehaving, and think it's cool," Dreher High senior Tony Anderson said.

Truth is, most students don't think misbehaving is cool at all, Anderson and several others said. In fact, they resent it when their learning time is interrupted by a peer's bad behavior.

"In the advanced classes, where kids are serious students and taking the class for college credit, there are not a lot of discipline problems," Dreher senior Jaime Evermann said. "But in some classes, there are people who don't care. They don't care if they get expelled. If they get suspended, they don't care."

Students agree with educators: Changing that starts at home.

"Students bring their social values with them," Irmo High senior Jennifer Barnhard said. "They don't understand that they're coming to school to get an education. And that's the priority."

Is behavior changing? Some high school seniors would say it's changing for the worse. They talk about their "good old days," when they were more respectful than current underclassmen.

"This year, it's like the Twilight Zone soaked up Irmo High School and spit something back out," Barnhard said. "A lot of younger students don't respect the teachers. Irmo has always had a tradition, but it seems like some younger students don't respect that."

The question remains: How can schools address what happens when students make bad choices?

Many colleges schedule classes on classroom management for prospective teachers. Discipline strategies are discussed; veteran teachers are observed.

"The secret to good classroom behavior is having them interested in the lessons," said Therese Kuhs, chairperson of USC's department of instruction and teacher education. "The secret is being able to provide exciting instruction.

"We spend a lot of time explaining how to plan lessons that snatch children's attention."

Dutch Fork High Principal Jim Taylor and his staff make it a point to be visible, walking hallways and visiting classes frequently to deter behavior problems, but he agreed their best weapon is good teaching.

"Good instruction is critical," he said. "If the student is engaged and interested in class, there will be less of a tendency to want to create a problem."

Like District 5 of Lexington and Richland Counties, where Taylor works, many S.C. school systems have begun teaching character education. Manners, respect and conflict resolution are explained beginning in kindergarten.

"There are so many components to good discipline," said Ruth Greer, director of the laboratory school at Winthrop University. "One thing we're trying very hard to do with preschool and kindergarten children is to teach self-respect and self-esteem. Before anyone can respect others, they need to have self-respect and self- esteem."

Schools are trying other preventive measures, too. Many have collaborated with local law enforcement agencies to put police — "resource officers" — in schools. Some have opted for uniforms, heeding research that says schools where students wear uniforms have fewer discipline problems because uniforms eliminate distractions and competition.

Some middle and high schools have peer mediation programs, where students are trained to counsel other students with various problems. Some districts have "hot lines" that students can call anonymously to report problems and criminal activity.

In some instances, however, schools have little leeway in dealing with inappropriate behavior, Richland 1 school system attorney Susan Williams said.

"Special-needs children are protected by statute," Williams said. If it's determined that the behavior was the result of their disability, they have to be returned to the classroom.

Prevention programs don't work with every child. Most participants in the Public Agenda survey -- 85 percent -- say disruptive students should be removed from the classroom.

Many school districts have alternative schools for students who break the rules. Those programs accept a variety of students and take a variety of approaches educating them.

But no matter where their offenses fall on the discipline scale, misbehavior affects the way teachers teach, the way students learn and the way parents perceive their schools.

"That is the thing that frustrates teachers more than anything — the disruptive nature of some students, who prevent some teachers from teaching and other students from learning," said Henderson, the Richland 1 superintendent.

"It only takes one or two in a class to do that."

Corpun file 2136 at

Bradenton Herald, Florida, 25 February 1998

Children need paddling to learn about limits


Your viewpoint of "Paddling: Moot Point" is so closed-minded to the punishment that today's children/teenagers seem so desperately to need it was very shocking to read that our newspaper was against such punishment.

I am a 20-year-old who was a student in the Manatee County school system for 13 years, and for six of those years I was not a difficult student for the fact that I knew that there was a wooden paddle sitting in the principal's office. Unfortunately, as the next few years went by I noticed a slight change in the children around me. Little Johnny was now into car-jacking, and Suzie was doing crack in the girls' bathroom. Oh, and let's not forget Jimmy who is now doing 20 to 30 because he couldn't shake those nagging voices that told him to go ahead and murder that nice couple in the park.

My point is simple: I have watched too many good kids, my friends, get into all kinds of trouble simply because there was not one adult with the guts or the gumption to take a belt, paddle or hand to the little terror for the threat of that child calling HRS on whomever had taught him/her that little lesson in Life 101.

If corporal punishment was so bad 10 years ago, why didn't today's leaders superintendents, parents, presidents, community figures and every other adult who were spanked and paddled turn out to be terrible and awful persons? I guess that's why they are the ones looking out for today's youth. If bringing back corporal punishment is the way to do it, I say, "You go, Frank Brunner."

It's about time someone finally realized that if you don't take the upper hand first, this generation coming up is going to walk all over you, and that means you can kiss your high-paying jobs goodbye for the fact that they will vote you out and put some yahoo in there who doesn't care one bit for the well-being of tomorrow's child.

And for those of you still afraid of HRS, all you have to remember is to love that child with all your heart, and then you can have a healthy relationship between love and discipline and believe me, it's there. Remember, good parents do what they do for their children, or so that's what my parents told me, and I always knew that they loved me.

Celinda Lewis

Corpun file 2135 at


The Charlotte Observer, North Carolina, 28 February 1998

Prosecutors drop charge in paddling

By Jen Pilla
Staff Writer

VALDESE -- A child abuse charge against a Burke County middle school principal was dropped Friday, four days after he paddled a 12-year-old student.

The mother of a Heritage Middle School student gave Principal Jack Leonard permission to paddle her son Monday, but she complained to police after he came home with bruises on his buttocks, police reports said. The boy was spanked along with two other students after a fight, authorities said.

Leonard was served a criminal summons for misdemeanor child abuse Tuesday at the Valdese Police Department.

Prosecutors decided to drop the child abuse charge after further research showed that under state law, principals cannot be charged with child abuse for administering corporal punishment, Assistant District Attorney Gary Dellinger said.

Principals can be charged with assault if the force used in administering the corporal punishment was "unreasonable." But the parents of the Heritage Middle School student, who was not identified by police because he is a minor, told court officials that they did not want to pursue assault charges against Leonard.

Leonard did not return calls for comment. Burke County School Board attorney Larry Ballew said he was relieved the charges were dropped.

"I'm glad this is over so he can go back to being the good principal that he is," Ballew said.

Unlike other school boards in the region, Burke County's has no formal corporal punishment policy beyond what is dictated by state law. State law says another person must be present when the corporal punishment is administered, and a parent must be notified afterward.

At least 20 school boards in North Carolina have banned corporal punishment since 1991, when the state legislature gave school boards the power to do so.

In Caldwell and Catawba counties, principals can administer corporal punishment only after alternative methods of punishment have been tried. In Hickory, school officials cannot administer corporal punishment and can only use force against a student in limited situations.

Ballew said Burke County's school board had no plans to change its corporal punishment policy.

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