corpunWorld Corporal Punishment Research   :  Archive   :  1998   :  US Schools Sep 1998



School CP - September 1998

Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 8 September 1998

Corporal Punishment Under Scrutiny

By Rich Cholodofsky

In the Belle Vernon Area School District, students who misbehave still face the remote possibility of punishment via wooden paddle.

But even that remote possibility may soon disappear. Superintendent Gregory Caruso said administrators are re-evaluating the corporal punishment policy, and may formally recommend that the board ban paddling.

  • Belle Vernon Area ------------------------------------------------yes
  • Derry Area--------------------------------------------------------yes
  • Franklin Regional-------------------------------------------------- no
  • Greater Latrobe---------------------------------------------------yes
  • Greensburg Salem-------------------------------------------------yes
  • Greensburg Central Catholic----------------------------------------no
  • Hempfield Area----------------------------------------------------yes
  • Jeannette-----------------------------------------------------------yes
  • Kiski Area---------------------------------------------------------yes
  • Ligonier Valley------------------------------------------------------no
  • Monessen-----------------------------------------------------------no
  • Mt. Pleasant Area---------------------------------------------------yes
  • New Kensington-Arnold--------------------------------------------yes
  • Norwin--------------------------------------------------------------no
  • Penn-Trafford-------------------------------------------------------yes
  • Southmoreland-------------------------------------------------------no
  • Yough---------------------------------------------------------------yes

Caruso said the policy is being rethought in part because paddling happens so infrequently.

"I don't think you answer (misbehavior) with more violence. It's been a long time since any principal has paddled a student. It's been years," Caruso said.

While corporal punishment could be on the way out in Belle Vernon, it's here to stay in Mt. Pleasant Area School District. There, the school board just last week reaffirmed a policy that authorizes paddling, according to solicitor Ned Nakles Jr.

The district's discipline committee, which includes teachers, administrators and parents, approved retaining corporal punishment as a tool for disciplining students, even though it is rarely used.

Superintendent Regis Murtha said he knew of no corporal punishment cases last year. In fact, there were few instances of corporal punishment in Westmoreland County schools last year, according to superintendents.

Corporal punishment is permitted in 11 of the county's 17 school districts. Districts that allow corporal punishment are Belle Vernon Area, Derry Area, Greater Latrobe, Greensburg Salem, Hempfield Area, Jeannette, Kiski Area, Mt. Pleasant Area, New Kensington-Arnold, Penn-Trafford and Yough.

"It's just not something we use on a regular basis as part of our discipline plan. We think we have other more effective means for discipline. We try to change behavior, and corporal punishment doesn't do that," said Yough Superintendent Paul Rach.

Most district superintendents were unable to report just how many students were paddled last year.

Only Greensburg Salem Superintendent Thomas M. Yarabinetz could provide a definite number of corporal punishment cases. Yarabinetz said three students were paddled last year.

Other administrators could only make guesses as to the frequency of corporal punishment. Those guesses ranged from one to as many as five incidents (in Penn-Trafford).

"We're finding little value in it. It's there, and for some children the fact is it is on the books may be an influence to behave," said Derry Area Superintendent Robert Critchfield.

State law has always allowed paddling, and in 1977 the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the right of school districts to paddle students.

Pennsylvania is one of 23 states that allows corporal punishment.

Pennsylvania regulations define corporal punishment as physically punishing a student for an offense. Guidelines stipulate that only "reasonable" force be applied, by a teacher or administrator, so the student suffers no bodily injury.

In most cases, this means a teacher or principal strikes the offending student in the buttocks with a paddle. Students cannot be required to remove any clothing before receiving corporal punishment.

Regulations also call for parents to be notified of the policy and given the option to exclude their children from paddlings. In most area districts, this requirement is satisfied through a notice placed in a student-parent handbook that is either mailed to all parents or sent home with students.

Parents who do not want their children to be paddled are told to write a letter to the district, instructing administrators not to use corporal punishment.

Superintendents in districts where paddling is allowed receive few such letters each year.

"We put it in our district newsletter, and if they would like to write us a letter that objects to corporal punishment, we keep it on file. We don't get many letters back," said Joseph Marasti, superintendent of Penn-Trafford.

School officials believe the possibility of corporal punishment doesn't bother too many parents.

Still, the trend is away from paddling.

New Kensington-Arnold Superintendent Thomas Wilczek predicted his school board would remove corporal punishment as a discipline option should the issue ever be revisited.

"I don't know why it is still on the books. If it ever comes to a point of re-addressing it, there is a good chance it isn't going to stay on the books," Wilczek said.

The fact that some districts may do away with corporal punishment will certainly be good news for a Columbus, Ohio, organization that is spearheading a national effort to prohibit striking students.

According to statistics compiled from U.S. Department of Education records by the Center for Effective Discipline, less than 0.1 percent of students in Pennsylvania are paddled - that's fewer than one child in every 1,000. Survey figures from 1994 indicated that only 771 public school students in Pennsylvania were subjected to corporal punishment.

Throughout the country, 470,863 children, or 1.1 percent, were paddled in 1994.

School districts in Westmoreland County that do not permit paddling are Franklin Regional, Greensburg Central Catholic, Ligonier Valley, Monessen, Norwin and Southmoreland.

Administrators in those districts say two factors - the fear of litigation and the belief that corporal punishment does not have the desired effect - contributed to the prohibition.

"I really don't believe it's an effective tool. It's something that is outdated, and I don't really see it as something we really need to have in our schools," said Norwin Superintendent Richard Watson.

"We believe in discipline with dignity, and I'm not sure corporal punishment meets the definition of dignity," said Ligonier Valley Superintendent Stephen Whisdosh.

Cincinnati Post, Ohio, 9 September 1998

Don't Spank Our Kids, Parents Tell Schools

By Mike Rutledge
Post staff reporter

Dozens of North College Hill City Schools parents made it clear Tuesday night: They don't want teachers paddling their kids.

"The discipline should be on the parents," said one of them, Shelley Dandridge.

"If you have a problem with my child, call me," she said. On the other hand, "I think a lot of parents need to wake up. Children aren't innocent."

The district had a corporal punishment policy before 1993, but banned paddling after a new state law took effect in 1994. The new law required that districts wanting to use corporal punishment create task forces to review their policies.

Only one parent at a meeting of a task force set up to examine the issue argued that the school should bring corporal punishment back to classrooms.

Loria Helton, mother of three, said she uses a paddle on her children at home, and if a paddling policy is approved, "I'll have my husband make the paddles. I punish 'em. I don't abuse them," she said about her children.

She was the only person in an audience of about 60 at the district's Becker Elementary School who voiced that view. The crowd strongly opposed letting teachers or school administrators paddle students.

The crowd also vented its frustration at a 20-member task force, which held the first of three public hearings to discuss the idea.

Ultimately, the issue will be decided by the full school board, likely before the year ends.

Mrs. Helton remembered being paddled herself and how it taught her a lesson.

"I did not bring in my homework," she said. The teacher "paddled me one time. Did I ever do it again? No," she said. "It took one time."

The response from the audience was so strong that Mrs. Helton said at least one other woman in attendance decided not to voice a similar view.

Members of the task force - who emphasized they have not made up their minds - felt sufficient fury from the audience that one panelist told the crowd: "There is not one person on this panel who does not care about children...We care about your children. We really do."

Another panel member said she knew for sure that the idea of paddlings did not come from teachers. Most probably oppose the idea, she added.

Among those opposing paddling was Lisa Commodore, a 28-year-old mother of two who grew up in the district and confessed: "I was raised with my fair share of swats."

But Ms. Commodore, a pre-school teacher, said she opposes paddling mostly for the teachers' sake. Some student might retaliate with a gun or other violence, she said.

She and many parents agreed the problem starts at home. Several complained that the district needs to uniformly and surely enforce the rules it already has, without swatting.

"If my son disrespects me at home, I know he's going to go to school and disrespect the teacher," Ms. Commodore said.

"Let's bring parents in here and make them responsible for the actions of their child," suggested Patricia Miles, another parent.

"We leave here open-minded," Connie Lewis, a board member and a leader of the task force assured the audience. "We have not made any decision."

"From the meeting we had tonight, my impression is the parents that were present very much oppose corporal punishment," she said afterward.

The crowd sentiment surprised Jean Parmenter, the only other school board member on the task force. "Any parents that I've spoken to prior to the meeting wanted it," she said.

The panel will hold public hearings Sept. 29 and Oct. 20 before making its recommendations to the school board in November.

Becker Elementary Principal Mary Senter, a task force member, said she leans against corporal punishment: "I think it's going to end up bringing out more anger. Because some of the children we're dealing with are very angry."

Her school's staff is working with students on non-violent ways to handle conflicts, she said.

She and other task force members noted they wanted input and got an earful.

"Input is what we wanted. So we needed everything we heard," she said.

But not everyone was pleased with the meeting's tone.

"We have had outbursts. We have had rude behavior," said Denise Cantrell, a parent who sat in the audience.

"And these are the adults. No wonder the kids behave this way."

Copyright 1998 The Cincinnati Post

Corpun file 5415

Cincinnati Enquirer, Ohio, 17 September 1998

Paddling issue not settled yet

By Bernie Mixon
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Paddling is not a done deal in North College Hill schools, officials say.

"We are going to be guided by the wishes of the community," Assistant Superintendent Kay Faris said as the district prepares for three more public hearings on the issue of returning corporal punishment.

A task force studying the issue isn't expected to vote on a recommendation until November.

From parent calls to the district, "It appears that they feel it is a foregone conclusion, that they think we are going to institute this," Ms. Faris said.

She said the callers mostly ask for information rather than take a position. They have questions about how the paddling system will work, some assuming the physical form of discipline will return. The debate continues later this month when the second of three public hearings is held to take public comment.

In the first hearing North College Hill parents overwhelmingly voiced disapproval of returning corporal punishment to schools, but conceded discipline needed to be addressed.

Under legislation that took effect Sept. 1, 1994, corporal punishment was abolished in all Ohio public school districts unless a district followed a task force's recommendation for its use. In the 1995-1996 school year, 48 Ohio districts used corporal punishment, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

During that time, seven districts locally -- Georgetown, Fayetteville-Perry, Western Brown, Talawanda, Blanchester, East Clinton and Franklin -- used it. In 1993, North College Hill banned corporal punishment. Under state law, districts that banned it can reinstate it as of Sept. 1 this year.

When the Enquirer asked for comments by phone and fax on paddling in schools, Margaret Roesch, of Reading, said she is in favor of it because she believes schools have gone downhill since it was taken out.

"Teachers have little control over students who are a constant disruption," Mrs. Roesch. "I agree that many of these disruptive students have problems that need to be addressed. It's an unhealthy learning environment today. The students are in control and they know it."

Ruth Jameson, of Northside, a retired teacher, was one of those who disagreed with corporal punishment.

"Corporal punishment is a horrific way of dealing with children's inappropriate behavior," Ms. Jameson said. "It's no way to alter children's behavior (and) probably makes them worse. I'm dead-set against it."

Depriving kids of a good paddle now and then -- at home and school -- has paved the way for a litany of juvenile misdeeds, said Tracy Gladwell, of North College Hill.

"When a child knows there is going to be no punishment for their misdoings, they will keep doing more and more until the government declares them unruly and then blames the parents," she said.

But the issue is far from settled in North College Hill, school officials said. "This is not something that is a done deal," Ms. Faris said.

Copyright 1995-2000. The Cincinnati Enquirer, a Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper.

Cincinnati Enquirer, Ohio, 30 September 1998

NCH Parents Say No To Paddling

By Bernie Mixon

NORTH COLLEGE HILL -- Corporal punishment took a thrashing Tuesday night as parents in the North College Hill school district gave the discipline measure a thumbs-down.

While parents reaffirmed their disapproval of corporal punishment, they urged greater parental responsibility and working with teachers to solve discipline problems in the classroom.

It was the second public meeting this month by the Secondary Local Discipline Task Force, formed to recommend to the board of education whether the paddle should return to the classroom.

A final meeting for public comment will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Oct. 20 at Becker Elementary School, after which the task force will deliberate on a recommendation.

"Physical punishment is not the kind of thing we should be teaching children," said Richard Busemeyer of Glendale, who wore a sign over his shirt pocket that read "Beat Eggs Not Kids."

Under legislation that took effect Sept. 1, 1994, corporal punishment was abolished in all Ohio public school districts unless a district follows a task force's recommendation for its use.

At the first public meeting, parents overwhelmingly were against paddling in the schools.

Linda Keller, the mother of a 6-year-old, said she was against corporal punishment for her child.

"He's small and adults are huge," Ms. Keller. "We may think of corporal punishment as a swat, but to a child the perspective is different."

Jim Wilson, himself a recipient of the paddle as a child, said he was for paddling in the classroom as a method of discipline.

"I got swats. It kept me out of jail," Mr. Wilson said.

"It worked for me. Whether spanking, in-school suspension or out here cleaning walls, there have to be restraints."

Sara Trout, a student at North College Hill High School, said even if the threat of getting a paddle is there, it won't deter some students from acting out.

"Kids that act out more won't think twice," Sara said.

"They act out at home and it won't make any difference."

blob Follow-up: 21 October 1998 - Keep Paddling Out Of Schools, Panel Says

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