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School CP - August 2003
Dallas Morning News, Texas, 13 August 2003
Paddling policy revised by DISD
District to require written request from parents for the discipline
By Tawnell D. Hobbs
The Dallas school district has found a way to deal with the hot-potato issue of corporal punishment: Toss it to parents.
Trustees approved a policy change Tuesday that requires parents to request in writing if they want their children to be disciplined by paddling.
The measure passed by a 7-2 vote with trustees Lew Blackburn and Ken Zornes voting no.
Mr. Zornes wanted an outright ban on the striking of children by educators. He cited a string of research to back his stance.
"I don't think it's good for the parents, to put them in that kind of position," Mr. Zornes said, wondering whether parental requests regarding paddling could be considered public documents. "I'm not sure how much their privacy will be protected."
Mr. Zornes' motion to eliminate corporal punishment failed on a 6-3 vote.
The paddling revision is part of a student discipline policy that also underwent additions Tuesday. Added to the policy is a list of discipline intervention methods to be used before corporal punishment is administered, including assigning kids community service, having parents observe their child in class and contracting with parents to restrict home privileges.
Dr. Blackburn, a supporter of corporal punishment, felt the district should have left the policy alone. He found problems with some methods of intervention, such as the contract involving parents restricting home privileges.
"How are we going to tell parents what to do at home?" he said.
But board President Hollis Brashear said the revised policy would be good for the district.
"I think from this, we're going to see an improvement in discipline in our schools," he said.
Some opponents of corporal punishment criticized the district for stopping short of a prohibition, calling the parent opt-in policy a loophole that could be abused.
"Some school administrators are going to use that loophole to pressure parents to do it," said Dr. Robert Fathman, president of the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools. "Our organization will not count Dallas as banning corporal punishment."
The school board began the discussion on paddling in June. Mr. Zornes broached the subject when the policy appeared on an agenda for revisions.
Some trustees wanted an update on injuries that students allegedly received from corporal punishment or hitting during the 2002-03 school year. Superintendent Mike Moses said of 332 cases reported, 51 cases allegedly resulted in injuries. Of those, 12 cases were substantiated, he said.
While some area school districts have banned corporal punishment, others have implemented a rule that requires parents to sign a waiver to allow it.
Dallas school administrators have tried to appease trustees on both sides of the issue. The recommendation approved Tuesday was the second presented to trustees. A recommendation in June would have allowed paddling at schools where 80 percent of parents agreed.
"This is a victory for parents," trustee Ron Price said. "Parents still have a right of choice."
St Petersburg Times, Florida, 13 August 2003
Support for a smack on the bottom
Jennifer Faliero asks fellow School Board members to join her in making a strong statement in favor of paddling
By Melanie Ave
TAMPA - Back in May, School Board member Jennifer Faliero was in the office of an elementary school when an 8-year-old boy came in, cursing and screaming, after he had been kicked out of class.
Three adults tried to control him.
"He was cursing out the assistant principal," she said. "The sheriff (deputy) had to be called to restrain this kid."
What he needed, she thinks, was a healthy smack on his bottom. The episode made her start thinking about discipline problems that exist in many schools.
To that end, Faliero asked her fellow board members Tuesday to join her in making a strong statement in favor of paddling students in some cases.
State law and school district policy allow corporal punishment, but few if any Hillsborough principals actually spank children for fear of lawsuits, said deputy superintendent Randy Poindexter.
Several years ago, two local principals were added to the state's child abuse list for spanking children. Since then, other forms of discipline such as timeout, work detail and detention have taken the place of paddling.
"We strongly recommend to principals you consider every type of punishment for a child," Poindexter said. "If you paddle a child and bruise him, you run the risk of being charged with child abuse."
Faliero thinks more principals would use corporal punishment if they felt support from the School Board.
"You can't let the threat of a lawsuit cripple you," she said. "The children have control of the schools. They have no respect and they're getting that from their homes."
Not all principals, however, want more freedom to paddle.
Susan Turner, principal of Mintz Elementary in Brandon, has paddled a couple of students throughout her career, but is philosophically opposed to it.
"It's a difficult issue, it really is," she said. "I just hate to hit children."
Faliero made her request at a workshop where board members discussed the hundreds of children who are expelled, suspended and transferred because of behavior problems.
Although some of her fellow board members said they approve of paddling, no one seemed willing to go any further to support the practice.
Glenn Barrington said corporal punishment is a good form of discipline because it is immediate and it hurts, physically and emotionally. But he thinks the decision to paddle should remain in the hands of the principal.
"They do put themselves at risk," he said.
Doris Ross Reddick said she worries that if more principals paddle children, their punishment could be too harsh, inconsistent and even misused against certain students.
"I have mixed feelings," she said.
Faliero would like to see paddling used in the younger grades. At the very least, she said, she wants to get parent feedback on the idea of paddling as punishment.
April Schiff, a South Tampa parent, is not too keen on the idea.
"I'm a mother of three children and I choose not to spank them," she said. "I don't think I want the schools paddling them either."
Faliero said if some parents knew their little ones might get paddled, they would perhaps start teaching them how to behave and respect adults at school. Maybe the number of problem children would decline.
Faliero, who was elected last year and is the only board member with school-age children, said she will not be dissuaded from her push for corporal punishment despite a lack of support from her fellow board members.
The public needs to realize how disruptive some children are in school, Faliero said. "If nothing else, I think it's going to raise awareness."
© Copyright 2003 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved
WTSP-TV, Tampa Bay, Florida, 14 August 2003
Board member wants to see more students paddled
By Mike Deeson
Tampa: It's been an option for years, but Hillsborough School Board member, Jennifer Faliero wants principals to paddle more students. Faliero says the school system needs to take control of the schools and she believes paddling the students, which is allowed by state law, is the answer.
In the past few years there have been 41 students in the Hillsborough school system who have felt the paddle on their rear end. The last time a student was paddled was in the 2001-2002 school year. Faliero says principals in the school system need the board's backing in order to use the discipline more often.
However, even principals who support paddling face a risk. The principal can be charged with child abuse if the student ends up with a welt or is mistakenly swatted on the leg instead of the rear end. Since 1980 two principals ended up on the state's child abuse register.
While some parents object to the punishment, Faliero says state law doesn't require their permission. Although she says she doesn't have to spank her 7 and 10 year olds, Faliero says that is the only punishment some kids understand.
Although some parents say paddling students can leave them psychologically scared, Faliero says that's hogwash. She was paddled in the fifth grade and says she never got in trouble again.
While Faliero avoided trouble in school after the paddling incident, her stance might get her in trouble with voters who object to corporal punishment.
Thomaston Times, Georgia, 15 August 2003
Schools spare the rod
By Nikkie Spoon
A paddling at school?
Parents have a packet of documents to sign and return to school in these first few days, including one which asks permission to administer corporal punishment.
Half of all states have banned corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is used sparingly in the Thomaston-Upson School System. In local schools, there were 331 paddlings during the 2001-2002 school year (latest available statistics). The student handbook notes that paddling is "never the first line of punishment ... unless behavior is so antisocial or disruptive in nature as to shock the conscious."
Even then, the policy allows only three licks.
While paddling may be rare, punishment for bad behavior is not - parents are called, students get detention, or in serious cases, suspension.
"Students make their own choices," said Upson-Lee Middle School principle Patsy Dean. "They know the rules and know the consequences."
At the middle school, a student may receive in-class isolation before further actions, such as out-of-class isolation, are taken. "Sometimes all the student needs is to get out of the area, out of the situation," said Dean. "Sometimes this works very well."
With serious discipline problems, students at ULMS are sent to the principal's office. "We try to make the punishment fit the crime," said Dean. Students whose behavior merits punishment may find themselves performing school chores after school - cleaning floors, etc.
But, paddling does have its place.
"Corporal punishment, when behavior reaches that point, does work most of the time," said Dean.
Even when consent is given by parents on the forms sent home last week, middle school officials still call parents to let them know corporal punishment is going to be administered, and why.
"Sometimes we plan to give a student three days in-house suspension and the parents feel that three licks will be better than three days," Dean said.
As with the middle school, the two elementary schools use corporal punishment as a last resort.
"We would do this only if other things don't work," said Ann Wilkinson, principal at Upson-Lee North. "With the first offense, we would have a conference or make a phone call to the parent." She notes that corporal punishment is used much less now than in the past.
"We use corporal punishment as a last resort," said Dr. Margurite Jones, Upson-Lee South Elementary principal. "We get permission first. It does seem to work, but we see much less of it these days."
Upson-Lee South Primary Principal Dr. Sheila Korvayan also follows the "last resort rule," but she adds, corporal punishment "really gets the student's attention. Most of the time the behavior is not repeated."
Still, she said, "We really hate to use it."
Dr. Korvayan added, "Actions are taken in the classroom first with warnings before disciplinary actions. We always contact parents first and get their consent."
None of the paddlings occurred at the high school, which does not administer corporal punishment.
"We start at the first level with a student/teacher conference and a parent conference," said Upson-Lee High School principle, Bill Aplin. "If problems persist, punishments could be detention, in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension or a Saturday work program." The Saturday work program requires a student to do campus work, such as picking up litter.
"If a student gets into a fight, the sheriff's department is automatically called and the students are placed in their custody," said Aplin. "This has really helped."
Copyright © 2003 The Thomaston Times
Observer-Reporter, Washington, Pennsylvania, 17 August 2003
Waynesburg administrator says paddling an acceptable discipline option
By Mark Lazerus
It used to be simple. Show up late for class, get a scolding. Talk through a lecture, get a wooden ruler across the knuckles. Fight in the hallways, get spanked.
But these days, the idea of a teacher or principal even laying a finger on a student infuriates parents and thrills attorneys. So scoldings have been replaced by "timeouts." Rulers have been replaced by detention. And spankings have been replaced by suspensions.
But that's not the case at Waynesburg Central High School, which is believed to be the only school left in Pennsylvania that still regularly uses corporal punishment.
Over the past quarter-century, hundreds of students have walked into Principal John Barbero's office, bent over and "taken the cracks." And the typical response?
Thank you, sir, may I have another?
"Eight out of nine cases, the kid left smiling and thanking you," Barbero says. "They were never upset with me, because we handled it in the right way. Sometimes they'd ask if they can sign the paddle. It's got some autographs on it."
Barbero retired this summer and passed on his "fraternity paddle" to his successor, Al Veverka. The former assistant principal also has administered paddlings at Waynesburg, but won't be doing so for long.
The state Board of Education unanimously passed a regulation last July that would make Pennsylvania the 28th state to ban corporal punishment. A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the proposal, which has been slowed by the bureaucratic process, finally should become law by early next year.
Barbero figured it was only a matter of time.
"I'm not really surprised," he says. "So many schools have gotten away from it because of lawsuits coming in to play. In recent years, lawsuits from angry parents is all you read about. People were afraid that would happen and didn't want to take the chance."
Burgettstown and McGuffey have corporal punishment policies on their books, but they are not enforced.
"It hasn't been used," McGuffey Superintendent Joseph Stefka said. "The building administrators simply haven't found the need to use it."
The inevitable ban on paddling won't change much at Waynesburg, as fewer than 100 students were spanked each year. Paddling was presented as an option to avoid detention or minor suspensions and was only administered with the student's and parents' consent.
To many students, the choice was easy. Rather than miss class time, tests and lunches with friends, they'd opt for the quicker punishment.
"To some, it definitely was preferable to take the cracks," Barbero says. "I think they saw it as a way to not miss out on the social aspects of school. Our detention was a lunch detention, so they saw it as an option to stay with their friends."
Still, Barbero estimates that only 5 percent of all students chose paddling over more traditional forms of punishment. For obvious reasons, the humiliation factor of coming into school before class and being smacked on the bottom three times doesn't appeal to most.
Pennsylvania school law states: "It should be recognized that corporal punishment always contains the danger of excessiveness. No disciplinary action should exceed in degree the seriousness of the offense." Most of the 23 states in which paddling is legal have similar language in their school codes. And at most schools - including Waynesburg - teachers are not allowed to spank students, especially in the heat of the moment. The power of the paddle is reserved for the principal.
But many anti-spanking organizations, such as Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE), are actively lobbying local and national government officials to outlaw corporal punishment for good, citing instances of mental, physical and sexual abuse by those administering the punishment. And even though the Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that paddling was not cruel-and-unusual punishment, lawsuits still abound from paddling cases.
But Waynesburg has steered clear of controversy, despite its rare policy.
"There hasn't been any backlash," Superintendent Donald Painter says. "It's the student's choice, and parents can sign a waiver to avoid it. We've never had a problem."
Barbero isn't too sad to see the policy go, but he feels the old-fashioned policy was often quite effective.
"It had its moments," he says. "In some ways, I found it to be very beneficial. When done the right way, it's a useful form of discipline. And we did it the right way."
Copyright ©2003 Observer Publishing Co.
Countywide News, Tecumseh, Oklahoma, 18 August 2003
Corporal Punishment Returns to Tecumseh
By Wayne Trotter
The Tecumseh Board of Education quickly and quietly returned corporal punishment to the system's stock of disciplinary measures this week, voting 5-0 to approve a spanking policy proposed by Superintendent Tom Wilsie.
Parents or guardians who do not want their children "swatted" will be able to opt out of the program by returning a form that can be used to either withhold or grant permission. Those who choose to allow their children to be paddled will also get to choose whether they want to be contacted before the punishment is administered.
"It gives parents the option of having their child participate in that part of the discipline plan or not," Wilsie told the school board before the vote was taken Monday night. "Parents have the say on that."
Wilsie said the purpose of the policy "is to give teachers and administrators another option within the discipline plan."
Both he and School Board President Bob Mayo asked for comments from a group of teachers and parents who attended the board's regular August meeting in the Tecumseh High School library. When no responses emerged from either the audience or school board members, he called for a vote. Board member Shawn Fleming moved to approve the policy and Terry O'Rorke seconded.
With television cameras from two Oklahoma City stations recording their decision, the board promptly and unanimously voted to adopt the policy with Mayo, Dean Rogers and Keith Hays joining Fleming and O'Rorke. The Tecumseh system dropped corporal punishment in the early 1990s but reviewed that decision this year after pressure mounted among teachers, especially at Tecumseh Middle School.
The policy will take effect when school begins today (Thursday).
The board conducted an open forum on the change on July 29. That meeting, held in the THS Alumni Center, attracted about 25 patrons and teachers and most of those who were present spoke in favor of the change.
The new policy declares that the district "recognizes corporal punishment as a means of discipline allowed and documented in the school laws of Oklahoma." It also says "other methods of discipline should always be used first in an effort to bring about positive behavior change."
But if those efforts fail, the policy lays out eight guidelines under which corporal punishment will be administered. Those are:
• Corporal punishment may be administered only under the strict supervision and approval of the building principal or assistant principal.
• Corporal punishment may be administered by any certified staff member only with the approval and in the presence of the building principal or assistant principal.
• Corporal punishment shall always be administered in the presence of a certified staff member acting as a witness.
• Corporal punishment shall be administered in the principal's office or in an area which allows some degree of privacy for the student.
• A maximum of two swats will be given for any student per occurrence and per day.
• Parents or legal guardians who do not wish to utilize corporal punishment must advise the building principal of the school on an annual basis. A "Parental Consent Form" will be made available to every parent/guardian to approve or not approve the use or corporal punishment. The form will contain a confirmation of yes or no by the parent concerning the use of corporal punishment on their child. The form will also contain a confirmation of yes or no by the parent regarding being contracted by the school prior to swats being administered.
• The building principal will document an attempt to contact the parent prior to swats being administered.
The form, which will be sent to all parents and guardians, is straightforward. It gives the parents and guardians two initial choices:
• No, I do not give my permission for the school to administer corporal punishment to my child.
• Yes, I give my permission to administer corporal punishment to my child following the school board policy and the state laws of Oklahoma.
Those who choose to allow corporal punishment will have two more choices:
• No, I do not wish to be contacted prior to corporal punishment being administered to my child.
• Yes, I do wish to be contacted prior to corporal punishment being administered to my child.
The policy does not directly say what will happen if a parent or guardian fails to return the form. Wilsie said that if a corporal punishment situation arises and no form is on file, every effort will be made to contact the parents. If those efforts fail, other methods of punishment will be used, he said. Next year, he added, the procedure may be changed to require a response if a parent doesn't want his child made subject to corporal punishment.
Arizona Republic, Phoenix, 19 August 2003
Private spankings spark controversy at art school
WILLOW GROVE, Pa. - Bespectacled and grandfatherly, Robert J. Clark Jr. won accolades from the students he mentored at Cinekyd, the nonprofit program he started in 1976 to teach film and television production to aspiring media moguls.
So when the 61-year-old was arrested last month and charged with sexually abusing a dozen boys, people in this Philadelphia suburb were dismayed, disbelieving and angry at the authorities who accused him.
Prosecutors said Clark kissed the boys and spanked them - not innocent pats, but sexualized "birthday" spankings in which Clark had the boys pull their pants down, often in private.
Clark, a retired high school teacher, pleaded innocent to indecent assault and related charges and is free on $100,000 bail. He faces a preliminary hearing next week that is likely to be packed with supporters.
"It seems to me that if there was something going on that was totally inappropriate and beyond the bounds that we would have heard about it before," said Richard D. Booth, president of the Upper Moreland Township Board of Commissioners, whose own son attended Cinekyd in the 1980s.
Well-wishers - most of them current and former students and their parents - flooded Cinekyd's Web site with messages and offers of support. A legal defense fund was established. Some claimed the boy who made the original accusation held a grudge against Clark.
While students and parents acknowledge that spankings went on, they claim it was a harmless tradition distorted into something sinister by police and prosecutors.
In court documents, police contend that Clark would take boys into a garage across the street from the campus, put them over his lap and spank them with their pants down. They also say that Clark kissed boys on the lips.
"He could very well have been a terrific guy for many of these boys to be around, and a hideous monster behind closed doors with others. That's the sort of scenario we see all the time," prosecutor Risa V. Ferman said.
Clark, wearing a "Children First" pin on his shirt, declined to be interviewed, telling a reporter this week that he'd like to speak out, but has been advised by his lawyer to keep quiet.
Clark founded Cinekyd in his basement in 1976, moving the program to a small industrial campus in Willow Grove the following year. The school was a magnet for children who wanted to learn acting, directing, videotape editing, camera operation, radio production and other media arts. Cinekyd's walls are adorned with awards and photos of smiling students.
Beau Benson, 15, who attended Cinekyd for five or six years but quit after his professional acting career picked up steam, was listed against his will as one of the victims, said his father, Ed Benson.
"He is livid that he was put down as a victim," said Ed Benson. "I was trying to get him taken off as a victim and the detective said, 'I can't do that.' "
Benson said his son was interviewed once by police and acknowledges that birthday spanking took place, but "Beau assured us that in his case, he had never witnessed any type of sexual misconduct," Benson said.
The Rev. John Bethard, a Presbyterian minister in Hereford, Texas, who attended Cinekyd from 1982 to 1986, said he got a spanking over his clothes when he turned 15 - and thought nothing of it.
"It was in a room full of people. The kids built it up as this scary thing and that was the fun of it. It was a few minutes and it was over ... I didn't feel it was inappropriate," Bethard said.
Intelligencer Record, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 20 August 2003
Media arts school teacher to stand trial for spankings
By Jason Straziuso
HATBORO, Pa. - A man who mentored thousands of children at a nonprofit foundation he launched in the 1970s will stand trial on charges that he abused kids by spanking them and holding them against their will, a judge ruled Wednesday.
In a packed courtroom filled with more than 100 people - many of them supporting defendant Robert J. Clark Jr. - several teenage boys testified that Clark, 61, spanked them on their birthdays. Some of the boys said the spankings were a harmless ritual, while others said they felt ashamed and embarrassed by them.
Clark will face nine counts of endangering the welfare of a child and indecent assault, among other charges. He also faces three counts of false imprisonment.
Clark founded the media arts school Cinekyd in 1976 in Willow Grove. The school was a magnet for kids who wanted to learn film and television production skills such as videotape editing and camera operation.
Two of the boys who attended the school described the birthday spankings, which took place in the presence of others, as part of a tradition at Clark's school and done only for fun. The boys testified that they were between the ages of 10 and 14 when they were spanked.
A 14-year-old boy, though, said Clark kissed him on the lips and left red marks on his buttocks after two spankings in private situations. The boy testified that Clark took him and another boy to a garage across the street from the school and spanked them both.
The 14-year-old said he was "defenseless" and was not free to leave during one of the private spankings. The second boy, however, said that no spankings took place in the garage. He called Clark a "very kind man, very gentle-hearted."
Frank DeSimone, Clark's attorney, portrayed the spankings as a common ritual seen on countless football fields, saying after the judge's ruling that he would "hate to be a football coach in this commonwealth."
"I went to Catholic school all my life and I think half of my teachers would be before the court right now," DeSimone told the judge, addressing whether or not the spankings were criminal acts.
"Where's bodily injury to any of these witnesses?" DeSimone said.
Todd Stephens, a Montgomery County assistant district attorney, said he had no doubt that Clark had a positive effect the kids he worked with.
"That does not give him license to do whatever he wants with them in other instances," he told the judge.
Mike Wilson, 35, of New Tripoli, said he drove 70 miles to the hearing to support Clark. He expressed doubts that the state had evidence of a crime.
"Mr. Clark spanked my bottom," Wilson said. "Well, gee whiz, how much resources do we want to spend taking it to the nth degree?"
Stephens, after the decision, said Clark's actions were criminal because of the number of children involved, the nature of the relationships and the length of time over which the spankings occurred.
Judge Paul Leo set the trial date for Oct. 17. Clark remained free on $100,000 bail.
©2003 Copyright Calkins Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
Bergen Record, New Jersey, 20 August 2003
Athletic director indicted in sex case
By Raghuram Vadarevu
Leonia High School's athletic director was indicted this week on charges that he spanked and sexually abused a male student numerous times over an 18-month period.
Robert "Willie" Quinn, 49, was charged with criminal sexual contact, endangering the welfare of a child, and official misconduct, according to a grand jury indictment released on Monday.
Quinn, who survived a suicide attempt after posting $40,000 bail in mid-April, is receiving mental health therapy at a "controlled environment" in New Jersey, said Arthur Carmano, his lawyer.
The indictment alleges that Quinn abused the student, who is now 18, between September 2001 and March 2003.
Authorities have said Quinn fondled the boy's genitals, spanked him with yardsticks, belts, and ropes, and gave the boy violent "wedgies" by pulling on the boy's underwear. On Tuesday, Carmano said his client is not guilty.
Quinn has been the high school's athletic director since July 1989. After his April 7 arrest, he was suspended with pay.
Police interviewed at least six potential victims at the high school, but Bergen County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Dispoto said Monday's indictment was focused on a single student's allegations.
During his stay at the Bergen County Jail, Quinn had been placed on suicide watch. Shortly after he posted bail and went home, Quinn stabbed himself with a kitchen knife.
Quinn could face five to 10 years in prison for each of the endangering the welfare of a child and official misconduct charges, and a maximum of 18 months for each of the four counts of criminal sexual contact, Dispoto said.
Copyright © 2003 North Jersey Media Group Inc.
St Petersburg Times, Florida, 20 August 2003
Student paddling sanctioned
By Brady Dennis
TAMPA - Hillsborough County School Board members on Tuesday made it official: They support corporal punishment in county schools.
They also made one caveat very clear: It should be used only as a last resort.
The most recent debate over corporal punishment surfaced last week when School Board member Jennifer Faliero recounted seeing an 8-year-old boy cursing and screaming in the office of an elementary school.
At a workshop on Aug. 12 where board members were discussing the hundreds of children who are expelled, suspended and transferred because of behavioral problems, Faliero asked board members to make a strong statement that paddling students is acceptable in some cases.
She also said at the meeting that she would like to see paddling used in the younger grades.
Faliero has state law and school district policy on her side - both allow corporal punishment.
But many principals hesitate to spank students for fear of lawsuits. Two local principals were added to the state's child abuse list for spanking children several years ago.
Board members on Tuesday also seemed hesitant to appear too gung-ho about paddling.
"My preference would have been to word it that the School Board does not endorse corporal punishment," said member Carolyn Bricklemyer, who made Tuesday's motion. "I personally don't support it, but it's the law."
Most board members agreed that spanking should be used only when "all other means of student discipline have been exhausted."
Faliero added that parents who do not support spanking should notify school officials in writing to seek some other course of action, and that their wishes should be followed.
Only Doris Ross Reddick spoke out in opposition of Tuesday's motion, which passed easily. She cited inconsistencies which might arise in the application of paddlings, as well as her personal aversion to them.
"I don't like corporal punishment," she added, voting against the measure. "Some children are going to (misbehave) anyway."
© Copyright 2003 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved
St Petersburg Times, Florida, 20 August 2003
Paddling has no place in school today
By Ernest Hooper
If you're opposed to corporal punishment in the schools, it's easy to find validation.
You can note the school district's reduction in paddling, cite the legal risks and draw upon expert opinions.
For some of us whose formative years were shaped by the occasional encounter with a paddle or a golden ruler, it's far more difficult to reach that conclusion. We attribute our sense of right and wrong in part to lessons learned from the solemn dean or, in my case, the stern nun.
When School Board member Jennifer Faliero raised the issue last week, she was asking how the district should deal with the small percentage of students (less than half of 1 percent) who are considered extremely disruptive. She wanted paddling to be part of the discussion.
And now it is, at water coolers and churches and grocery stores all around the county.
In my mind, Faliero created an internal tug of war between my anecdotal memories and the sound reasoning of corporal punishment opponents.
When I suggested to some, "Hey, maybe she's got a point," I got that "Do we need to call DCF?" look. Others quietly nodded in approval, believing they too are better off because of a smack on the bottom. As someone who has spanked my own kids, it's difficult to disagree.
But good news, boys. After a lot of research and a little soul searching, I've concluded the paddle needs to be put on the shelf. And, in an attempt to sort out my feelings, I think I discovered what schools really need to do to get better behavior out of kids.
The first step in this process was to think about my memories. As a Catholic school brat, I had a few brushes with physical discipline. Not many, but enough to leave an impression. I weighed those instances, like that time in fifth grade when Sister Sylvia hit me with the ruler, against the criticisms I had found on the Internet.
Did I conclude back then that violence was the best way to solve a conflict, like the critics suggest? No, I concluded that controlling my behavior was the best way to avoid violent situations.
My parents were angry - not at the school, but at me. They told me to stay out of trouble. Period. And I did for the rest of my school years.
So am I just rationalizing? I took that question to Garret Evans, an associate professor in the University of Florida's National Rural Behavioral Health Center who specifically helps schools prevent juvenile violence. He said those moments may have been effective with me, but better methods now exist.
When Evans was in graduate school, he also thought corporal punishment was good because he experienced it growing up. But the more he read and studied, the more he was convinced it was not the best long-term method.
"Reward systems, taking privileges away, having kids sit in time out, having them miss recess, having them make up work because of things like in-school suspensions - those are more effective in the long run," Evans said.
While the paddle may work with some, there are potential negative side effects. Research shows it could create a chasm between the student and the teacher, Evans said. Some studies suggest corporal punishment makes kids more likely to be abusive as adults.
As much as you might want to, you can't argue with science.
To me, Evans' most illuminating point was the suggestion schools should immediately involve parents when there is a serious behavioral problem.
I thought about what it would have been like if my parents were called away from their jobs to sit in a conference and hear about what I was doing wrong. Even now, at age 39, I get queasy.
The disappointment on their faces would have hurt more than any paddle.
I just hope every parent will be disappointed when faced with a behavioral problem.
I just hope every parent cares.
That's all I'm saying.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania, 23 August 2003
Savran: He pointed the way and had real impact
By Stan Savran
We had this football coach who looked exactly like you would expect a football coach to look -- stocky, powerful through the chest and shoulders, a neck thicker than most people's waists, with arms that would have embarrassed Popeye into a spinach binge.
He looked a lot like Ernest Borgnine, only he wasn't kindly like Lt. Quentin McHale. In fact, he had a demeanor equivalent to a Rottweiler with distemper. And his nickname, whispered ever so softly when we were sure he was at least a county away, was Dutch.
And after hanging 'em up as the head football coach, he was promoted/deposited into the position of vice-principal, a euphemism for Minister of Discipline.
You ran afoul of high school law, you had to face the Dutchman in his office/torture chamber. And this was back in the day when corporal punishment was not only acceptable, it was encouraged by one's parents. If you got whacked by Dutch, your parents figured you probably deserved it.
The method was a swat or three across the backside with this huge paddle affixed to the end of the Dutchman's right arm. He kept it hanging on the wall behind his desk. This weapon of mass instruction had holes in it, thus reducing the air resistance, thus increasing the ramming speed, thus allowing it to hurt all the more.
Before you got what he figured you had coming, he'd interrogate you for a while.
And if perchance you were able to muster a weak squeak in response, he'd yell louder. And he'd punctuate his snarling by pointing his finger a millionth of an inch from your quivering nose. Only it wasn't a finger. It was about a third of a finger. It was a stub.
We heard he had lost the other two thirds in the war. We weren't sure what war ... many of us believed it was the Crimean War. Or the Crusades.
Whatever, it was the most effective punctuation since the semicolon. He'd shove that stub toward your face, and you'd follow its path until your eyes crossed.
He'd have you so intimidated you'd admit to assassinating Lincoln to get out of that office.
When he convinced himself that you were guilty as charged, he'd bark, "Bend over and grab your ankles. This is going to sting pretty good."
And he would say it with mirthful delight. There was none of that, "This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you."
Dutch knew it was going to hurt plenty and reveled in the fact you'd feel every bit of it.
He liked that part, especially that part, because he believed that a whack to the southbound section of a northbound kid might at least cause that kid to think about screwing up again.
Dutch never killed anyone, at least as far as we knew.
There were rumors, all right, but the victims always seemed to reappear eventually, a semi-permanent wince etched in their faces. And that was when they walked. Sitting down was raised to a higher art form.
I don't know if the death penalty is a deterrent to crime, but I definitely know the threat of a stroke from the true Sultan of Swat got you thinking about your behavior.
So why am I telling you all this?
Because it was the Dutchman who set me on my career path. He suggested I consider sports broadcasting as a career, proving inspiration can come from the strangest of sources, even from one whose comments to me were generally centered on missing a block or missing a class.
Near graduation, he called me over in the gym one day, and I reflexively began to reach for my ankles. The Dutchman said, "You're going to Miami of Ohio, right?"
I gurgled a yes, and he continued. "What are you going to major in?"
I had pre-enrolled in education. I wanted to teach, but only as a means to coach. I wanted to coach.
"Well," he said, "That's fine, but have you ever thought about announcing? You've got a pretty deep voice for an 18-year-old kid, and you know a lot about sports. You ought to consider it."
When Dutch told you to consider something, it was more like an order.
So I followed orders, and thanks to his suggestion, for better or worse, here I am. I honestly believe I never would have thought of broadcasting as a career had he not mentioned it.
A high school friend with whom I've recently reconnected asked the other day if I had ever told Dutch of his impact on my life.
No, I told her, I had not. Until today.
Stan Savran is the host of a sports talk show from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays on WBGG-AM (970).
Copyright ©1997-2003 PG Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.
St Petersburg Times, Florida, 24 August 2003
Letters to the Editor
Re: Corporal punishment not a subject for school, by Mary Jo Melone, Aug. 17.
Personally, we do condone corporal punishment. We also spank our children, although we do not have to much anymore: Both boys, ages 4 and 7, know right from wrong. They are polite and respectful, and as a parent, I would not be upset if the adult in charge used corporal punishment to enforce discipline.
Melone really should learn the difference between discipline and abuse. We do not spank our children when angry. If we are upset and "on the raggedy edge," we send them to their room until we have had an opportunity to think about a proper punishment.
I am only 35, and in "the old days" we had respect for police, firemen and school staff, including teachers. We had respect because we knew if we "got smart" or "stepped out of line" we would be disciplined with corporal punishment. That type of discipline demanded respect. I have gotten many comments from neighbors, family, teachers and even total strangers at restaurants, on how well-behaved our children are.
The problem with today's youth is that the parents of my generation rely on the touchy-feely discipline approach of time-out or taking things away. By assigning value to things and taking them away, you are breeding a generation of children that feel "stuff" is the most important. I applaud the school board members who stand up for corporal punishment. If more parents felt the way they feel, we would not have the discipline problems that we have with today's youth.
-- Stephen Woodin, Oldsmar
Paddle them and move on
In school, I spent many hours doing penance by writing sentences for my various transgressions, and about once each week I received a spanking. We were always given the choice of a spanking or staying after school, and most of us chose the spanking. Once we did our time or got our spanking, that was it for the event. There were no notes sent home, no conferences, no grudges, and what happened at school stayed at school, in most situations. This was in Pinellas County.
Today we've made discipline into an industry. Just the other day, my first-grade grandson got into some trouble for socializing at an inappropriate time. A note came home, a conference was held, sentences were written, and he did some hard time after school. I thought, that's a lot of time and energy invested in a small problem. Why not spank him and be done with it? Instead, Mom and Dad and a fleet of educators took hours away from what they do best to fool around with a 15-minute problem. We're not talking murder and mayhem here, we're talking about a gabby first-grader in the first week of school. Paddle them and move on!
-- James B. Johnson, Port Richey
© Copyright 2003 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved
Mobile Register, Alabama, 25 August 2003
School board considers a ban on corporal punishment
By Rena Havner
Douglas July recalls being shocked last spring when he arrived as the new principal at Mae Eanes Middle to find out that his school had been the source of more than half of Mobile County's 500 school paddlings in 2002-03.
This summer, July took the paddle out of the hands of his faculty, abolishing corporal punishment at the 900-student school in Mobile's Maysville community.
July said that whether the Mobile County school board decides on Tuesday to eliminate paddling at all 101 of its schools or not, he's never going to allow it at Mae Eanes.
Schools Superintendent Harold Dodge and others have expressed concerns over school employees opening themselves up to lawsuits by paddling students. But some school board members and principals said that sometimes corporal punishment is the most effective form of discipline.
The board will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Barton Academy to consider eliminating paddling as an option to punish Mobile County's 65,000 students when they misbehave.
"In this day and time, in this sue-me-minded society, we need to cover ourselves," July said. "I think it is to our advantage not to paddle, even though some parents have told us, 'You have our permission to do so.'"
In-school and after-school detention, suspension and parent conferences are the main forms of punishment now allowed at Mae Eanes, July said. Teachers are to notify parents as soon as a child acts up. If parents want their children to be spanked, they can take the students home to do it themselves, July said.
Alabama law permits school spankings but also allows the system to abolish the practice. State law grants criminal and civil immunity to teachers who use corporal punishment, as long as they follow school policy.
Under Mobile County's current Student Code of Conduct, corporal punishment "shall be used only as a last resort after other corrective measures have failed." Students to be paddled should have it done in front of a faculty witness. The code specifies a maximum of three swats per punishment.
Parents can send a note to the school requesting that their children not be paddled. But if no such note is on file, teachers and principals can spank a student without notifying the parents.
Principals can eliminate corporal punishment as an option at their individual schools, according to Rhonda Waltman, assistant superintendent for student support services. A declining number of school paddling incidents over the past few years indicates that more and more principals are frowning upon it, she said.
During the 2001-2002 school year, about 1,000 paddlings were reported in the county. Last school year, there were about 500 recorded instances -- 360 of them at Mae Eanes.
John Lee, an assistant superintendent for Baldwin County's 24,000-student school system, said corporal punishment is administered in schools there but only after other disciplinary actions have not been effective. Last year, the system recorded 451 paddling incidents, according to a spokeswoman.
"I think that most people have learned that it really doesn't work," Lee said. "It gives students a feeling that 'I did something. I've been punished for it, and that wasn't so bad, so I'll do it again if that's the punishment.'"
Effective or abusive?
Mobile County school board member Peggy Nikolakis, a former principal at Castlen Elementary School in Grand Bay, said she prohibited corporal punishment at her school in the 1980s after several Mobile County principals were sued for alleged abuse.
Nikolakis said it was later proved in court that family members had bruised the children.
"I have a real problem with corporal punishment because of the legal ramifications," Nikolakis said. "I think our employees should call parents anytime a child gets out of control to a point where he or she needs corporal punishment. It's not the role of principals and teachers to use corporal punishment when that is something that should be done at home."
Board member David Thomas -- who has proposed another systemwide policy change that would discipline teachers who abuse a child -- said he wants to keep corporal punishment here.
"I've talked to a lot of principals. Some believe having this option helps to maintain some sort of discipline in their schools," Thomas said. "I don't want to take that option away from those principals."
But, Thomas said, he is concerned with teachers using their authority to abuse children.
Last year, a teacher at Martha Thomas Elementary School in Prichard allegedly restrained a student to a chair with a belt and duct tape. Another teacher at Craighead Elementary on Mobile's Ann Street made a student who had spilled his milk drink it off the counter, Thomas said.
"My concern is not necessarily paddling," he said. "We've seen a reduction in the number of paddlings. The employee takes a risk when paddling. My concern is abusive practices."
Thomas said many parents do not know that they can write a letter to the schools, asking them not to paddle their children. He said he would prefer that all parents be sent a form asking if they want corporal punishment used on their children.
Board member Hazel Fournier, who has argued against corporal punishment for several years, has said Alabama doesn't paddle its prisoners and that it's illegal to beat a dog. Children should be treated with the same respect, she said.
"It reinforces to the child that hitting is OK: 'I don't like what you're doing, so I will strike you,'" said Fournier, who said corporal punishment is abusive.
As a last resort
Principal Monte Tatom supports corporal punishment as a last disciplinary resort at Semmes Middle. Parents are contacted prior to a paddling, and a student can be spanked only once during the school year, he said.
"If we attempted it one time at the parent's request and the student did not change behavior, then 9 times out of 10, he's not going to change behavior if you do it again," he said.
Tatom estimated that just more than 30 of his 1,400 students were paddled last year. Usually, it was on the seventh or eighth time that the student had gotten into trouble, he said.
First, teachers assign a misbehaving student to write paragraphs or prohibit them from talking during lunch, he said. Next, a student-teacher conference or parent-teacher conference is held. Students get detention or are suspended before paddling is considered, he said.
"I don't ask a parent the question: 'Do you want us to use corporal punishment?'" Tatom said. "Normally a parent asks, 'Do you paddle?'"
Tatom said he would like the school board to keep paddling, leaving it as an option for parents.
Lonnie Parsons, school board president, agreed: "It's a better option than suspension sometimes. I don't think three days out of school does a child any good, and it inconveniences the parent."
Board member John Holland said he is not opposed to paddling in the schools if that's how parents want their children punished.
Role model for state?
Twenty-eight states have banned corporal punishment in public schools, and Pennsylvania is in the process of doing so, according to information provided by the Center for Effective Punishment, a nonprofit group that opposes school paddling.
Nadine Block, a school psychologist, former teacher and the Ohio-based center's director, said that if Mobile County, the largest school system in the state, abandoned the practice, it would be a role model for the rest of the state.
"Kids learn best in a learning situation they feel is helpful and caring and not punitive," Block said.
"When you are punitive, a child is not internalizing that they shouldn't be doing certain behaviors. They're acting out of fear," she said. "When you hit children, they're scared. They're not listening. All they're learning is that people that are bigger than them can hit them."
Statistically, she said, schools spank the same children over and over again, indicating that those children are not responding to the punishment. Minority students are paddled two to three times the rate of white students, and boys are more commonly spanked than girls, she said.
Texas accounts for 22 percent of all school paddlings in the United States. And in Mississippi, roughly one out of every 10 children is spanked by a teacher -- the highest ratio in the nation, according to information from the U.S. Department of Education.
Both the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have come out against corporal punishment in the schools. Block said most of Europe's developed countries have banned the practice.
"People have determined that corporal punishment doesn't work," she said.
Dodge, who proposed Mobile County's paddling ban, said he's not bringing the issue up Tuesday to condemn parents who spank their kids. But, he said, there's no place for corporal punishment in the schools.
Dodge, who has been in the education field for 36 years, said he gave up on corporal punishment 25 years ago.
"You have kids that act up, so you hit them with a board to make them be better?" he asked. "That seems like an oxymoron to me."
Copyright 2003 al.com. All Rights Reserved.
Mobile Register, Alabama, 27 August 2003
School board removes paddling
Superintendent says vote was a result of years of warnings about liability involved in corporal punishment
By Rena Havner
Mobile County's 65,000 students can no longer be paddled in public schools.
The Mobile County school board voted 4-1 Tuesday to eliminate corporal punishment. Only board president Lonnie Parsons was in favor of keeping it.
"I think we have moved to a higher level tonight, by saying this is a system where children will be respected," said board member Hazel Fournier, who for several years has tried to ban school spankings.
"We will not promote the idea of cruelty toward one another," she said. "We will find other methods of changing behavior."
Superintendent Harold Dodge recommended that paddling be abolished in the system's 101 schools, in part to protect the system from lawsuits. But Parsons and some principals had said that sometimes corporal punishment is the most effective form of discipline.
Though previous moves to formally ban the practice have failed to get enough support on the board, paddling has been on the decline.
During the 2002-2003 school year, there were 532 reported paddlings in Mobile County's public schools. That was down from more than 1,000 the year prior.
The school responsible for a majority of those paddlings last year -- Mae Eanes Middle, in the Maysville community -- abandoned the practice this year, according to principal Douglas July.
"The majority of our schools are opposed to it. The majority of our parents are opposed to it," said board member John Holland.
Parsons said he was disappointed in the decision. He cited paddling as a biblical way to punish children.
"We've taken the 10 Commandments out of the courthouse, God out of our schools and now paddling and discipline out of our schools," Parson said. "Paddling does have a place in our schools."
Dodge said Tuesday's vote was a result of several years of warning school officials of the liability involved in corporal punishment.
"I think our discipline will be just as good without it," he said.
Alabama law permits school spankings, but also allows the system to abolish the practice. State law grants criminal and civil immunity to teachers who use corporal punishment, as long as they follow school policy.
Until Mobile County's Student Code of Conduct was changed by the board Tuesday, corporal punishment was to be used "only as a last resort after other corrective measures have failed."
Students to be paddled were to have it done in front of a faculty witness and were to be swatted no more than three times.
Parents could send a note to the school requesting that their children not be paddled. But if no such note was on file, teachers and principals could spank a student without notifying the parents.
Principals could eliminate corporal punishment as an option at their individual schools.
There has been no major effort in Baldwin County to eliminate corporal punishment, but John Lee, assistant superintendent for that 24,000-student system, said it is being used less and less each year. Last year, the system reported 453 paddlings, almost the same as Mobile County, according to state records.
Nationally, 28 states have outlawed school paddlings and Pennsylvania is in the process of doing so. One out of every nine paddlings in the 1999-2000 school year occurred in Alabama, according to information from the U.S. Department of Education.
Copyright 2003 al.com. All Rights Reserved.
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