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www.corpun.com   :  Archive   :  2004   :  US Schools Jun 2004

-- THE ARCHIVE --


UNITED STATES

School CP - June 2004



Corpun file 13459

masthead
Cincinnati Enquirer, Ohio, 1 June 2004

Where discipline stings

In Brown, Adams counties, punishment is more than words

By Meagan Pollnow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Corporal punishment has fallen from favor or is banned in most Ohio school districts, but in Brown and Adams counties, old-fashioned values have kept the practice alive in some schools.

Two districts in those counties ranked second and third for the most paddlings in Ohio, according to data compiled for the 2002-03 school year.

Eighty-three paddlings involving 70 students were reported in the Western Brown Local District in Brown County. It was the second highest number of paddlings among all Ohio districts that allow corporal punishment.

Seventy-nine paddlings involving 76 students were reported in the Adams County/Ohio Valley Local district, up from 65 in the previous school year when the district first instituted the policy, according to Linda Stepp, state and federal coordinator for the district.

The only other Greater Cincinnati district to report a student paddling for that school year was Franklin, in Warren County. Only one paddling occurred there.

"It is an acceptable form of punishment," Stepp said. "Obviously the fact that parents have to give permission, gives some indication of their feelings."

Nadine Block, director of the Center for Effective Discipline, said 28 states have banned corporal punishment, and she would like to see Ohio do the same.

"Ohio needs to end corporal punishment in public schools," Block said. "Kids are afraid to go to school and hate school.

"There's no research to support corporal punishment," she added.

The National Education Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Bar Association all oppose corporal punishment.

All states east of Ohio have banned paddling, but the practice continues in other states such as Texas, Florida and Tennessee, according to Block.

To administer corporal punishment, or paddling, the parents must fill out a consent form, according to Western Brown Superintendent Jeffery Royalty. School administrators must have another official present when paddling students.

Royalty said paddling has been an accepted form of punishment in schools and homes for many years in his area.

"We're in a rural district, I guess you might say there are some old-fashioned values," Royalty said. "This may be a carryover of that."

Roy Hill, superintendent at the Fayetteville-Perry Local School District in Brown County, where 23 paddlings occurred last year, said the decision to paddle students is left up to parents.

"I think that the folks here prefer a more traditional method of discipline but we have lots of other methods (of discipline) in our tool box," Hill said. "I'm sure there is a group out there opposed to it, but we give our parents the chance to opt out of it."

Corporal punishment is allowed in Kentucky, but no paddlings were reported in Boone, Kenton and Campbell county school districts the past three years, according to the state education department.

Paddling still used

These Ohio school districts reported administering at least 20 paddlings to students during the 2002-03 school year:

Western Local (Pike County): 156

Western Brown Local (Brown County): 83

Adams County/Ohio Valley Local: 79

South Point Local (Lawrence County): 74

Canton City: 42

Morgan Local (Morgan County): 27

Fayetteville-Perry (Brown County): 23

Bloom-Vernon Local Schools (Scioto County): 21

Source: Center for Effective Discipline

Copyright 1995-2004. The Cincinnati Enquirer, a Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper.




Corpun file 13621

Canton Repository, Ohio, 1 June 2004

Students, parents want more discipline at school


Repository photos by Scott Heckel

CLASS IN SESSION. Fifth-grade students in Kathy Kisha-Wise's class at Mason School display good behavior by raising their hands to answer questions and quietly completing a reading assignment.

By VERONICA VAN DRESS
Repository education writer

CANTON -- Teachers spend too much classroom time yelling at students to behave.

So said a group of fourth-grade boys, working on class assignments in the hallway of Mason School a few weeks ago.

The problem is "attitudes," said Michael Hudson. His classmates, Travis Haidet, Jestyn Standard and Gary Koehler agreed.

To the boys, lack of respect among schoolchildren may be the No. 1 discipline problem -- not just at Mason, but at most schools.

"Kids argue and we can't get our work done," said Michael.

Kids quarrel over books or pencils, friendships, their belongings and on the playground, the boys said.

And they can hurl verbal insults with brute force.

"If I play with one and not another, they ditch me," Gary said. "They say, 'Go back to your trash can.'"

"They try to act cool so they get into trouble," added Travis. "I think that means they don't care."

"They think they can boss you," noted Jestyn. "I think they just want attention."

The boys figure the discipline problems are nothing that a good old-fashioned paddling wouldn't cure. They're frustrated that sometimes a whole class loses privileges when one or two students misbehave.

But they don't blame teachers or administrators. They point the finger directly at their peers.

"If they act that bad, maybe they don't get consequences at home. That's what I'm thinking," said Gary.

If Jestyn gets in trouble at school, "I get it twice as bad when I get home," he said.

In addition to paddling, parents use tools such as no TV, phone or video games, grounding, and added chores to teach their children discipline. The boys say if it works at home, then it should work at school.

Setting policy

Some parents believe that Canton City School District needs a policy outlining specific punishments for certain behaviors. Children, they say, would know what to expect and perhaps make better choices.

Dawn Baker, who has two children at Mason, said this is the first year she's noticed a disturbing lack of discipline at the northwest Canton school.

"They're not learning because of all the chaos in the classroom," said Baker. "The handbook doesn't spell out, 'If you misbehave, then this is the consequence.' There's nothing for anyone to follow."

But discipline isn't that cut and dried, said Marva Kay Jones, head of elementary supervision for the district.

"There are many steps of progressive discipline for elementary students," she said. "You can't look at kids en masse. It has to be personal and handled on a case-by-case basis."

A district student conduct code addresses the behaviors that warrant expulsion -- weapons, drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

But teachers at all grade levels work within board policy to develop individual classroom rules, according to Jones. Bigger discipline problems, she said, such as throwing books or tipping desks, would send a child to the principal's office. And each building principal develops his or her own policy for discipline.

Using the paddle

Though paddling is allowed by board policy, few principals use it. Those who do say it's done sparingly and only with a parent's permission.

"I don't have a problem with corporal punishment," said Allen School Principal Stephanie Patrick. "It's part of our culture" for both black and white Americans.

But, said the 24-year principal, she uses the method strictly as a last resort. Patrick believes in counseling students first and works with them on relationship-building skills.

"Personally, I would rather give a student a swat than to constantly suspend the student from school; however, I am fully aware that corporal punishment is not appropriate for all students, especially in consideration of a student's diverse background and environment."

The key to effective discipline, said Patrick, is consistency.

Other principals refuse to paddle, saying the liability concerns outweigh its effectiveness; or that such punishment reinforces violence.

Parental involvement

Families get the district's conduct code and building policies at the beginning of each school year. Student handbooks also are provided. Still, some parents say it's not enough.

Baker and others who spoke at recent Board of Education meetings say a more rigid policy -- one that spells out the punishment for each wrong action -- should be developed.

Laura Simon, whose fifth-grade daughter attends Mason, said during class some students disrupt lessons by yelling out, throwing books or refusing to stay seated and quiet at the appropriate times. One student, she reported, went so far as to push a teacher and was suspended for three days.

"My point is: Why is there an option? Attack a teacher and there should be (standard) punishments," she said.

Handling bad behavior exhausts teachers, said Simon.

"There needs to be a more specific policy that teachers and principals can enforce," she said. "If parents are inconvenienced by detentions, they'll crack down on their kids and discipline will improve."

Jim Irvin, director of middle schools, agrees with the Mason youngsters that disrespect, both for people and things, is the disciplinary challenge schools face.

"I don't think the types of behavior are new. But attitudes and respect are not what they used to be." Irvin said. "In general, most schools are not getting the support from families."

Many times, Irvin said, attempts to reach parents to discuss behavior fail because parents are not available or have changed phone numbers without reporting the new number to the school.

"We really go out of our way to involve parents as much as possible," Irvin said.

But communication breakdowns between home and school hinder progress. And Irvin, like Jones, says it's better to teach children how to make good choices and to understand that they'll be held accountable for their actions, than to create a one-size-fits-all policy.

No Child Left Behind

Mason School began using a Peace Builders program to combat discipline problems two years ago, according to Principal Linda Heinzer. The weekly lessons, she explained, encourage children to avoid put-downs and to "right wrongs."

"We talk about Peace Builders every day," she said.

"And yet we never find it," came the observation from young Gary.

His teacher, Monica Harold, has about 26 students in each of her classes. Early in her 24-year career she taught at St. Joan of Arc, and then moved to public schools when she got a job at Baxter School.

Disciplining students comes with the territory, she says, no matter the school system.

"The problems were the same," said Harold. "The biggest one was getting kids to turn in their homework. There was also verbal fighting, mostly on the playground."

Yet, this year in particular, Harold has noticed heightened behavior problems.

No Child Left Behind may be partly to blame.

The federal education reform act allows students from poor-performing schools to attend higher-achieving schools within a district.

"It adds different children to the equation," said Heinzer. "A new student may cause disruption because (he or she) wants attention or is trying to make friends."

Switching schools creates some chaos, Patrick agreed.

"There is more pressure on teachers, students and schools," she said. "Kids are being moved around and that causes a lot of confusion."

Bigger, more complicated classes

Together, Linda Sumser and Louise Gagnon have 64 years' experience as educators. Both agree that behavior has been negatively impacted by No Child Left Behind. That's in part because it limits the number of special-education students that schools can exclude from proficiency tests and other assessments.

Schools that fail to perform well enough on those tests for two consecutive years are labeled "failing" and may lose students to schools with better scores.

Because more special-education students must take those tests, schools are moving more special-education students -- including those with behavioral problems -- into regular classrooms for instruction.

"The law says full inclusion," said Sumser. "The students are in class together for longer periods of time."

Budget cuts have further complicated matters, say the pair, because, in some cases, teachers have more students per class.

Gagnon believes discipline policies must remain as flexible as students are diverse.

"We get a different group each year," she said. "We need to deal with them on an individual basis. Most of the time, with parental support, we can take a negative behavior and channel it in the right direction."

The teachers say they must understand why a child is misbehaving in order to administer effective discipline. For example, Sumser explained, some students act out if they are having a hard time academically. In that case, she said, a tutor may help more than a timeout.

The boys at Mason have their own suggestions.

"They should have a bad room and a good room," offered Gary. "That way the bad kids would be (separated) and still be in school."

"Maybe we need an extra adult in class," said Michael. "One could be for disciplining and one for teaching."

SCHOOL DISCIPLINE FACTS

Fast facts about corporal punishment in schools:

• Three of Stark County's 17 public school districts allow paddling in schools. They are: Canton City, Northwest Local and Minerva Local. All three districts say that it's used sparingly and with parental consent.

• Canton City Schools administered 42 paddlings last year to 33 students.

• 28 states and the District of Columbia have banned corporal punishment in schools; 13 states explicitly allow it.

• Pennsylvania is expected to ban corporal punishment this year.

• In Ohio, more than half of all students are in school districts with no corporal punishment.

• 28 public school districts in Ohio paddled 481 students during 2002-03.

• During the 1999-2000 school year, 1,085 students in Ohio were hit, which is 0.1 percent of the total students in the state.

• Western Local Schools in Latham administered 23 percent of all paddlings in Ohio public schools last year. The district, with an enrollment of 856, gave 156 paddlings to 90 students.

• Proportionately, in the U.S., black students are more likely to be paddled than white students.

• More than 50 national organizations favor abolishing corporal punishment in schools including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Bar Association, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Association of State Boards of Education.

Sources: Stark County schools, Center for Effective Discipline, and the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools.

2004 The Repository




Corpun file 13622

Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, Indiana, 1 June 2004

Stay the rod

Swear off corporal punishment in schools in favor of other discipline

By Bob Caylor
of The News-Sentinel

Yet another Indiana school system has sworn off striking children as a way to enforce good behavior. That ought to be an unmistakable clue for Hoosier legislators that the time has come -- in fact, the time is long overdue -- to ban corporal punishment in schools.

Indianapolis Public Schools last week voted to ban corporal punishment. In the case of the Indianapolis schools, the move came only after a small scandal was triggered by two teachers who appeared to have gone overboard in paddling elementary school children. They spanked six 9-year-olds, one of whom went to a hospital because of bruises and swelling suffered in the paddling.

The teachers' actions were investigated by the school system. They were cleared of any wrongdoing, and they have returned to their jobs. But finally the public schools of the state's capital city took note and pushed the school board to ban corporal punishment.

This is one area in which Allen County schools are well ahead of the curve in Indiana.

The Fort Wayne Community Schools board banned paddling in 1988. East Allen County Schools and Southwest Allen County Schools followed suit a year later. Fifteen years later, all four public schools, plus the county's Catholic schools, prohibit corporal punishment.

Doug Coutts, chief operations officer for FWCS, said the most important reason to ban paddling is simple, if a bit surprising to some people: "It doesn't work. It's not a deterrent. Students who did the kind of things that in the old days would result in corporal punishment would wear it like a badge of honor."

In other words, what was a punishment in the eyes of teachers and principals could become a status symbol among troublemakers.

That's not the only strike against hitting schoolchildren as a means of discipline.

Paddling children in school runs directly counter to the models schools try to establish for helping kids iron out conflicts. Instead of talking through problems and negotiating solutions, paddling skips right to hitting. If one child did such a thing to another, he would be breaking one of the most serious rules in any school.

And, Coutts noted, when striking children with a wooden board is part of a school's established framework of discipline, it opens the door to teachers getting carried away and administering genuinely abusive blows that don't just sting, but actually injure children.

Without spanking, discipline is much more time-consuming and elaborate. At FWCS, misbehavior that doesn't stop with ordinary reprimands in class become the work of Intervention Assistance Teams. If their efforts to develop strategies for correcting misbehavior don't work, the school can move to suspend or expel a student.

In Coutts' experience, adults who pine for the return of spanking are rarely educators. Most argue from a kind of nostalgic recollection of being straightened out by a paddling at some point in their schooling. But that one-strike-and-you-straighten-up story doesn't jibe with educators' experience. And think back to the kids you knew in school who were paddled dozens of times. Did the repeated seat-heatings they endured straighten them out? How few kids were paddled once -- just once -- in school?

There are some anti-spanking absolutists who argue that all spanking, anywhere, ought to be illegal, even parents' spanking their own children. We wouldn't endorse that. We know too many parents who spank who are responsible, level-headed, loving parents. But the authority and discretion to strike a child for correction should not extend beyond the family. That authority should not be passed off to teachers when children get off their buses in the morning.

A majority of states now prohibit spanking in public schools. Indiana ought to follow those states' lead, and the example of some of its largest schools systems, in making spanking a relic of the past.



Corpun file 14676

South Bend Tribune, Indiana, 7 June 2004

Teacher's paddle gathers dust

Corporal punishment may be legal in Indiana, but most area schools phased it out years ago

By Michael Wanbaugh
Tribune Staff Writer

When Joan Raymond was superintendent of the Houston Independent School District in the late 1980s, she battled to outlaw corporal punishment in its schools.

When the dust cleared, schools there were allowed to either accept or reject the district's condoning the practice.

Since becoming the superintendent for South Bend schools in 2000, Raymond says she hasn't had to worry about corporal punishment, even though Indiana is one of 22 states that still allows it in its public schools.

"I fought long and hard against corporal punishment when I was in Houston," Raymond said. "I am unequivocally opposed to corporal punishment in the school. I do support corporal punishment in the home, where it belongs."

Last week, the issue of corporal punishment garnered statewide attention when the board of Indianapolis Public Schools abolished the practice from its policy.

This action came a couple of months after two teachers were suspended for paddling six 9-year-old boys. One of the boys was treated at a hospital for bruises and swelling.

Both teachers were cleared of any negligence and have returned to work.

Photo Illustration/SHELBY SAPUSEK

Since the issue of corporal punishment has not come up during her tenure here, Raymond assumed corporal punishment was prohibited by board policy.

Although there is not a specific policy item prohibiting paddling, the issue has been moot for more than a decade.

According to Richard Beeching, executive director of South Bend's National Education Association, corporal punishment has specifically been prohibited by the teachers contract since 1991.

"Discipline was a big issue back in that particular contract year," Beeching said. "Prior to that contract, teachers were allowed to administer corporal punishment."

Procedures did exist. For instance, students could not be struck in the face or head and could not be paddled in the presence of their peers.

Myrtle Wilson, South Bend schools' deputy superintendent for compliance and equity, was part of the administration's negotiating team in 1991. She was principal at Darden Elementary School at the time.

"(Corporal punishment) was already being phased out when we started those negotiations," Wilson said. "What we did was implement an in-school detention as an alternative."

Before the contract talks, Wilson said she knew of only one incident in the previous four years at her school that involved its use.

As a result of the new contract, the administration developed a student code of conduct and organized a student disciplinary committee.

"That was important," Beeching said. "Without the leverage (of corporal punishment), teachers needed that kind of commitment from the administration."

RAYMOND

Tribune Photo/SANTIAGO FLORES

So, instead of resorting to paddling, teachers were instructed by the contract to refer problem students to the disciplinary committee for review.

Wilson said the administration was glad to see corporal punishment go. The concern was that paddlings would be administered unfairly.

Beeching said that by 1991, the practice of corporal punishment presented more potential harm than good.

"First of all, the liability of administering corporal punishment is sky high," Beeching said. "There are also philosophical concerns."

The current South Bend schools' policy manual states that any staff member has the authority to "take any action that is reasonably necessary to carry out or to prevent an interference with an educational function that the person supervises."

The school board is in the process of updating its policy manual. It is likely the board will follow the lead of other area school corporations and specifically outlaw corporal punishment.

This has been the case at both School City of Mishawaka and Penn-Harris-Madison.

Shirley Ross, communications director for School City of Mishawaka, said the corporation had an unwritten policy against spanking for about a decade.

It was made official last year when the corporation updated its policy manual.

"While recognizing that students may require disciplinary action in various forms, the school board cannot condone the use of unreasonable force and fear as an appropriate procedure in student discipline," the policy reads. "Professional staff should not find it necessary to resort to physical force or violence to compel obedience."

The policy does make exceptions for a physical response by teachers in extreme circumstances, such as self-defense or disarming a student.

At the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp., corporal punishment was officially prohibited in 2001. But like Mishawaka schools, it was not practiced for many years, said Teresa Carroll, the corporation's director of communications.

In Marshall County, however, some schools still reserve the right to use the paddle.

"We have no policy that prevents the use of corporal punishment," said John Hill, superintendent of Plymouth schools. "It's used as a last resort and it is used sparingly."

At Argos Elementary School, corporal punishment is used, but minimally, according to elementary Principal Ron Leichty.

Under that policy, a witness must be present and a disciplinary report must be filed. Leichty, who said that sometimes parents request that their child be "paddled," also said he always contacts a parent before the punishment.

"I always check before (paddling a child), which seems acceptable to our community," Leichty said.

On the other hand, Triton schools are phasing out the practice.

"Next year it is in our elementary handbook that we will not be paddling children," said Superintendent Ted Chittum. "It was used in elementary school, but always as one last method."

Chittum cited elementary Principal Tom Bowers as one of the proponents of the change.

"(He) just felt as a staff and as an educational leader, he should provide other alternatives."

Staff writers Heather Thomas and Heather Van Hoegarden contributed to this report.




Corpun file 13680

logo
WMC-TV5 on line, Memphis, Tennessee, 8 June 2004

Parents will soon get their say on corporal punishment in city schools

Posted by George Metaxas

Memphis parents will soon get their say on corporal punishment in city schools. Several recent incidents have put the controversial subject back in the spotlight. Corporal punishment is only supposed to be used in serious violations of school conduct and must follow certain protocols. But the superintendent and parents say that's not happening, so either it goes or gets a major overhaul.

Hamilton High coach Ted Anderson will be severely disciplined after reports he paddled basketball players for not playing up to standard. Superintendent Carol Johnson says more district employees could be headed down the same path. Johnson said, "I don't believe Mr. Anderson is the only coach that has violated this policy, as least by the feedback I have received." Johnson is calling for a public hearing on the corporal punishment subject and she's not alone. Deni Hirsch, School Board member said, "We have to make very specific instructions to our administrators what is appropriate." School board members say they hear complaints that board policy on corporal punishment is not being followed. For example, punishment is supposed to be administered by or in-front of a school administrator, with a witness and only for items such as discipline.

Parents we spoke with are against corporal punishment in schools. Parent Amy Mulroy said, "I think they can get their points across in better ways that will teach the children violence is not the answer to problems in the world and the schools." Parent Katie Gray said, "Kids today, paddling don't mean nothing to them. They hurt for that moment then they back doing the same thing." Administrators vow something must and will be done whether it's a clarification of the policy or a total change of policy.

A national group is in the process of reviewing the districts policy. In the last few hours Action News 5 has learned coach Ted Anderson did not know he was suspended or being transferred until he watched Action News 5 Monday night. A school spokesperson said it was unfortunate that he was not notified but he did know action was coming.

All content Copyright 2000 - 2004 WorldNow and WMCTV, a Raycom Media station. All Rights Reserved.



Corpun file 13653

masthead
Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 23 June 2004

Meeting airs debate over paddling in schools

By Ruma Banerji Kumar

It's been 35 years since Happy Jones last asked the school board to stop what she calls an "abusive practice."

In 1969, she pleaded with the board to accept federal funds to provide free meals to poor children. Needy kids were sitting hungry in cafeterias because there was no funding set aside to feed them.

Tuesday, she stood before the board and asked them to stop the paddling.

"We all know violence begets violence," she said at a community forum on corporal punishment. "Please stop this antiquated, barbaric practice."

An estimated 200 people crowded school district headquarters Tuesday evening, including parents, educators, child behavior experts and community leaders sharply split over the use of corporal punishment.

Memphis City Schools' policy on corporal punishment doesn't specify what actions warrant paddling. It does say that paddling should only be used as a last resort and that only a principal, acting principal, assistant principal or teacher may paddle.

However, recent data from the district show that schools violated the policy by allowing teaching assistants, substitute teachers and others to paddle students.

Parent Theoric Washington asked the board to keep paddling in schools. He's heard stories from his three children of rowdy classmates and frustrated teachers struggling to keep order in class.

"If you remove paddling as an option, you will leave teachers fighting an uphill battle they are doomed to fail," Washington said. "Do not take away an option that many parents feel is needed to instill order in the classroom."

Board members are soon expected to draft a resolution that either modifies the current policy or does away with school paddling altogether.

Numbers that show black males and middle schoolers are disproportionately paddled are fueling the debate, and so are news reports of abusive discipline like that of Hamilton High basketball players paddled for missing shots.

Data from the 2003-2004 school year showed 13,804 students were paddled. Nearly 98 percent of those were black, and 73 percent were male in a district that's only 88 percent black and 50 percent male. Over half were in grades 6-8.

The data also revealed schools arbitrarily paddled and frequently violated board guidelines for appropriate use of corporal punishment.

For instance, more than 1,600 children were paddled for cutting classes and 200 children were paddled for dress code violations. School board policy doesn't allow corporal punishment for such infractions, officials said.

Supt. Carol Johnson is a vocal opponent of corporal punishment.

A majority of the school board appears to support a modified corporal punishment policy, but many members are cautious to speak against paddling outright. Only board member Lora Jobe, who led a drive to abolish paddling in 1997, has said she supports banning paddling.

Copyright 2004, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.



blob Follow-up: 22 July 2004 - City schools to ask parents about spanking


Corpun file 13647

Dayton Daily News, Ohio, 26 June 2004

State may ease paddling rules

Bill would remove threat of lawsuits

By Laura A. Bischoff
Dayton Daily News

COLUMBUS -- Teachers, principals and other school workers would be allowed to paddle, isolate and otherwise discipline students without the fear of being sued by angry parents, if pending legislation becomes law in Ohio.

The Ohio House has already voted, 81-18, in favor of a bill sponsored by state Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina. This fall, the Senate will consider the measure.

The bill would grant civil immunity to anyone working in a public or private school for disciplining students as long as the discipline doesn't rise to the level of child endangerment or abuse.

The bill has the support of the Ohio Education Association, but is opposed by a long line of parent groups, child advocates and others, including the Ohio PTA, Ohio School Psychologists Association, Action Ohio Coalition for Battered Women, Prevent Child Abuse Ohio, Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies, and the ACLU of Ohio.

Twenty-eight states ban corporal punishment in schools. Ohio leaves it up to the local district. The state passed a law in 1993 banning corporal punishment unless school districts go through a number of votes to keep it. Just 26 of Ohio's 617 school districts permit corporal punishment.

In those districts, fewer than 500 students were hit in 2001-02 compared with 68,000 hit in Ohio public schools in 1983-84, according to the Center for Effective Discipline Inc., a Columbus-based nonprofit opposed to corporal punishment at home and school.

Nadine Block, a former school psychologist and the director of the Center for Effective Discipline, said the fear of lawsuits led most school districts to ban corporal punishment so granting civil immunity would lead some teachers and school boards to want to return to paddling.

Districts would still need to approve corporal punishment policies. But even without a policy, teachers could not be sued by parents or students for physical or other discipline -- short of child endangerment -- if the Faber bill becomes law.

Thomas Lasley, the University of Dayton's dean of Education and Allied Professions, said the bill, while on its surface looks like a good solution to unruly classrooms, could invite more problems.

"Most teachers act responsibly but you'd have some who would say, 'Hey, I can do what I want,'" Lasley said. Instead of giving teachers more power and latitude, they need to be taught how to better handle misbehavior, he said.

Northmont High School language arts and Spanish teacher Dawn Wojcik sees the bill differently. "This is not a law that gives teachers greater license; it gives them more protection," she said.

Faber said the bill has nothing to do with paddling, and that corporal punishment opponents are using the legislation to draw attention to their cause.

Block said if it's not a pro-paddling bill, why wouldn't lawmakers exempt corporal punishment from actions that get civil immunity.

Faber said a recent Harris Interactive poll showed 80 percent of teachers engage in "defensive teaching" to avoid lawsuits. Teachers aren't taking disciplinary action even when they think it's merited, he said. This makes it more difficult to maintain order and compromises education quality, Faber said.

He decided to offer the bill when a speech and drama teacher, fearing she would be sued, wanted to hire him as her attorney. Faber said the teacher kicked a student out of class for heckling classmates and the parents threatened to sue. A lawsuit was never filed.

"Certainly there is the ongoing specter of people saying they are contacting an attorney and looking into legal recourse. That's there," said Centerville Superintendent Frank DePalma. But, he said, no one has followed through with a lawsuit about student discipline in recent memory in the 8,000-student district.

"It's just difficult to measure that classroom teachers and principals refrain (on discipline) because of the fear of a frivolous suit will come of it," he said.

Jim Sommer, a retired elementary teacher in Versailles, said teachers are routinely threatened with lawsuits and need some sort of leverage with students. Unruly students take away instruction time from other children, he said.

Sommer said he used corporal punishment early in his 35-year teaching career.

"It got the attention of the student. I'm not saying you have to beat the child but a hand on the seat gets attention," he said. Civil immunity would not apply if the discipline amounted to child endangerment, which is defined as discipline or physical restraint that is cruel or prolonged under the circumstances and poses a substantial risk of serious physical harm or impaired mental health or development, the bill says.

"Child endangerment -- that's still off limits. The children are still being protected but it gives the teachers and administrators some leeway in how they handle discipline," said Sommer, who testified in support of the bill.

Faber said a paddle print on a child's buttock probably wouldn't qualify as child endangerment but a broken arm might.

Block said physical discipline is undefined in the bill so it's unclear if tying kids to chairs, locking them in closets or washing their mouths with soap would be permitted. Also, Faber's bill applies to anyone working in a school, said Block, who saw paddling injuries while working at a pediatric hospital.

"Most teachers don't try to injure kids. But there are always a few. So when you have a law that gives such wide immunity to everybody with no descriptions of who can use it, no descriptions of what the limits are, that creates an atmosphere where bad things can happen," Block said.



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