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Corpun file 7115 at www.corpun.com
The Houston Post, Texas, 23 February 1986
HISD ban sought
Schools inconsistent on paddling policies
By Bill Hensel Jr.
Thousands of paddlings were meted out at two middle schools in the Houston Independent School District last year, while corporal punishment was not used at four other middle schools.
A review of school district records shows a wide disparity in the number of paddlings involving HISD students.
Currently, physical punishment in the form of paddling is allowed in all district schools. Its use on a particular student is at the discretion of the student's parents. Its use at a particular school is at the discretion of the principal.
As a result, while some schools appear to use paddling extensively, others don't use it at all, records show.
For instance: In the 1984-85 school year, there were 2,147 cases of paddling at Deady Middle School and 1,890 cases at E.O Smith Middle School. Those were the only two schools at which the number of incidents topped 1,000. Of HISD's 41 middle schools, four schools did not use corporal punishment at all, while nine schools used it more than 500 times, records indicate. Most use the practice to some extent.
A proposal to abolish corporal punishment in HISD is expected to be introduced soon by trustee Herbert Melton, a former school principal.
Melton said that when he was a principal, he believed in the use of corporal punishment as a last resort but has since changed his mind.
"I did an extensive amount of research and found that in talking with guys who were incarcerated or who had just been released, to the person it (paddling) didn't have any effect on their behaviors," Melton said. "I have not found anybody yet who said they benefited by getting a spanking."
Melton plans to offer his motion knowing full well that few trustees on the nine-member board will vote in favor of its passage.
A recent study in Dade County, Fla., showed minority children are paddled more than white children. But Melton said he has not thought about such possibilities in deciding to introduce legislation.
"That has absolutely nothing to do with it," he said. "My concern is a human thing, and minorities are not the only ones who get spankings."
Melton was principal at Yates High School for seven years before serving as principal at Woodson Junior High School prior to retiring. He was elected to the board in 1983.
HISD records show that 24 of the district's 165 elementary schools do not use corporal punishment. Some others use it only a few times a year, while others use it hundreds of times. For example, three schools -- Clinton, Lamar and Peck -- all listed more than 300 paddlings for the last school year.
Deady Principal Hilbert Bludau could not be reached for comment, but Smith Principal Fred Lewis said the punishment is not used extensively.
"We are just putting down exactly what we do," in listing the number of paddlings over a year's time, said Smith, who suggested other schools may deflate their figures on the use of corporal punishment.
He said counseling is the predominant form of action taken by school officials. If corporal punishment were to be outlawed, he said the school simply would find an alternative.
At the high school level, half of the 26 schools use corporal punishment. Of those that do, Booker T. Washington - with 236 cases - and Yates - with 224 - ranked the highest.
Washington Principal F.D. Wesley said that, while paddling is permitted, "we don't use it that much and we do not use it with the young ladies at all."
Wesley added paddling "is available as a last resort."
HISD's policy on corporal punishment allows parents to check a section on the district's student enrollment card either giving or denying permission for paddling. If permission is denied and a situation arises where school officials believe it is called for, the parents must come to the school within two hours to assume responsibility for the youngster's conduct.
District officials, however, say they keep no statistics on how many parents have signed the waivers.
Other discipline options available to principals include suspensions or referral to student discipline centers.
Superintendent Billy Reagan said he does not favor a change, but believes a survey of parents and staff should be conducted if Melton follows through with his proposal.
"We've had a minimum of complaints from parents because they have the option in this matter," Reagan said. "The decision is in the hands of the parents. It is their responsibility - our policy gives them the opportunity to make a decision that is not in conflict with the procedures they use at home."
Trustee Elizabeth Spates said she would support the measure if the district does a survey of parents and it shows a majority of them are against the use of paddling.
"There are some parents who feel their children might need a little discipline" at school, she said. "But if we did a parent survey, then I could be objective about what I want to do as a board member."
Trustee Brad Raffle said that, while he is not convinced corporal punishment is an effective tool for improving discipline, he would like to see more research done before the board takes action.
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