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www.corpun.com   :  Archive   :  1997   :  US Schools Dec 1997

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UNITED STATES
School CP - December 1997



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Amarillo Globe-News, Texas, 11 December 1997

School spanking not OK by parents

By Chip Chandler
Globe-News Staff Writer

"Spare the rod and spoil the child" is becoming less of a guiding principle in area schools, administrators said on Wednesday.

"It's not as prevalent an attitude as it used to be," Panhandle Superintendent Ronnie Teichelman said.

"It seems like public sentiment seems to be getting away from (corporal punishment), although in Panhandle it's still usually supported," he said.

Most schools in Texas follow guidelines developed by the Texas Association of School Boards that allow for corporal punishment in certain instances, officials said. New Mexico schools have similar state guidelines.

Children can be spanked for serious offenses, including fighting, or for persistent misbehavior, Lefors Superintendent Tom Alvis said.

Parents in most districts are notified that the school uses corporal punishment through student handbooks and are given an opportunity to file any objection at the first of the year, officials said.

That doesn't mean corporal punishment won't be used on those students though, Alvis said.

"The handbook says we may not use corporate punishment, it doesn't say we will not use it," he said.

Recently, the mother of a sixth-grade student filed a complaint with the Lefors city marshal that Principal Ron Miller spanked her son without her permission.

Alvis said that was the only complaint about corporal punishment he's had this year. He said that "nothing has come of it."

The marshal, Rocky Stewart, could not be reached.

The mother, Jaime Thigpen, also could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. There is no telephone listing for that last name in Lefors.

Alvis said he believes that corporal punishment is "effective in some cases."

"It will deter a lot of the foolishness that will occur," he said.

But it's not used very often, he said.

Board policy allows for a variety of other punishments, including in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension and expulsion, he said.

A similar policy exists in other area schools, including Panhandle.

"We try to use it as a last resort, but it is in our policy," Superintendent Teichelman said.

"We try to use other options whenever we can," he said.

Like Lefors, Panhandle principals are allowed to use corporal punishment over the objections of parents, Teichelman said.

"I'm not saying that we're going to totally eliminate (corporal punishment) as an option with that child, but it certainly would be one of the last things we do with that child," he said.

Corporal punishment is also used in Portales, N.M., Superintendent Lucille King said.

"It's in the board policy, and we do use it. Not to excess or anything, but when necessary," she said.

Parents may file a waiver of corporal punishment at the beginning of the school year with their child's principal. The waiver request is then considered by the principal, King said.

"If we're convinced by the parent or guardian that their child should be exempt, then we'll approve it. It's usually approved," she said.

At least one area school district has outlawed corporal punishment, to some protest.

In 1995, Boys Ranch adopted a new discipline program - Systematic Training for Effective Parenting - which focuses on disciplining a child without spankings.

A Boys Ranch spokeswoman said the ranch will not bring spankings back.

"We don't use it, and we have no intention of returning to it," said spokeswoman Cathy Lexa. "There are always other options."




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Daily News, Jacksonville, North Carolina, 12 December 1997

Paddling not pursued as criminal act

By Dee Henry
Daily News Staff

An incident involving a Trexler Middle School student allegedly bruised when he was paddled will not be pursued as a criminal matter, Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said.

Brown said the parents came to his office and complained about the incident after the child was administered corporal punishment. No incident report was filed. Brown said the parents "seemed like they just wanted advice."

Brown said he referred them to the school board after they informed him that they authorized an agreement for the principal to paddle the child. He said the parents indicated they were not interested in pursuing it as a criminal matter but didn't want anything similar to happen to another child.

School Attorney Alex Erwin said he could not address the specific incident at Trexler due to student privacy laws, but said parents who feel the paddling of their child went too far have many options. Attempts to contact the parents were unsuccessful.

However, Erwin said parents may request a conference with the school's principal. If not satisfied with that discussion, the parents may use the due process appeal built into the Onslow County school's guidelines regarding punishment and request a hearing at the school with a panel of teachers and staff.

"Most people skip all that and ask for an appeal," Erwin said.

That appeal is reviewed by the school superintendent and, if he thinks the situation merits investigation, it is passed on to the school board.

The school board sets up appeal hearings every other Thursday, he said. The hearings do not necessarily involve corporal punishment, but if such a case were to arise, it would be discussed during that time.

The next step would be a place on the board's agenda for their next monthly meeting and a possible decision.

If the parents aren't satisfied with the board's decision, they have the option of taking the situation to the state Supreme Court.

"But I haven't seen one go there since I came here," said Erwin who has served the board for 10 years.

Onslow County rules regarding corporal punishment mirror state regulations. Corporal punishment has to be administered, as a last resort, by a principal, assistant principal, teacher or substitute teacher, and witnessed by a principal, assistant principal, teacher, teacher assistant, substitute teacher or student teacher. The witness must be informed of the reason for the punishment before it is administered. The punishment cannot be administered in front of other children.

Principals must instruct their teachers on an annual basis on the school's policy regarding such punishment. Parents, guardians and students must have access to the board's policy on corporal punishment at the beginning of the year and students must be informed what actions will result in corporal punishment.

The law does not require schools to get permission from the student's parent or guardian. However, Erwin said most schools impose that requirement.

However, as part of the law's procedural due process, both the child and his or her parent or guardian must be notified that corporal punishment may be used if the behavior continues. The student must be warned and given a chance to defend himself.

"Corporal punishment is not the school's choice; it's the parent's directive," he said.

In addition, corporal punishment may only be used only after other methods of getting the child to cooperate have failed.

The administering of the punishment must be documented with reasons for the punishment. Less severe punishments already tried must be listed along with the name of the witness of the punishment.

Other stipulations of the law state the child's size, age and physical condition must be considered before punishment is given.



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Daily News, Jacksonville, North Carolina, 13 December 1997

Charges possible against principal

By Francine Sawyer
Daily News Staff

The fate of criminal charges against an Onslow County school principal is in the hands of a magistrate.

An incident involving a Trexler Middle School student who was allegedly bruised when he was paddled by Principal James Rivenbark, might now be pursued as a criminal matter. Earlier, Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown had advised the parents of the child to work the matter out through the school system.

But Robert Turner, the boy's father, was unhappy with the response and returned to the sheriff's department for help. Turner said his son suffered deep bruises on his leg and buttocks after the paddling, which took place earlier this week.

Turner said he spoke with Onslow County detective Pam Sanders on Thursday afternoon. Sanders then met with Onslow County Assistant District Attorney Troy Peters. Peters recommended Friday afternoon that warrants be issued for assaulting a child under the age of 12 and misdemeanor child abuse.

"However, it will be up to the magistrates to decide if there is probable cause to draw criminal warrants against the principal," Peters said.

Onslow County School officials have not commented on the specifics on the case, but board attorney E. Alex Erwin III said Friday that he checked into the situation with the magistrate's office, Sanders and Peters.

"No charges have been filed as of yet. That doesn't mean that they will not be made tomorrow or next week or never," he said.

Brown referred the Turners to the Board of Education after they informed him that they authorized an agreement for the principal to paddle the child.

But Turner said the bruises were serious and above what he believes is correct punishment.

"We did give permission but we didn't give permission to break the law," Turner said.

Turner also questioned whether corporal punishment was justified in his son's case. School officials have said that such punishment is only used as a last resort.

"This was not a last resort kind of thing. Our son had only been in trouble twice," Turner said. "The school went straight to corporal punishment."



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Daily News, Jacksonville, North Carolina, 18 December 1997

Principal won't face charges

By Dee Henry
Daily News Staff

A criminal warrant in the case involving the paddling of a Trexler Middle School student will not be issued, an Onslow County magistrate ruled.

Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said the evidence connected with the case was presented to an Onslow County magistrate, who decided not to take the matter any further.

"(The magistrate) reviewed the case and the evidence and determined that probable cause did not exist to issue an warrant," Brown said.

The incident, which occurred last week, allegedly left bruises on the child's leg and buttocks. The parents went to Brown who, after learning the parents had authorized an agreement for the principal to paddle the child, suggested they work it out through the school system.

Brown also said the parents were concerned about the same thing happening to other children.

Robert Turner, the child's father, said he was unhappy with the school system's response and returned to the sheriff's department.

Turner said in a Dec. 13 Daily News article that he spoke with Onslow County detective Pam Sanders Dec. 11. Sanders then met with Onslow County Assistant District Attorney Troy Peters, who recommended that warrants be issued for assaulting a child under the age of 12 and misdemeanor child abuse.

Turner said he also questioned whether corporal punishment was justified in his son's case, as he had only been in trouble at the school twice.

According to the school system's policy, corporal punishment is only a last resort.

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