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Associated Press, 2 September 1999
DA drops students' complaints after being paddled
By Renee Ruble
TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Chouteau Superintendent John Phillips says he is sure when he has left his mark on a child.
But that doesn't mean he enjoys it. A pair of extra-large sweatpants are kept in the principal's office at Chouteau Public Schools to offer students a little extra padding before punishment. But when the half-inch thick, foot-long paddle swings into action, it's hard to avoid some discomfort. "Corporal punishment is actually more of an embarrassment," Phillips said.
This week, prosecutors decided not to file charges against Chouteau's middle school principal after two students complained their swats were too harsh, causing bruises.
"I felt the principal acted within school board policy and didn't see there was excessive force used," said Charles Ramsey, Mayes County assistant district attorney. "This wasn't inflicted on the students without a choice."
The girls chose to be swatted once in front of a certified witness instead of receiving detention. Each student has the choice of alternative punishment before being swatted, Phillips said. "The paddle is probably used about once a week," he said.
Ramsey said he gets about two to three complaints a school year from his district involving corporal punishment. He couldn't recall any cases that resulted in prosecution. Statewide, more than 100 -- or about one-fourth -- of Oklahoma school districts have a corporal punishment policy, said Shelly Hickman, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.
Several public school districts surrounding Chouteau have some form of corporal punishment policy including Kansas, Pryor, Oologah-Talala, Oak Grove and Lone Grove. Most of the schools require parental notification and consent.
Tulsa and Oklahoma City public schools do not permit corporal punishment. The decision to permit paddling is left to each school district, Ms. Hickman said.
"We do not endorse or condemn corporal punishment," she said. "We provide districts with information about alternative punishments and tell them about potential legal ramifications of using corporal punishment."
Phillips said corporal punishment is an effective form of punishment, but not an enjoyable one. "It used to be an easy answer to everything," he said. "In my 29 years, I'm sure I've left my mark on a child. But, I don't know anyone that enjoys paddling somebody."
The Blade, Toledo, Ohio, 11 September 1999
Warren parents push for principal's removal
By Clyde Hughes
About 10 members of the African-American Parents Association and the Warren Elementary community called again for the removal of the school's principal during a demonstration yesterday morning at the school building.
Helen Sallee, principal at Warren, 124 East Woodruff Ave., who is a longtime Toledo Public Schools employee, has been pressured by the association to resign since last spring, when she was disciplined by the district for spanking pupils and using other forms of corporal punishment.
The protesters held up yellow, handwritten signs to passing motorists and pedestrians for two hours after school began. Some protesters were upset that a copy of a petition the association gave the school district last week asking for Ms. Sallee's removal was given to Ms. Sallee.
They said Ms. Sallee has been calling parents at home harassing them. Scott School Improvement Leader Stanley Woody said he gave Ms. Sallee a copy of the petition and acknowledged she had called some parents on the list, but it was to find out specific complaints so they could be discussed.
"I've talked to some of the parents she talked with, and no one told me they were harassed," Mr. Woody said. "It was a public petition. I don't see the problem in letting her have it."
Mr. Woody stopped at the school during the protest and invited the group into the school.
"We don't want to go in," one of the protesters said. "We already know what's going on in there. That's why we're out here."
Mr. Woody, who recommended that Ms. Sallee be fired last spring for breaking the school's corporal punishment ban, said the school district made the decision to keep her at Warren and there are no plans to move her.
He said Cathy Johnson the principal at Franklin Elementary, has been assigned to be Ms. Sallee's mentor. Ms. Johnson will meet Ms. Sallee on a regular basis to focus on specific goals, including attendance, grades, and parent involvement.
"She went through the system and the decision was made," Mr. Woody said. "We have to abide by that. She has a mentor now and she will be going through all aspects of the school with Ms. Sallee."
Last April, the district held a disciplinary hearing for Ms. Sallee during which Mr. Woody reported that she went to the homes of two pupils in December and spanked them with the permission of the parents.
Mr. Woody said he discovered other forms of corporal punishment at the school that included running stairs, doing squats, and taking away lunches for bad behavior. A hearing officer recommended a meeting with deputy superintendent Richard Daoust to possibly move Ms. Sallee to another position, but Mr. Daoust chose to leave her at the school.
Catherine Zeze said she took her three grandchildren out of Warren Elementary and enrolled them into Cathedral Christian School in Sylvania because Ms. Sallee remains at Warren.
"They came here from Newbury [Elementary] in 1996 and they were fine," Ms. Zeze said. "All of the sudden, instead of excelling, they all started to decline. It's time for them to move her out of the school."
Jackie Coachman has a son at Warren but she said he is afraid to attend school because of Ms. Sallee. Ms. Coachman said her son has been to school one day this semester and she is planning to transfer him.
She said Ms. Sallee never took complaints by her or her son seriously.
Ms. Sallee said she is concentrating too much on the school year to worry about the protestors. She said if any parents have a problem, she is willing to talk with them.
"I have an open-door policy," Ms. Sallee said. "In fact, it's been that way since I was a teacher. I want to hear about the parents' concerns. I don't want to concentrate on the negative."
Charles Brown president of the African-American Parents Association, said the group will continue to pressure the school district to remove Ms. Sallee from Warren. Mr. Brown said he doesn't want to see her fired, but removed from a position in which she is in charge of pupils.
The Blade, Toledo, Ohio, 13 September 1999
Reassign Warren principal
Members of a black parents' association want Warren Elementary School principal Helen Sallee removed from the school and away from school children. The parent group is compassionate in seeking her reassignment, not her dismissal, and that is the best move the school district could make.
On two occasions last winter, Ms. Sallee and a hall monitor went to the homes of students to spank them, evidently with permission of the parents and one grandparent. That goes beyond the scope of her authority, especially because corporal punishment is no longer allowed.
At a disciplinary hearing in April, Scott School Improvement Leader Stanley Woody recommended that the principal be fired, while hearing officer Joanne Koch urged that she be reassigned.
Neither happened. Instead, Deputy Superintendent Richard Daoust decided that Ms. Sallee would remain at Warren and that a mentor would check on her performance regularly. That's not good enough, an opinion shared by parents at the school. More than 100 of them signed a petition circulated by the African-American Parents Association seeking removal of the black principal.
TPS abolished corporal punishment in 1993, and yet in March, 1994, Ms. Sallee was disciplined for using corporal punishment when she was assistant principal at King Elementary School. Furthermore, a parent has complained that students at Warren have been punished by making them walk up and down stairs, squat repeatedly, eat lunch while standing, and to lie on their backs while holding their hands in the air.
In some cases, school children's behavior requires severe consequences, but the penalties must be in accordance with school policies. Ms. Sallee went to the children's homes in an attempt to circumvent the no-corporal-punishment edict.
Ms. Sallee is a tough disciplinarian, and schools need tough disciplinarians. But they must follow rules and use good judgment. She should be reassigned to another job in the school district, one that will not put her in contact with children. TPS must be allowed to run its schools, but in this case, the Warren parents are right.
© 1999, The Blade, All Rights Reserved.
The Huntsville Times, Alabama, 22 September 1999
City schools blaze new trail in area with no-spanking policy
By Maggie Heeger
When Madison City Schools opened Aug. 12, students brought home sheaves of papers for parents to read, sign and return.
In the pile of paperwork was the school systems handbook and code of conduct statement. The publication outlined the acceptable behaviors and the consequences for unacceptable ones. For those who took the time to read it thoroughly, the code of conduct information carries a big change from previous years information.
For the first time ever, corporal punishment - spanking, paddling and other physical forms of discipline - is prohibited.
"Spanking is a controversial issue, says Dr. Henry Clark, superintendent for Madison City Schools. "When I became superintendent, I got calls, letters and opinions on the directions to take in our new system. I received a clear message that a representative group of parents oppose corporal punishment in schools.
There are two main categories of thought on the anti-spanking side, Clark says. One group approves of spanking, but feels it is an issue for parents, not schools, to address. They don't want anyone outside the family touching their children. The other group completely opposes corporal punishment. Both were united in their desire to see physical punishment eliminated from Madison public schools.
While Clark does not have figures to show how many other school systems in Alabama have prohibited spanking, he does know that in this area, Madison is blazing yet another new trail. Huntsville City Schools and Madison County Schools still allow corporal punishment. Some districts, including Hoover and Birmingham, have already banned physical punishment. Across the nation, Alabama is one of only a handful of states still permitting spanking in public schools.
"Most school systems in Alabama have the authority to use corporal punishment, Clark says. "But fewer and fewer are actually using it. A combination of parental input and legal concerns have led to this change.
Legally, Clark says, spanking is a volatile issue.
"Anybody will sue anybody for anything, it seems, and we've been advised that as a school system, we need a very clear board policy governing the application of corporal punishment, Clark says. "A major concern is that when you paddle a child there could be unknown medical situations that may result in severe injury to children, even though completely unintentional.
Some people bruise easier than others, Clark says. "Even a mild spank could cause a bruise, and its hard to defend any method of discipline that leaves bruises.
Beyond legal issues, though, the school systems position on corporal punishment revolves around a changing philosophy on conflict management.
In school, administrators and teachers ask students to settle their differences without force, "to sit down at a table and discuss issues and come to a solution without violence, Clark says. "But if we in turn administer physical punishment, what are we teaching them? How can we ask our kids to be peaceful in conflict resolution if we cant do the same?
"After receiving physical punishment at school, he adds, "I know of very few children who leave the principals office feeling better about the situation that brought them there in the first place. We should be able to come up with more appropriate options.
Instead of a paddling, which opponents feel require little accountability from the offending party, Madison City Schools has implemented several other plans of action for discipline issues.
BJHS has Saturday school, Clark says. "A quick lick with a paddle may not change a students behavior. But if the child has to come in to school for four hours on a Saturday morning, that will get their attention. They do academic work while at Saturday school. They don't just sit there.
In-school suspension is available for all principals to use for discipline and behavior problems, Clark says. For major violations, the school system has established an alternative school for children who need to be isolated from the rest of the school population. Infractions not meriting alternative school may receive limited suspensions.
"We have a number of different options to use, Clark says. "I've told our principals that when handling situations with a child, its difficult to always make the right decisions. There are times when we as adults make mistakes, and we shouldn't be afraid to revisit the situation, talk further with the child and maybe change the actions taken. You can do that with verbal reprimands, and people can accept that. But once you've done corporal punishment, you cant take that back. As soon as you use force with a child, its a done deed.
Every parent has to decide how to handle discipline situations with their children, Clark says. "We care for children during the school day, but we are not the parents. Something as serious as corporal punishment needs to be decided by them, not us.
© 1999 The Huntsville Times
Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 29 September 1999
Parents can bar schools from paddling children
By Linda Espenshade
One letter a year is all it takes for parents to make sure their children will not face corporal punishment at school.
Under state law, parents can protect their children from corporal punishment provided they notify school district officials.
Though the Pennsylvania Department of Education requires school districts to inform parents of this right, few parents take advantage of it, according to superintendents at Lancaster County's public school districts.
Nancy Long, whose oldest child is a senior at Hempfield High School, said she was not even aware the school district had a policy allowing corporal punishment.
Hempfield does publish its policy on corporal punishment in the back of its school calendar. Long said she probably ignored it, believing her children would be not be subject to it. Now that she knows about it, Long said the policy bothers her.
"If it's outdated, then get rid of it," she said.
Sherry Memmo, however, said every year she has sent Hempfield officials a letter barring them from physically punishing her child, who is now in eighth grade.
Hempfield is one of eight districts in Lancaster County that still have a policy permitting corporal punishment of students.
Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 29 September 1999
Some students still face discipline with a paddle
By Linda Espenshade
The student leans across the principal's desk and braces his backside for the whack of a wooden paddle. A scene from history? Not entirely.
Half of the 16 public school districts in Lancaster County still have policies or discipline codes that allow corporal punishment. None of them has plans to change its policy.
Paddlings are rare, but the superintendents at three school districts -- Cocalico, Penn Manor and Solanco -- say they will use it when other disciplinary methods have failed.
Just two years ago, Cocalico principal David Davies delivered one whack of a ventilated wooden paddle to the bottom of a secondary school student in an attempt to change his pattern of misbehavior.
The swat was not meant to hurt. It was meant to get the boy's attention before he caught the attention of the judicial system, Davies said.
Even though he believes the punishment worked, Davies said he will probably never paddle again because it just isn't accepted by society anymore.
Eight other county districts and the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center have already reached that conclusion. Those districts have chosen to either eliminate policies that allowed paddling or adopt policies opposing corporal punishment.
In May, Conestoga Valley School District became the most recent local district to get rid of corporal punishment. School board members said the punishment, which was no longer used anyway, is ineffective and unacceptable.
Regulations issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Education leave corporal punishment policies up to school districts. But according to Michele Haskins, a spokeswoman for the education department, students cannot be physically punished in districts that don't have a specific policy allowing it.
The state defines corporal punishment as "physically punishing a student for an offense." That allows for a wide variety of techniques, but most districts, including those in Lancaster County, limit it to paddling.
Although the districts are divided by their policies on corporal punishment, most superintendents agree paddling is out of date, ineffective and sends the wrong message.
"How do you teach kids not to be violent when a big person is hitting a little person?" said Ann Keim, superintendent of Pequea Valley School District. Keim, who is not opposed to a parent spanking a child, is against spanking in school.
"It's a different situation when someone who doesn't love the child spanks him in front of another person," Keim said. She called it "degrading and wrong."
Educators have found other ways to discipline students, said Marilyn Baker, assistant superintendent of Elizabethtown School District. Elizabethtown has a long, detailed discipline policy that outlines a range of consequences for almost every misbehavior.
Paddling also is not effective because school discipline has to parallel what's going on at home, said William Worley, superintendent of Cocalico School District. Parents are using it less and less, and the school reflects the home, he said.
Some districts, including Hempfield and Eastern Lancaster County, lean on their corporal punishment policy as legal protection, just in case a student falsely claims he was physically punished.
Hempfield's superintendent, Robert Wildasin, used the example of a teacher who redirects a student by holding his arm. If the student or parent calls that action corporal punishment, the district can defend itself by saying its policy allows it.
But George Brubaker, a solicitor for Donegal, Manheim Township, Penn Manor and Lampeter-Strasburg school districts and the School District of Lancaster, said having a policy allowing teachers to physically punish a student can bring its own legal problems.
"The danger of the policy is that it subjects you to questions of whether the punishment was reasonable and not excessive," Brubaker said. "The issue is potentially the source of so much trouble," he said, even though the policy has not been a problem in the districts where he works.
William Bigos, superintendent of Columbia School District, recognizes the legal issues. He tells teachers, "not to lay a hand on students except for self-protection or when a student is endangering another student," even though the district has a policy allowing corporal punishment.
"There's a big difference between what is permitted in Pennsylvania school code in 1949 and the legal status of what is acceptable in today's society," Bigos said.
Nevertheless, other districts, such as Penn Manor, hold to their policies just in case they need them.
"I have a hard time imagining a situation where it would be appropriate," Penn Manor's superintendent Michael Moskalski said. "Having said that, tomorrow there may be one."
Elizabeth Logan, the superintendent of Solanco School District, said, "We are reluctant to remove it (the policy) if it's a punishment that would change a child's behavior, but we do practice it with restraint." One Solanco student was paddled during the last five years, she said.
The alternative for some persistent troublemakers is the judicial system, said Cocalico's Davies. "Those students come back to school embittered and angry, wanting to know why you didn't work with them," he said.
Robert Frick, superintendent of Lampeter-Strasburg School District, said he hasn't taken action to remove the policy because it hasn't been an issue.
"Let the sleeping dog lie," he said.
Nationwide, corporal punishment in schools hasn't been much of an issue during the last few years, said Dr. Irwin Hyman, director of Temple University's Center for the Study of Corporal Punishment and Alternatives.
Vigorous lobbying against paddling started in the late 1970s and resulted in 27 states adopting laws outlawing corporal punishment in schools and an overall reduction in the number of incidents involving physical punishment, Hyman said.
A 1996 study of Pennsylvania school districts by the center indicated that 41 percent of 427 districts that responded to the survey don't allow corporal punishment. Another 46 percent of the districts allow it, but don't use it.
Hyman, however, warns in his book, "The Case Against Spanking," that what is reported and what actually happens can be two different things.
"For a paddling incident to appear in data summaries, the teacher has to publicly indicate a paddling occurred by making an official report," he writes. "Next, the principal has to collect the report and send it to the main office of the school district. Finally, the district has to agree to share the information with the public."
In Lancaster County, none of the corporal punishment policies require that districtwide records of paddling be kept.
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