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School CP - October 2013

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The Huffington Post, 11 October 2013

Leeds Schools In Alabama Not Budging On Corporal Punishment Policy

By Rebecca Klein

Part of the parental consent form
The corporal punishment parental consent form Wendy Chandler received from Leeds Public School District in Alabama. | Wendy Chandler

Wendy Chandler, the Alabama mother who spoke out after receiving a "Corporal Punishment Parental Consent Form" from her daughter's school, is not getting the results she wanted.

After speaking with numerous outlets including The Huffington Post and The New York Times, and starting a petition, Chandler hoped the district of Leeds City Schools might alter its policy of allowing students to be paddled in cases where parents give consent. However, it does not appear that change is coming to their neck of Alabama, which is one of 19 states where corporal punishment as a form of discipline is allowed in schools.

Chandler and her husband, Charles, told The Huffington Post that they presented their issues with the policy to the district's school board on Monday. The board did not comment and instead moved on to the next topic, the couple said.

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On Thursday morning, Charles met with the superintendent of the district, John Moore. Charles told HuffPost that Moore made it clear he did not intend to end the practice and said that he has granted permission for his own children, who are enrolled in the district, to receive corporal punishment.

"He's not going to make any changes based on that meeting but he's promised to keep reading the stuff we're sending him," Charles told HuffPost. "He's definitely firm that he's comfortable in the policy and parents having the option to strike their children with paddles on the behind."

Neither Moore nor the members of the district school board were immediately available for comment.

Last month, in response to the controversy regarding the corporal punishment permission slip, Moore issued a statement to several media outlets, explaining that most local parents support the policy:

Our school board, like most in Alabama, maintains a policy which allows for corporal punishment. Parents are free to check "yes" or "no" on the permission form as to their preference. We always respect the preference of parents on this issue. An overwhelming majority of parents in Leeds have indicated corporal punishment is an acceptable form of discipline for their child.

Charles told HuffPost that he agrees with Moore's assessment that most local parents support corporal punishment in schools.

"I would say if we were to have a referendum right now, a majority of people would say, 'Yeah corporal punishment is something that we want to do,'" he said. "But there's all sorts of things that everybody wants to do that they shouldn't."

Charles also said he and Wendy are considering filing a harassment complaint against the district over an incident that occurred while his 5-year-old daughter was in class. He said that the classmate sitting next to her had been threatened with a paddling.

"That wasn't a threat directed at [my daughter] but next to [my daughter]. That's a distinction I'm not sure a 5-year-old can make -- a threat next to you versus to you," said Charles."The threat itself constitutes as harassment, according to the Alabama State Department policy on education and bullying."

Charles and Wendy say they hope the district and local parents will come to realize that corporal punishment has long-lasting negative effects on children.

"I hope having this conversation makes parents aware that this sort of discipline actually doesn't create discipline and it does damage their kids," said Charles.

During the 2005-2006 school year, a reported 223,190 school children in the U.S. were subjected to physical punishment, according to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

Copyright © 2013, Inc.

Corpun file 24891 at

Johnson City Press, Tennessee, 13 October 2013

Is paddling still a proper form of school discipline?

By Staff Reporter


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As Press staff writer Nathan Baker reported on Oct. 7, local school administrators say paddling is on the way out. While specific policies on corporal punishment differ with the school system, area educators say fewer students are being paddled these days.

Tennessee law gives teachers or principals the power to administer corporal punishment. State code also gives local districts control over when or if to use it. The boards of education in Johnson City, Kingsport, Bristol and Sullivan County do not allow corporal punishment. Instead, those school systems rely on detention, suspension or expulsion to discipline misbehavior.

Meanwhile, the school systems of Elizabethton and Washington, Unicoi and Johnson counties allow the use of spanking or paddling as a means for correcting students. Even those polices, however, have their own unique twists. Carter County, for example, parents can submit written requests to principals, assistant principals or teachers to ask that corporal punishment not be administered to their children.

Johnson County schools require parents to provide doctors' notes to school principals if there's a medical reason why their children shouldn't be paddled. The Elizabethton School System has a written policy on corporal punishment that says: "In no instance shall it be of such severity as to cause bodily injury."

Elizabethton Director of Schools Ed Alexander said he generally discourages the use of paddling for liability reasons.

"In some cases it could be used to motivate good behavior and discourage bad, but our principals rarely use it," Alexander said.

Studies show schools in the South are more likely to believe that sparing the rod does indeed spoil the child. A report released five years ago also found Southern parents are far more likely to spank their children than their counterparts in other areas of the country. One poll found 62 percent of Southern parents spank their kids, as compared to 41 percent of non-Southern parents.


Corpun file 24834 at

The News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, 17 October 2013

Video captures coach paddling students

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Ouachita Parish Schools is checking into the circumstances surrounding a video that administrators believe shows a coach paddling two students at Richwood Middle School in violation of the district's corporal punishment policy.

The video, which was posted on YouTube, shows two students being paddled in what appears to be the school's weight room while others watch. Each student is given three whacks with the paddle. By Thursday morning, the video was removed from YouTube. [But it is still available here on -- C.F.]

Director of Child Welfare and Attendance Gary Armstrong saw the video for the first time with The News-Star on Wednesday.

"Our policy is very clear," he said. "Corporal punishment is not to be done in front of other kids and you're supposed to have a witness."

While the district's policy permits "reasonable" corporal punishment, it details who can administer the punishment and where it can be done.

"If such punishment is required, it shall be administered with extreme care, tact and caution and then only by the principal, assistant principal or the principal's designated representative in the presence of another adult school employee," the policy reads. "At no time shall corporal punishment be administered in the presence of another student."

Superintendent Bob Webber said the video was apparently taken during the 2012-13 school year because the coach in the video is not at Richwood Middle School this year.

He is employed at another Ouachita Parish school and was not moved because of the paddling incident.

"I don't think a termination is in order, but I do think we have to deal with it," he said.

Armstrong said he has not been contacted by the parents of either student pictured in the video.

Students may be subjected to corporal punishment in accordance with the district's policy unless parents opt out in writing.

Copyright © 2013 All rights reserved.

Corpun file 24839 at

Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tennessee, 20 October 2013

Spare the rod, spoil the student?

19 states still allow paddling at school, Tennessee is among them

By Kevin Hardy


Americans still largely favor parental spanking as a means of discipline. In an August national poll, 81 percent of respondents said spanking is sometimes appropriate, according to Harris Interactive. That figure was down from 87 percent in 1995, the last time Harris asked the question. Among parents, two-thirds say they have spanked their child or children, down from 80 percent in 1995.

Source: Harris Interactive


Here is Tennessee's law on corporal punishment:

Any teacher or school principal may use corporal punishment in a reasonable manner against any pupil for good cause in order to maintain discipline and order within the public schools.

Source: Tennessee Code Annotated 49-49-6-4103

Map of US states Illustration by Laura McNutt.

It's your classic good cop, bad cop routine.

When a child is paddled for breaking the rules at Orchard Knob Middle School, one administrator takes charge and delivers the licks. Another stands by ready to scoop up the child and build him back up. They say how they are disappointed, how they paddle because they care and how they want to see the child get back on the right track.

The routine is prescribed, almost militaristic. The child bends forward, placing his hands on a table, his rear stuck out. Parents are notified, and there are always several witnesses. And no child goes back to class until he's had a trip to the restroom and the tears are wiped away.

It might be easy to assume that paddling in school went away years ago, even decades. Polls and anecdotal evidence show that fewer parents approve of corporal punishment today. And the anti-spanking movement has such power that some parents have been arrested for spanking their own children.

But paddling is alive and well in public schools, though its use has declined in recent times. Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama are among 19 states that still allow corporal punishment at school. And Hamilton County is the only one of the four largest school systems in Tennessee that uses it.

Orchard Knob Principal Crystal Sorrells has a simple reason for using the wooden paddle:

"It works," she said.

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Not for all kids. Not for all situations. But Sorrells said paddling, unlike suspension, keeps kids in school, where teachers know they are safe and on task. And though by its nature paddling is punitive, Sorrells said the practice only works there because of the deep relationships administrators have worked to build with students. Often, kids become emotional while being paddled. But Sorrells said the feeling that they have disappointed school leaders is more painful than the licks.

"It's not about the paddling," she said. "It's about someone cares enough to take the time to give me the discipline I need -- that I should have gotten before I got here. ... And a lot of times we do have some pretty heavy conversations in the midst of that process."

The decline in corporal punishment is relatively recent. The Center for Effective Discipline reports that three states -- Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming -- still technically allow it, but effectively don't use it at all. Since the 2005-06 school year Ohio, New Mexico and Pennsylvania have approved statewide bans on corporal punishment. And in 2011, North Carolina and Texas legislation allowed parents to opt out. From 1994 to 2004, the U.S Department of Education reported that the number of students across the country struck at school in the name of discipline declined from nearly half a million to fewer than 300,000, though some have questioned the validity of the reporting system.

Even where it is allowed, corporal punishment is often used sporadically or not at all, with decisions on if and when to paddle left up to individual school districts or principals. Because so much discretion is left to principals, it's unclear how many Hamilton County schools use it, though administrators say most schools here don't.

Superintendent Rick Smith said he would be fine with doing away with the practice locally.

Several Hamilton County principals were hesitant to discuss corporal punishment for this story. And while Orchard Knob is certainly not the only school in the county that paddles, its staff was forthcoming and open about the practice. It is part of the school's culture. Students there know it is a consequence. And parents are made well aware and are able to opt out.

But technically, schools don't have to give parents any choice.

In places where paddling is not banned, the law doesn't require schools to notify parents. But area school officials say they ask for parental permission or at least let them know when it happens. In fact, many say that paddling is used not necessarily because of their own ideology, but because parents demand it.

"Some parents will request it," said Sequatchie County Superintendent Johnny Cordell. "They'd rather you take action and put them back in the classroom, rather than them come down to the school and take up a lot of time."

School-based paddling has sparked lawsuits and public outcry across the country, with national advocates calling for an end to the practice amid concerns about lasting emotional problems stemming from physical punishment.

But corporal punishment is still permitted in every state in the South, where it is considered a necessary means of discipline. And parents who use spanking at home or who were spanked themselves see it as part of a child's overall character development.

"We're still in the Bible Belt area over here. There's a lot of 'spare the rod, spoil the child' types," Cordell said, referring to the Bible verse in the book of Proverbs that addresses corporal punishment. "They were disciplined that way in their home and when they were in school. They expect the same thing for their kids."


In Hamilton County, the use of paddling is up to individual principals, who generally have much autonomy over their own school buildings.

At Orchard Knob Elementary, Principal LaFrederick Thirkill said paddling is not his only means of maintaining order. Teachers and administrators use a multitiered system of discipline, and paddling is reserved for more serious offenses such as fighting, that would otherwise result in suspension.

"I wouldn't say that it happens often," Thirkill said. "I think just the fact that the kids know it's an option has been psychologically effective for some students."

But there could be unintended consequences from paddling, which has kept Jennifer Spates, principal at Brown International Academy, from incorporating it into her school's discipline policy. She has considered it and has even been asked by parents to paddle. But so far she hasn't. The school, mostly poor and black like the two Orchard Knob schools, uses a discipline system that focuses on positive behaviors, by acknowledging and rewarding kids who do right.

"I'm pretty open-minded about anything," Spates said. "When I think about my own children, I would not contest if corporal punishment was administered to them. Because I know for a fact that they live in a safe environment, they trust adults, they're not in any way emotionally wounded. But when you don't know that for sure, you could be creating a potential problem."

There are other questions, too. Because paddling doesn't come with a guidebook.

"Who's to say who's hitting too hard and who's not hitting hard enough?" said DuPont Elementary Principal Janice Scott, who has chosen not to paddle students. "We need to try a lot of other things before we do that."

Scott said she once paddled a child at another school, but only at a parent's behest. She gave the boy one swat and that was all it took.

"To be honest with you," Scott said, "he didn't give me or the teacher any trouble after that."

As Thirkill, Spates and Scott show, each school's approach to punishment can vary widely. And it can change as administrators come and go.

"I'm going to bet that which schools use paddling and which don't changes almost yearly," said school board attorney Scott Bennett. "Because each principal gets to make that determination."

But issues with corporal punishment don't come across his desk often. Bennett remembers only one lawsuit over the issue in the past 20 years or so, and that one was dismissed.

"It's either not used very much at all," he said, "or it's used in such a way that it's not that big of a deal."


But there's no doubt paddling is controversial, nationally and at home.

A Birmingham-area mother gained widespread attention in September after circulating a petition to have school-based paddling banned. News spread earlier this year of a Henry County, Tenn., boy landing in the hospital after a school administrator's paddle left him bloodied and bruised, according to Nashville television station WSMV. And in 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch wrote a scathing report on the "degrading, ineffective disciplinary tactic" of paddling in schools.

Benjamin McGowan, a local attorney with a child in the public school system, questions Hamilton County's paddling practice and its policy of leaving those decisions up to individual schools, especially when so many other facets of school administration are heavily regulated.

"The whole idea of decentralizing it and sort of making it a fluke based on where you happen to live, what school you happen to be in and what grade level you are in, seems contrary to the idea of it being an effective deterrent," he said.

McGowan, who has represented clients with grievances against the school system, said the practice seems to open up the district to potential lawsuits from parents. And McGowan, originally from New York, said popular opinion or tradition is no excuse for continuing the use of corporal punishment.

"I think that when you're talking about something as serious as beating someone else's child, potentially over their own objection, it shouldn't much matter whether everybody in the community thinks that's OK," he said.

Victor Vieth, executive director of the National Child Protection Training Center, said researchers have concluded that physical punishment can lead to emotional problems later in life. But many people still view spanking or paddling as a good way to manage behavior, he said, despite evidence to the contrary.

"We're largely just wedded to it because it's our culture," Vieth said. "And it's easy."

But corporal punishment just isn't all that effective in getting children to mind, Vieth said.

"It will work in this sense: If you hit a child long enough and hard enough, they will eventually submit. But long term it's not going to be healthy for them," he said.

And being against corporal punishment isn't to say that children should be coddled or go unpunished, said Deborah Sendek, program director at the Center for Effective Discipline, a group affiliated with the child protection training center.

"We're saying children do need discipline," she said. "They need nurturing, they need guidance, they need teaching and they need discipline. But there are effective ways to teach children without hitting them."


Teaching kids is easier when they are physically in school -- an oft-cited benefit of paddling versus suspension or expulsion.

Since Orchard Knob Middle instituted paddling last school year, student attendance has risen from 89 percent to 96 percent, the principal said.

That's why Donnella Colvin, who has two daughters at Orchard Knob, thinks paddling makes sense. She's a single mother working as a hairdresser, so leaving work to deal with her daughters' discipline problems can be a hardship. Parents are often given the choice between paddling and suspension -- three licks or three days out of school.

"If they're suspended, they're not getting education," Colvin said. "They're able to stay in school and get their education."

At Orchard Knob, paddling and suspension aren't handed down for minor disturbances like talking during class. And more serious offenses like bringing weapons or drugs to school result in automatic expulsions.

It's those in-between behaviors that cause constant distractions from learning -- like regularly talking back or repeated horseplay -- that can provoke a paddling.

Colvin appreciates that administrators call her and give her the option. She trusts the staff at Orchard Knob. And paddling just plain works, she said.

"It puts that thought in their mind," she said. "It makes them think twice."

She chose last school year to have her oldest daughter paddled several times for transgressions like talking back to teachers and fighting with other students, rather than be suspended.

But her daughter didn't like the paddle. So at the beginning of this school year, she told the principal that she'd had enough. She promised to watch her attitude. She pledged not to give administrators any reason to paddle her again.

And so far, she hasn't.

Corpun file 24864 at


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia, 27 October 2013, p.A1

Paddling common outside metro Atlanta

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Corporal punishment still allowed in 97 of state's school districts.

By Karishma Mehrotra, Ty Tagami and Shannon McCaffrey

Corporal punishment is still going strong in some rural Georgia schools, where educators paddled students more than 16,000 times last year.

No traditional public school in Atlanta and nine nearby school districts has paddled a child since at least 2007, but corporal punishment is used in more than half of the state's 180 school districts, according to discipline data analyzed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Corporal punishment makes up only a fraction of other disciplinary measures used, such as in-school and out-of-school suspension.

Atlantans may consider thick wooden paddles wielded by educators to be an anachronism, but numbers obtained from the Georgia Department of Education show that 97 school districts last year adhered to that axiom about sparing the rod and spoiling the child.

Coffee County school bus

The conflicting views about paddling would seem to highlight opposing notions of childrearing and discipline: On one side are those who believe it's important to show kids who's boss; on the other are parents who prefer to talk it out. However, interviews by the AJC indicate another factor in the acceptance, or rejection, of corporal punishment in schools: Some parents who said they oppose paddling in school are fine with spanking their own children at home. They just don't want a stranger doing it. In some parts of the state, teachers and principals are not considered strangers.

"They can't abuse your child because you're going to see them at Wal-Mart," said Chantelle Pace, a parent in Coffee County. Her child's school, Westside Elementary, reported 53 paddlings last year. Pace moved from Washington, D.C., several years ago and said she would have opted out of corporal punishment in that big-city school system. She said she's OK with paddling in Coffee County, though, because of the close communication between teachers and parents.

A 2007 poll by ABC News found similar nuanced views toward physical punishment. Respondents, by a 2-1 margin, approved of spanking children, but 72 percent disapproved of corporal punishment in schools.

A growing body of research suggests hitting kids is ineffective and even counterproductive.

Katherine Raczynski, the director of the Safe and Welcoming Schools project at the University of Georgia, said the literature indicates that corporal punishment is no more effective than other forms of discipline yet detracts from learning. It is associated with aggression, depression and lower cognitive performance, she said.

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Most of the country has banned corporal punishment in schools. Georgia is among 19 states, most of them in the South, that still allow it, according to the Center for Effective Discipline in Ohio. The organization promotes alternatives to paddling, and maintains that corporal punishment contradicts classroom lessons about nonviolence. Program director Deborah Sendek said she also worries about the risk of physical harm to children.

"How do you know how to paddle?" Sendek said. "How hard do you hit? How far back do you bring the paddle? How do you make sure you get it on the bottom? Do you know about your weight and strength? That's a lot of risk to take."

Proponents, though, say paddling is essential for discipline and order in the classroom.

Jim Buntin, a former superintendent of the Muscogee County School District, in the Columbus area south of Atlanta, said he saw the benefits of paddling during his three-decade education career. It changed behavior faster than any other punishment, he said.

"People say you're abusing children. That's not the case," Buntin said. "I am not here to abuse you. I am here to educate you."

Muscogee County was, until recently, one of the last places an unruly kid would want to attend school: Since 2011, the district has had the second-highest incidence of paddling in Georgia, outranked only by Laurens County, also south of Atlanta. (Grady County ranked third, just ahead of Coffee County.)

But the tide overtaking the country swept over Muscogee earlier this year, when the district banned corporal punishment.

The prohibition came after a parent complained to police about bruising suffered by her daughter, allegedly due to paddling by a school administrator.

The district has not said the change was in reaction to that widely publicized incident, but Tremaine Reese, who works for a group that pushed for an end to paddling in Muscogee, said it might have been a catalyst. He said the reasons behind the about-face were manifold.

Reese, who is a deputy director with Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, an advocacy group for low-income Georgians, said the school administration seemed to be influenced by the national trend away from corporal punishment, by research presented by groups like his and by "an outcry from the public."

Interviews with parents in Muscogee showed a mix of opinions about corporal punishment. Some, such as Kemescha Carter, were fine with it. She said she spanked her son and warned his friends' parents that she'd spank their kids, too, if they misbehaved in her home. She said the alternative to corporal punishment was chaos.

"It causes a disruption in the classroom, and everybody else can't learn," she said. "My mom spanked me. I came out all right."

Another map of USA

Others, though, adamantly opposed corporal punishment.

Haley Hays said she was paddled in school and it didn't change her behavior.

"Let the parent handle it. There are other ways," Hays said. "As they're getting older, you can hurt them worse by taking the computer."

That hands-off approach is gradually winning out in Georgia, with schools turning to other disciplinary methods. (One near downtown Atlanta relies on breathing techniques to calm misbehaving children.) The incidence of corporal punishment has dropped more than 50 percent since 2007, when there were more than 37,000 cases, according to the state numbers.

Georgia law leaves it up to school boards to prohibit or allow corporal punishment, though it imposes requirements, like an official witness and transparency with parents. Students must be informed in advance that specific actions can lead to paddling, or they have to have done something "so antisocial or disruptive in nature as to shock the conscience." Also, it's illegal to paddle a child who goes to school with a doctor's statement that corporal punishment would be "detrimental to the child's mental or emotional stability."

One clause in the law may explain the gradual decline of paddling in Georgia schools: Principals and teachers are protected from criminal and civil liability only if the blows they administer are not deemed "excessive or unduly severe."

Educators fear lawsuits over corporal punishment, and for good reason. Earlier this year, the parents of a Tennessee boy who was paddled eight times for throwing crayons and rocks filed a lawsuit seeking $1.7 million. The parents of the boy, 5 at the time, say that the paddling was excessive and that he sustained bruises.

Such lessons aren't lost on districts such as DeKalb County. The state discipline data show no incidents of paddling there in the last seven years, yet Ron Ramsey, the school district's chief legal officer, said the school board didn't ban corporal punishment until about a year ago.

Most-paddling districts

"We now no longer allow it, but for years we never used it because of concern for litigation," Ramsey said. "Some parents just don't want anyone to touch their kids." Parents like Keith Miller. He grew up in the 1970s, and still remembers the wooden paddle that connected with his buttocks: it was thick, with drilled holes. Miller said he has spanked his son but prefers other forms of punishment, like taking away freedoms. "I like being able to talk with him and have a relationship with him," he said.

Like other parents who were waiting to pick up their kids at Henderson Middle School in DeKalb on a recent afternoon, Miller was surprised to learn that paddling is still legal -- and widely practiced -- in Georgia.

It shouldn't be, he said. That kind of discipline "worked for us, but in this day and time it would probably be seen as abuse." He thought about it a second, then added: "It was probably abuse back then."

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