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School CP - April 2018

Corpun file 26681 at, 11 April 2018

Paddling is legal in Alabama, but some teachers arrested for excessive force


In 2015, the assistant principal at Escambia County Middle School was indicted for child abuse after paddling a fifth-grader.

The boy had been disruptive during a school assembly, according to court records, and had gotten into a fight with another child. The assistant principal, Angela Parham, and other school staff testified that she followed school board-approved procedure for the corporal punishment, including having it witnessed by other teachers. In the days following the paddling, the student's mother took pictures of bruising on her son's buttocks and filed a police report.

During an evidentiary hearing in the case, District Attorney Stephen Billy asked Parham whether school policy allowed her to cause physical injury to a student.

"Our school policy allows corporal punishment," she responded.

"Does it allow you to use force against a student?" he asked.

"If corporal punishment is force, it allows us to use corporal punishment."

After more back-and-forth, the district attorney asked Parham: "You're administering corporal punishment, in your mind, how much force is allowed on a student?"

"I don't know how to answer that," she said. "I don't know how to measure force."

Corporal punishment is still used on thousands of students in public schools across Alabama each year. Yet when it comes to paddling, how hard is too hard?

Alabama state law explicitly gives public school educators the authority to use corporal punishment. But there's no guidance on what constitutes an acceptable amount of force.

The arrest in recent years of at least two Alabama educators for paddling raises troubling questions about a practice most of the nation has long since given up.

Legal immunity

In the mid-1990s, Fob James campaigned for a second term as governor on a law-and-order platform of school and prison reform that included support for corporal punishment and the reinstatement of chain gangs.

His school paddling law passed in 1995. Alabama Code 16-28A-1 specifically gives teachers the authority to "use appropriate means of discipline up to and including corporal punishment as may be prescribed by the local board of education."

Further, the law says that as long as teachers follow board policy while disciplining students, they "shall be immune from civil or criminal liability."

There were more than 20,000 incidents of corporal punishment statewide in the 2015-2016 school year, according to state data. Alabama is one of 15 states with laws that specifically allow corporal punishment in public schools. Another 29 states have banned the practice.

Some local systems and some schools in Alabama have also eliminated paddling, as research shows little benefit to discipline and educators often cite concerns about liability.


Still, most Alabama school systems allow it. About three-quarters of Alabama school districts had at least one incident of corporal punishment in 2015-2016.

And despite it being protected under law, educators still face criminal and civil penalties for paddling.

The Alabama Education Association, which provides legal services to member educators, sees an average of three corporal punishment cases per year, said Amy Marlowe, AEA assistant executive director. Those are a mixture of civil and criminal cases.

Local school board policies typically outline rules for corporal punishment, including number of licks with the paddle, how many witnesses are required, how parents are notified, etc. but don't address the amount of force used, she said.

Headed to trial

In 2016, an assistant principal at Etowah Middle School, Nathan Ayers, claims he followed district policy when he gave a 12-year-old boy two licks with the paddle. The boy was given the choice of paddling or detention after a teacher wrote the boy up for making an obscene gesture, The Gadsden Times reported.

He chose the paddling.

Later, the boy's mother showed pictures to school personnel of bruising on her son's buttocks. At the suggestion of a school nurse, the mother reported the incident to Attalla police.

A subsequent Attalla City school board investigation concluded Ayers acted within the scope of his authority and followed board policies on administering corporal punishment.

But in September 2017, a grand jury indicted Ayers on felony child abuse and second-degree assault charges. The paddling had caused deep-tissue bruising, according to the district attorney.

Last week, a judge denied a motion to dismiss Ayers' charges. His trial is set for August.

As evidenced by cases like this one, there's a line between school-sanctioned discipline and child abuse.

But state law leaves educators to figure it out.

Popular in Alabama

Most American education and child advocacy groups have called for a ban on corporal punishment.

While the Alabama Education Association does not have an official position on corporal punishment, the Alabama Association of School Boards recently passed a resolution discouraging the use of paddling.

"Research shows it is not as effective as some of the other more positive forms of school discipline," said Dana Vandiver, public relations director for the AASB. "It's on the decline. I think attitudes have changed."

In 2016, then-U.S. Education Secretary John King wrote a letter to governors and state school officers urging them to stop using corporal punishment.


Yet paddling remains in use in schools in most Southern states.

Of the 21 states that still paddled in 2013-2014, according to federal data, a dozen were in the South.

Alabama ranked third highest that year for the percentage of students who were paddled, behind only Mississippi and Arkansas.

Federal data shows 18,749 students in Alabama were paddled in 2013-2014, or about 2.5% of all students in Alabama.

Paddling is particularly popular in rural areas. According to state data for the 2015-2016 school year, 21 school systems in Alabama paddled 10 percent or more of the children. All were county systems in rural areas.

Conecuh County by far paddled the highest percentage of its students that year, followed by Covington and Choctaw county systems in south Alabama.

Corporal punishment has fallen out of favor in larger urban systems in the state. Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile school systems each reported zero paddlings that year. However, Jefferson and Madison county systems still allow it.

'Excessive' force

In the Escambia County case, although a police investigator testified that he thought the force used to paddle the student was "excessive," the court eventually dismissed the case against Angela Parham.

The judge explained his decision by saying state law explicitly gave Parham immunity from criminal and civil liability because she followed the school district's guidelines for corporal punishment.

But the case against Ayers is moving forward, after Etowah County Circuit Court Judge William Ogletree denied a motion this week to dismiss charges against Ayers.

Efforts to reach the prosecution or Ayers' attorneys were unsuccessful.

His defense team maintains in court documents that Alabama law grants Ayers immunity from criminal prosecution because he followed the school board's policy on administering corporal punishment.

Etowah County Superintendent David Bowman declined to comment on Ayers specifically, but said he was not reviewing the district's corporal punishment protocols at this time. He also said he believes school administrators are able to accurately determine the amount of force necessary for corporal punishment to be meaningful but not criminal.

Vieth said that the determination of "reasonable" force depends on the judge or jury, and as corporal punishment continues to fall out of favor with the general public, "the definition of reasonableness is shrinking."

"The law isn't shrinking, but society's view (of acceptable corporal punishment) is shrinking," he said, "More and more people are turning away from this. It's risky.

"If you're leaving it up to teachers" to determine whether a student should be paddled, he said, "I'd tell them you do it at your own risk. If you exceed what a jury in your community says is reasonable, you're criminally liable."

© 2018 Alabama Media Group. All rights reserved

Corpun file 26683 at

The Andalusia Star-News, Alabama, 14 April 2018

Supers: Paddling rarely used

Using 2015-16 data, news source ranks county 2nd highest

By Christopher Smith

Covington County Schools ranked second in Alabama in the number of paddlings administered in Alabama school systems in the 2015-16 school year, according to data compiled by from federal reports.

And while paddling is legal in Alabama when administered correctly, Superintendent Shannon Driver said he doubts the county's numbers are nearly that high at present.

According to the federal reporting, the Covington County School system recorded 820 paddlings in the 2015-2016 school year.

Driver said, "Like so many other systems in Alabama, it is one part of our disciplinary measures."

But it's not the first method of discipline to which administrators turn.

"We have a code of conduct and if a student breaks those rules then they have to face consequences," Driver said. "We have different methods of discipline for students that break the rules, and corporal punishment is definitely not the first that we go to. We have break detention, in school suspension and out of school suspension so we will use those first to get the idea across."

Corporal punishment is legal in Alabama. Alabama Code 16-28A-1 specifically gives teachers the authority to "use appropriate means of discipline up to and including corporal punishment as may be prescribed by the local board of education."

"There is always witnesses, and we do let the parents in on what is going on," Driver said. "We follow everything by the book."

"Our administrators always try to be reasonable when paddling," Driver said. "I trust that they make the right judgment."

Driver said that in the county system, principals give students an option between receiving a paddling or another punishment.

"Sometimes the students choose to receive the paddling," Driver said. "They could have the choice between in-school suspension or a paddling and ultimately it would be their decision."

Driver said he believes that the number of paddlings has decreased significantly since the data used in the ranking was collected.

Both Andalusia City Schools and Opp City Schools allow corporal punishment under certain circumstances, the superintendents said.

Superintendent Michael Smithart said believes it has decreased to almost no use.

"Corporal punishment is a possibility," Andalusia City Schools Superintendent Ted Watson said. "I mean it is in the handbook, but we never resort to that."

Watson said that if it gets down to that then they will bring in the parents to do their own paddling.

"In this day and age, there are so many other disciplinary measures that administrators can take than paddling a child."

Corpun file 26687 at

NBC logo

WSMV-TV, Nashville, Tennessee, 19 April 2018

Gov. Haslam signs corporal punishment reporting bill into law

By Alanna Autler

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -- A new law requires that school districts must now report detailed information about their use of corporal punishment to the Tennessee Department of Education annually.

Gov. Bill Haslam signed House Bill 2331 into law Thursday afternoon, allowing the state to collect information about a practice it previously did not track.

Previously, school districts were only required to report information about corporal punishment to the federal Office of Civil Rights.

Last year a News 4 I-Team investigation revealed students with disabilities received corporal punishment at a higher rate than their non-disabled peers at 60 Midstate schools.

At the request of two state senators, the comptroller opened its own statewide review of the practice in 2017.

Their findings echoed the disparities initially uncovered by the I-Team.

The review also found districts often did not document why they meted out corporal punishment in certain instances or what kinds of disabilities children had.

Specifically the new law requires the department to report the number of instances of corporal punishment and the number of instances involving a student with an IEP or 504 plan on its website.

The annual report will protect student confidentiality.

The House and Senate passed a bill that would ban paddling for students with disabilities, except in cases where a parent opts his or her child into the practice. The measure now goes to the governor.

To become law, the bill must be signed by the governor.

Copyright 2018 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Corpun file 26692 at

CBS logo

WCBI-TV, Columbus, Mississippi, 26 April 2018

Local News

The Power Of The Paddle

By Victoria Bailey

SMITHVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) -- Many parents remember growing up and fearing a paddling at school.

Now, it's rare to see that happening in a school hallway. The policy on corporal punishment seems to vary from school to school and state to state.

Some teachers find it useful, others believe different punishments work. Either way, the goal is to make the student realize a mistake was made.

"We do have corporal punishment but it's just one form of discipline we use, there are a variety of others," said Smithville High School Principal Chad O'Brian.

Corporal punishment is becoming less common in many parts of the country, but it's still used in the Twin States. [i.e. Mississippi and Alabama]

"For minor offenses whether that be things like tardiness or throwing paper in class, being disruptive in class, those kinds of things are covered as an option with corporal punishment," said O'Brian.

O'Brian says it can be a painful method but it's one the student prefer.

"A lot of the children actually would rather take corporal punishment. When they get into detention or they get into being out of school or whatever then they are going to start missing extra curricular activities, ball games can't participate, can't come to games and those kinds of things. They would rather just, for lack of a better term get it over with," said O'Brian.

Alabama and Mississippi are 2 of the 19 states that still allow spanking. There have been reports of abuse at other schools, but it's rare.

It can be a controversial topic.

In fact, Caledonia Middle has the option to paddle on the books. However, they choose other options.

"We just do another approach. We do the proactive positive approach towards students, making them responsible for their own behavior. We have words of wisdom here which we use character education. Hopefully we're getting to students building their own character and being responsible for their own behavior," said Caledonia Middle School Principal Karen Pittman.

If a paddling is used, schools must get the parent's permission and have a witness present.

O'Brian says though they do pick up the paddle from time to time it's only to better the students who've chosen that punishment.

"It's never administered for reasons of revenge or anything like that, that's not part of the equations with discipline regardless of what it is, whether it's corporal punishment or whatever. Discipline is designed to change behavior and that's all the corporal punishment is designed to do, like I said if a kid here takes a paddling it's because they chose to take one," said O'Brian.

The last state to abolish corporal punishment was New Mexico in 2011.


Three-minute video news segment from WCBI Columbus, MS (26 April 2018) of which the above is a text version. The principal of Smithville High School (which, despite its name, is a K-12 school) in Monroe County, MS, is interviewed and we see his paddle in close-up. He notes that CP is for relatively minor offenses, and stresses that no student gets spanked who has not chosen that punishment in preference to some other form of discipline such as detention or suspension.


IMPORTANT: Copyright in this video material rests with the original copyright holders. This brief excerpt is reproduced under the "fair use" doctrine EXTERNAL LINK: opens in new window for private, non-profit, historical research and education purposes only. It must not be redistributed or republished in any commercial context.

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