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School CP - May 2019

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Daily News Journal, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 15 May 2019

Paddling of students may end for Rutherford County Schools

By Scott Broden

The policy permitting paddling of Rutherford County Schools students should end next year, a committee recommended Tuesday.

A unanimous 15-member Policy Committee that includes all seven elected Board of Education members voted in favor of the proposal to ban corporal punishment starting in August. The full board, led by Chairman Jim Estes, will have to vote on the recommendation at two pending meetings for the proposed policy to be official.

"I wish we had this policy when I was in school," Estes quipped before the vote, and fellow committee members laughed.

The proposed policy will be in line with what other Middle Tennessee districts have done in banning corporal punishment, including for students attending Murfreesboro City, Williamson County and Metro Nashville schools, said district staff attorney Sara Page.

Rutherford school officials about 14-plus years ago debated a similar proposal to ban paddling from former board member Mark Byrnes. The board responded then with a policy requiring parents to sign forms to permit corporal punishment for their children. Parents also could decide if they wanted to be notified before paddling.

Educators seek alternative discipline

District Director Bill Spurlock told fellow committee members that corporal punishment has seldom been used in recent years.

"It's been forever," Spurlock said.

Board member Lisa Moore questioned what alternatives would be available if corporal punishment ends.

"I'm old school," Moore said. "My son is graduating this year, and I always said if he needed a spanking, he needed to get a spanking. So what are we leaving our administrators with if we are taking this away?"

Page, the staff attorney, told Moore and the other committee members that administrators will still be able to use in-school and out-of-school suspensions. Spanking will remain an option for parents at home, Page said.

"We are also trying to encourage our teachers and administrators to look into more evidence-based discipline that doesn't involve exclusionary discipline," Page said.

The educators could do more mediations and "targeted discipline that goes to the heart of the behaviors," Page said.

Concerns for students with disabilities

The district is also concerned that students with disabilities may end up being paddled more often than their others, said Page, adding that schools should do more functional behavior assessments in making discipline decisions.

Moore agreed.

"I believe in paddling, but in this day and age, with the litigious nature and the culture that our society is starting to turn into, if I were a teacher or administrator, wouldn't go there, and I can't imagine that we have many that want to," Moore said. "That's the parents' job."

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