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School CP - August 2002

News-Press, Fort Myers, Florida, 1 August 2002

Teacher quits amid abuse charge

Cape spanking case moves ahead Monday

By Charles Runnells

A teacher accused of child abuse has resigned from Cape Coral's Diplomat Elementary School.

James Walworth, 29, of Cape Coral is scheduled for court arraignment Monday on charges he spanked a 12-year-old student 50 times with his bare hand. He has pleaded innocent.

"It has been my privilege to work with other dedicated professionals that are devoted to improving the lives of young people," Walworth wrote in his July 25 resignation letter to Superintendent John Sanders. "However, due to personal reasons I am leaving the special education field and seeking other employment."

Walworth and his attorney, Robert Coleman, wouldn't comment.

The state attorney's office charged Walworth on July 6 in connection with the May 23 incident at Diplomat Elementary School. Walworth taught emotionally handicapped children with behavior problems.

According to court records, Walworth took the fifth-grade boy into the bathroom of the teacher's planning room, laid the boy over his lap and spanked him with the boy's underwear pulled down.

The boy told investigators he'd been misbehaving by whistling, talking and eating Skittles candy in class.

Walworth has a "three strikes rule," the boy said, and he had misbehaved three times that day.

A nurse practitioner with the Florida Department of Children & Families later examined the boy and concluded his bruised buttocks were consistent with his story of being spanked 50 times, according to court records.

The spanking violated Lee County School District rules, spokesman John Dattola said. "We have a policy that does not allow corporal punishment of any kind. We don't allow it."

Walworth, who had taught at Diplomat Elementary since 1997, had been suspended with pay pending a school district investigation. The investigation closed July 25 when he resigned.

Dattola said records from the investigation couldn't be viewed until Friday because names of juveniles had to be blacked out.

If convicted of the third-degree felony, Walworth could get five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, said Tony Schall, spokesman for the state attorney's office. However, because it's his first offense, he likely won't face jail time, Schall said.

Copyright 2002, The News-Press.

Abilene Reporter-News, Texas, 9 August 2002

Brownwood ISD ponders discipline change

District may reinstate corporal punishment in its code of conduct

By Loretta Fulton
Reporter-News Staff Writer

The "board of education" may return to Brownwood schools if district trustees find enough support among parents for corporal punishment.

During a recent school board meeting, a motion was made to add the disciplinary option to the Brownwood Independent School District's code of conduct. A code without corporal punishment was adopted, though parents will be surveyed this fall about adding it in the future.

A spot check of other Big Country school districts showed that corporal punishment is an option in most districts, but one that is rarely used. Administrators and parents have varied opinions about the effectiveness of applying the paddle - or "board of education," as it is sometimes called.

Brownwood Superintendent Sue Jones is unsure how long ago the district dropped corporal punishment, but said it has been at least five years. She said she is not sure why the subject has been resurrected.

"I think it's just that people have beliefs about discipline," she said, "and those things change over time."

The trustee who made the motion, Michael Cloy, did not return a phone call to the Abilene Reporter-News.

Opinions about corporal punishment in schools seem scattered.

The American Academy of Pediatrics adopted a policy statement in 2000 urging corporal punishment be abolished in all states by law.

According to statistics compiled by the National Center for the Study of Corporal Punishment and Alternatives, housed at Temple University in Philadelphia, 27 states outlaw corporal punishment. The center opposes corporal punishment, and offers a discipline hotline for parents seeking alternatives.

Texas is not among the states that outlaw corporal punishment.

A survey of area school districts shows it is seldom used. Administrators at five school districts - Abilene, Stephenville, Sweetwater, Big Spring and Colorado City - said corporal punishment remains on the books, but is seldom implemented.

Sweetwater Superintendent Steve Maikell has been an administrator since 1987 and sees little value in an old-fashioned paddling at school. He worries about the message physical discipline sends to students.

"Are we teaching them that hitting is the way to solve problems?" he asked.

Gail Gregg, principal at Franklin Middle School in Abilene, agreed. He believes middle school students are old enough to discipline by other means.

"It's time to start treating them as young men and young women," Gregg said.

Jefferson Middle School Principal Hubert Pickett Jr. said corporal punishment is used maybe four or five times a year at his school, always with parental consent.

Other forms of punishment seem to yield better results than swats with a paddle, he said, noting that most students dread detention or being assigned to a work detail more than a paddling.

"It's just not effective like it used to be a long time ago," Pickett said.

Others disagree that paddling is outmoded.

Connie Carmichael is the mother of two Brownwood High School students and she has no objections to reinstating corporal punishment. In today's society, adults are afraid to draw disciplinary lines, Carmichael said, and she believes children must know how far they can go without being punished. Adding paddling to the range of punishments should be an option, she said.

"I think maybe we need to return to some of those old messages," she said.

Peter Seward, associate professor of communication at Howard Payne University in Brownwood and a single parent of eight children, agrees to a point.

He is not averse to spankings at home but is strongly opposed to them at school. When he spanks his children, Seward said, he tells them why and afterward assures them he loves them.

"Schools can't do that," he said of the reassurance.

Most school districts that allow corporal punishment follow guidelines set forth in a standard policy such as the one used by the Abilene ISD. That policy states that a student must be informed of the reason and that the punishment can be administered by a teacher, principal or assistant principal. The instrument used must be approved by the principal, and at least one witness must be present.

Don Eiland, director of student services for the AISD, said the policy does not require that parents be notified or given the option of forbidding the punishment. He said parents are given a copy of the student code of conduct at the beginning of the school year and can voice objections then.

Principals want to work with parents and would listen to their objections, Eiland said. A bigger issue in the AISD, he said, is that some parents want corporal punishment used more than it is.

"A lot of our principals in Abilene just don't believe in it," Eiland said.

Copyright © 1995-2002, E.W. Scripps Publications, All Rights Reserved.

The Star Press, Muncie, Indiana, 11 August 2002

Corporal punishment reflection of community values

By Oseye T. Boyd

MUNCIE - Twenty-seven states ban corporal punishment. Indiana isn't one of them. Instead, local school boards decide whether or not corporal punishment is allowed.

Paddling is the most common form of corporal punishment. Recently, the issue came to the forefront for a local district as the Jay School Board re-examined its policy allowing schools to discipline with corporal punishment. The board tabled the revision, and corporal punishment remains in Jay Schools for now.

"We still do use corporal punishment in the school district," Jay Supt. Barbara Downing said. "It's one avenue of student discipline that may be used in schools."

Downing said many parents wanted corporal punishment used to discipline their children.

Downing's sentiments were echoed by Supt. William Narwold of Cowan Community Schools. Narwold said Cowan parents were vocal about how student discipline should be handled.

"I feel that we have a pretty conservative community, and our community still supports the use of it in special situations, in the right situations," Narwold said.

Although Indiana is considered a conservative state, views on corporal punishment vary.

New Castle Community Schools changed its discipline policy several years ago to exclude corporal punishment.

"At the time the policy was adopted, it was a general feeling among our board members that there were other, more effective methods to deal with our students other than physical force," Supt. John Newby said.

While school officials are concerned about potential lawsuits stemming from the use of corporal punishment, lawsuits aren't necessarily the main concern for districts like New Castle or Muncie. Superintendents of both those districts recently cited other ways to discipline unruly students.

"Within Muncie Community Schools, staff members are encouraged to use a variety of acceptable disciplinary strategies including removal of the student from the classroom," Muncie Supt. Marlin Creasy said. "Administrators may utilize suspension and expulsion procedures."

At Cowan, corporal punishment is used when all else fails, Narwold said.

"Sometimes, if you have tried all other means of dealing with this child and they don't seem to get it by talking or denying rewards, you try this. For some children it's effective," he said.

Regardless of differing policies on corporal punishment, superintendents agreed that parental involvement is key in student discipline.

Corporal punishment allowed

States where corporal punishment is legal are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island (legal but banned by all school boards), South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.

Source: Family Education Network

USA Today, McLean, Virginia, 22 August 2002

States too slow to spare the child, part with the rod

As students in Pennsylvania start returning to school next week, they may no longer have to fear being on the receiving end of one unpleasant form of discipline: spanking. Last month, the state board of education voted to abolish corporal punishment.

The school board's vote, which must be ratified by state legislators and the attorney general, seems like a belated response to an old-fashioned method for enforcing obedience. But Pennsylvania is hardly a laggard.

Today, 22 other states still allow spanking in public schools, despite extensive research showing that the practice psychologically harms children. The reticence of so many states to end physical discipline is hard to understand at a time when attention is being focused on the abuses committed against kids by other authority figures, including parents, guardians and the clergy.

Local school districts increasingly recognize the problems posed by spanking and are turning away from it without waiting for their states to act. That has been the trend in Pennsylvania. As a result, spanking incidents in public schools have declined from more than 500,000 a decade ago to 360,000 in the 1997-98 school year, according to the latest U.S. Department of Education survey.

Yet efforts to formally outlaw spanking have encountered stiff opposition from critics who argue that the method works. In Mississippi and Arkansas, where corporal punishment has been most prevalent, roughly one of every 10 students were physically punished at school in 1997-98, according to Education Department statistics.

In some cases, children are forced to grab their ankles and then are struck three or more times on their backsides with a half-inch-thick board 2˝ feet long, according to a USA TODAY review of local spanking rules. Most spanking is done by teachers in classrooms, though some schools require administrators to do the paddling.

Spanking usually occurs in elementary and middle schools, but it is legal through high school in some states. However, parents who object usually can withhold permission from schools to spank their children.

What supporters of corporal punishment fail to recognize is that spanking creates more problems than it solves and sends kids the wrong message - that physical abuse is acceptable under certain circumstances.

Among the concerns:

  • Department of Education statistics show African-American students are twice as likely to be spanked as kids of other races. Poor children also are struck more often.
  • A Columbia University analysis of 88 studies on spanking found that corporal punishment imposed inconsistently, in anger or in ways that humiliate is linked to aggression and later mental-health problems.
  • Teachers poorly trained in corporal punishment can easily cross a line between appropriate discipline and violent mistreatment. This month, a Cape Coral, Fla., teacher resigned after striking a fifth-grader 50 times for talking, whistling and eating candy in class. Last school year, teachers in Ohio and Tennessee also resigned because of complaints of overzealous spanking.

The American Academy of Pediatrics concluded years ago that spanking harms learning and self-image. The National Association of Elementary School Principals and the American Medical Association agree.

So do a growing number of school districts. The time to ban spanking from all public classrooms is long overdue.

© Copyright 2002 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

USA Today, 22 August 2002

School kids need discipline

By Kenneth Connor

For generations, the commonly accepted method for steering errant schoolchildren back onto the path of good behavior was to apply the "board of education" to the "seat of learning." That practice is now deemed archaic - indeed, abusive - by anti-spanking zealots.

Under indictment by pop psychologists who blend a tablespoon of Dr. Spock with a cup of New Age philosophy, the time-honored practice of paddling is passé. A little more than half of the states now ban all forms of "corporal punishment" at school.

And what do we have to show for it? Are children safer at school or better behaved in class? Has the learning environment improved? All over America, dismayed parents point to schools where out-of-control kids bully classmates, defy teachers and disrupt classes. Yet, the state of Pennsylvania will be next to join the ranks of states that prohibit corporal punishment at school, if a recommendation of the board of education is adopted. But is such a policy warranted?

The current policy contains safeguards against the kind of excesses of which the antispanking forces usually warn. It allows local school boards to set guidelines for corporal punishment and directs that it should never be applied excessively, in anger or to cause injury or humiliation.

Most important, existing Pennsylvania policy gives parents an absolute right to bar schools from using corporal punishment on their children if parents don't want it administered. However, parents who conscientiously and carefully use spanking at home may want their children held to the same standards - and punished by the same means - at school.

Of course, the real goal of "don't spank" zealots is not just to outlaw spanking at school, but to outlaw it at home as well. Just last year, however, researcher Diana Baumrind reported to the American Psychological Association that "a blanket injunction against disciplinary spanking is not warranted by ... scientific evidence."

Indeed, the claim that the judicious use of spanking is always abusive is an extremist one. Everyone opposes the physical abuse of children. However, the real problem in America's schools is not too much discipline, but too little.

Kenneth Connor is president of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

© Copyright 2002 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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