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School CP - November 2002

World News Tonight, ABCTV, 8 November 2002

Black and Blue

Teachers in Nearly Half the Country Can Use Corporal Punishment

By Steve Osunsami

Michaela Curtis went straight to the hospital and police when her son came home from school with dark bruises on his behind. But what she learned was the people who hurt her 7-year-old had every right to do so: They were his teachers.

Teachers in Alabama's public schools still have paddles. And whenever a child misbehaves, they can chose to apply that "board of education" to the "seat of learning." It is state law, and some 40,000 Alabama schoolchildren were paddled last school year.

Michael White, who is a lawyer for Alabama's state Board of Education, says paddling is one of the tools to help ensure children get a good education.

"We want a good classroom experience in Alabama," White says. "And if teachers have to resort to forms of discipline, we expect teachers to do that."

In 1995, Alabama lawmakers put the paddle in teachers' hands. The state passed legislation allowing corporal punishment in public schools, and gave local school boards wide discretion as to how and when the discipline should be administered.

Too Hard?

But Curtis, the mother of two children in the Demopolis, Ala., school district, says the state does little to prevent teachers from hitting too hard.

Last year, Curtis says her 7-year-old son came home from the second grade with large, dark bruises on his rear end. Jonathan Curtis was paddled for picking his nose in class. How many licks he received are in dispute. Michaela Curtis, a registered nurse, says her son's bruises were so severe that she immediately took him to a local hospital.

"When I filed the police report at the hospital that night," Curtis says, "I asked the officer, 'What would happen if I did this to my son?' And the police officer said that most likely, my child would have been removed from my custody that evening."

Curtis says what angers her even more is what happened the day before. She says she specifically instructed the school not to lay a finger on her child if he misbehaved, and no one listened.

"They should not have paddled him at all for that 'crime,'" Curtis says. "They should not have paddled him without my consent."

Paddling Allowed

But according to district policy, which is supported by state law, a Demopolis public school teacher can paddle a child, even when a parent says no. The school district superintendent, Wesley Hill, investigated the incident and concluded that the spanking was justified and Curtis had no case.

"A child can be spanked even after the parent expressly refuses to consent," Hill explains. "It's not an opt-out system."

Across the country, 23 states allow this type of discipline in public schools. Spanking is heaviest in the South, so much so, that psychologists who oppose spanking say it gives new meaning to the phrase "Bible Belt."

Kevin Dwyer, with the National Association of Psychologists, says there's plenty of research to show this is harmful to children.

"Alabama allows corporal punishment," Dwyer points out. "New York does not, New Jersey does not, Maryland does not. Those states have higher achievement scores, higher graduation rates."

But Dwyer admits that no one is certain whether it is spanking that makes the big difference. In fact, a close look at the trend to outlaw spanking and the trend of increased violence in schools and at home suggests spanking may not be as harmful as its opponents claim.

Peter Sprigg, of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., says that today's teachers need paddles as a tool.

"Studies do show that spanking both at schools and at home have declined significantly in recent decades, and yet I don't think we see any improvement in the behavior of our children," says Sprigg.

"Most Americans would agree that we have more problems in our schools and in our homes caused by permissiveness," Sprigg continues, "than .... by excessive discipline."

Alabama and other states that still use paddles have a generation or two of former schoolchildren on their side. Most Americans over 30, and most former parochial school students, can probably testify that spanking might not have felt good, but did produce students who were better behaved.

Michaela Curtis still feels spanking is archaic and barbaric, and if she could, she'd sue the school and the teacher who spanked her child.

But that pesky state law is in her way, once again. Teachers are immune from prosecution, so she can't find a lawyer to take her case., 8 November 2002

Support for Spanking

Most Americans Think Corporal Punishment Is OK


By Julie Crandall

Spanking has its place, most Americans say - but not in school.

The public by a 2-1 margin approves of spanking children in principle, and half of parents say they sometimes do it to their own kids, an ABCNEWS poll found. But an overwhelming majority disapproves of corporal punishment in schools.

Sixty-five percent of Americans approve of spanking children, a rate that has been steady since 1990. But just 26 percent say grade-school teachers should be allowed to spank kids at school; 72 percent say it shouldn't be permitted, including eight in 10 parents of grade-schoolers.

Indeed, even among adults who spank their own child, 67 percent say grade-school teachers should not be permitted to spank children at school.

At Home

Among parents with minor children at home, 50 percent report that they sometimes spank their child, while 45 percent do not. That's about the same as it was in a Gallup poll a decade ago.

Spanking Approval

  Yes No

Approve of spanking children



Think spanking should be permitted in school



There are big regional differences in spanking. Among Southerners, 62 percent of parents spank their kids; that drops to 41 percent in the rest of the country. Similarly, 73 percent of Southerners approve of spanking children, compared to 60 percent elsewhere.

Even in the South, though, just 35 percent think spanking should be allowed in the schools. Support for spanking in the schools is about the same, 31 percent, in the Midwest, falling to 19 percent in the West and 13 percent in the East.

One other difference in spanking is among education groups. Among parents with college degrees, just 38 percent spank their kids; among less-educated parents, it's 55 percent.

The U.S. Department of Education has reported that school-sanctioned spanking is most prevalent in Southern states - Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Louisiana. There are no state laws against spanking, although 27 states have policies against the practice and this year Pennsylvania is debating becoming the 28th. Spanking in schools is currently allowed in 23 states (although in many districts parents who object can withhold permission for school personnel to spank their kids).


This ABCNEWS poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 25-29 among a random national sample of 1,015 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Field work was done by ICR-International Communications Research of Media, Pa.

ABCNEWS polls can be found in our PollVault.

The Right Way to Spank

Spanking seems like a simple proposition, but states that allow it in school actually have numerous rules and restrictions on how it's done.

In Alabama, for instance, while the state leaves the specifics up to school districts, it requires districts to go though a careful process in setting rules that must be carefully followed.

The policies are designed through public hearings at which parents, business people, and others outside the school system are brought in to help shape the guidelines.

"It's not meant to embarrass a child. It's meant as a tool of last resort," said Tom Salter, a spokesman for the Alabama State Department of Education.

Generally, the guidelines include some or all of the following:

  No spanking of students in front of other students, as it was done in the past

  The number of swats a student should receive should be specified

  The person administering the punishment must be either a school administrator or someone substituting for the school administrator

  There must be a witness present to make sure that the procedure follows the policy's guidelines

  Corporal punishment must be a last resort after other non-corporal punishments have been attempted

  The person administering the punishment is not the person who the student directly got into trouble with, to assure that there are no emotions involved in the administration of the spanking

  The person administering the punishment should take into account the student's sex, size, and their general physical condition

  Some policies specify the instrument that is to be used in the spanking, while others say an appropriate instrument must be used

  Most policies specify that the punishment must be applied to a fleshy part of the body, such as the buttocks

  Some policies allow parents the opportunity to opt out of corporal punishment of their child by signing a form at the beginning of the school year

  Parents are made aware of the school's policy on discipline

Even with all the policies in place, Salter said school officials try to avoid corporal punishment.

Although parents are aware of the school's corporate punishment policy, Salter said many teachers still fear that their jobs will be in jeopardy when they are forced to implement a spanking to a student.

"If you ask teachers or administrators what they fear the most, it's lawsuits," he said. "You can be assured that teachers go out of their ways to follow the required procedure."

However, there's still a risk that something will go wrong for the teacher.

"There's sill the possibility for them to be attacked personally in either a civil or criminal suit," Salter said.

Salter said he could not recall an incident where a teacher was hit with a lawsuit, or faced the possibility that their certificate was revoked. However, if abuse of corporal punishment is suspected, local authorities, and law enforcement would be asked to investigate and prosecute if necessary.

Copyright 2002 ABC News Internet Ventures.

Daily Sentinel, Nacogdoches, Texas, 15 November 2002

Board sides with administration in paddling incident

By Jennifer Vose
Sentinel Staff

Nov. 15 - The Timpson ISD board of trustees voted unanimously in support of the administration, Timpson High School Principal Robert Cousins and Timpson ISD Superintendent Dr. Leland Moore after hearing a Level III complaint by a parent against Cousins in regard to corporal punishment.

Darryl Pate filed a complaint against Cousins in October after his daughter, Connie Pate, suffered bruising during a paddling received from Cousins. The paddling occurred after Pate's daughter participated in what some people have called a "school tradition," where students drive through the school parking lot during their first period class on homecoming day. The entire senior class received corporal punishment as a result of the incident, but Pate said the punishment his daughter and some other students received went too far, and school policy needs to be changed.

"Connie's doctor did tell me, in a phone call on the night he examined her, that in his opinion, excessive force was used," Pate said.

Pate also said he took offense to the fact that his daughter was disciplined with no female staff present.

Pate and a lawyer representing him, Roy Jacobie Jr., presented their complaint to school board members during executive session and made their request for a policy change. Timpson ISD and their attorney, Wayne Haglund, presented information on the student's misconduct, why they believed the punishment was appropriate for the misconduct and why Connie's bruising was minimal, Pate said.

Pate said all he wants from the district is a change in policy to protect students from having something like this happen again. He is willing to continue fighting the district until that change is made, he said, and will be discussing taking the appropriate steps with his attorney.

"Everyone seems to forget that excessive force may have been used," Pate said. "I just want to make certain that nothing like this happens again in Timpson ISD."

School board member Mac Samford said Pate was told at the meeting that there may be some policy changes in the future to address his concerns.

"We told the Pates that they had some good ideas and that we would consider those when making future policy changes," Samford said.

Moore referred all questions to the school's attorney, Haglund, who was out of town Thursday afternoon.

Pate's complaint was first addressed by Cousins and then by Moore at Level I and Level II before being brought before the board Tuesday night.

2002 Cox Newspapers, Inc.
The Daily Sentinel and Cox Interactive Media

Sun Herald, Charlotte, Florida, 17 November 2002

King convicted of child abuse

Prosecutor: Pastor's testimony was his undoing

By James M. Abraham
Senior Writer

PUNTA GORDA -- Only a fool hires himself as a lawyer, they say, and, at times, that same injunction can apply to a defendant who becomes a witness, suggested the lawyer who prosecuted a local pastor who was found guilty Friday of child abuse.

"I've never met a defendant who helped his case by being a witness," said prosecutor John Burns.

The Rev. Paul King might have made a mistake by testifying on his own behalf -- a mistake that led six jurors Friday night to find the pastor and Charlotte Harbor Christian school director guilty.

After the verdict, Norma Stidham, one of the jurors, said King's testimony had hurt him. A firm opponent of corporal punishment, she said she hoped the state would outlaw the practice.

King, 48, faced a child abuse charge in connection with a May 2001 paddling punishment of then-8-year-old Kimberly Malloy at Charlotte Regional Christian Academy, a school he directed. The paddling left her buttocks so bruised that the girl's mother, Tammy Pipkin, sought charges against King.

After four hours of deliberation, jurors returned to Judge Sherra Winesett's courtroom in the Charlotte County Justice Center with their decision. As the verdict was announced around 8 p.m., moans of disbelief could be heard from a corner of the courtroom where Kings's parishioners and family members had gathered.

Pipkin, her now 10-year-old daughter and members of her entourage smiled and hugged one another.

The girl's mother said she hoped to push for a law outlawing corporal punishment.

"We hope this means he can't do to another child what he did to mine," Pipkin said.

King, dressed in a dark, tight-fitting double-breasted suit with a short jacket, white shirt and horizontal-patterned tie, took the verdict stoically. He was tight-lipped as a court clerk read the announcement. King left swiftly, saying he preferred not to comment but instead spend time with his family.

Prosecutor Burns, dressed in a dark, single-breasted suit and sporting his trademark cartoon character tie -- featuring Bugs Bunny -- was ebullient after the decision.

King remains free on $20,000 bail since his July 2001 arrest. Sentencing is expected to take place Dec. 30. He faces a maximum of five years in prison.

King testified earlier on Friday that during the week of May 11, 2001, Kimberly was involved in six disciplinary incidents, including cheating three times and lying. She deserved to be paddled, he said, and was on the verge of expulsion.

At least one juror, Stidham, said King's rambling answers and sarcasm-laced exchanges with Burns rubbed her the wrong way.

During his testimony, King compared paddling to baseball, saying a batter's powerful-looking swing may not translate into a home run.

"Some are home runs, some are doubles," he said. "... you could start with a paddle, could bring it up high, then hit soft."

His contention was made after Helen Norman, a former volunteer who witnessed the paddling, testified that King raised the piece of wood as high as the Statue of Liberty's upraised arm before striking the child.

Burns cited a terse exchange regarding King's weight as evidence of how King hurt himself on the stand. After a lengthy answer to Burn's query about how much he weighed, King finally said he doubted if either he or Burns checked their weight daily.

The hefty Burns shot back: "This morning I weighed 267 and a half pounds."

During closing arguments, Mark Gruwell, King's lawyer, hammered at the credibility of both the witnesses and the state's evidence.

"How dare they say or imply that was the paddle used," he said, referring to the roughly foot-and-a-half length of wood Burns had brandished in court.

Gruwell questioned whether Pipkin filed the charges in anticipation of a civil suit against King. He also claimed that Norman had a grudge against King.

Gruwell also questioned the state's major evidence, a series of photographs taken of the girl's buttocks soon after the beating. The photographs showed a mass of bruises. He inferred that the photographs could have been altered.

During both opening and closing arguments, Gruwell attempted to make the issue one of corporal punishment, which is legal in Florida.

But Burns ended the case as he began it:

"This is not a case about spanking ... this is not a case about corporal punishment," he said. "This is a case about child abuse."

blob Follow-up: 30 December 2002 - Change in law made King's conviction possible

Wilmington Star, North Carolina, 25 November 2002

School & Punishment

Paddling protest sways Pender school

By Sherry Jones
Staff Writer

ROCKY POINT - In response to parents' complaints, a Pender County middle school has changed its policy on corporal punishment.

Cape Fear Middle School will still offer paddling as a means of discipline, but it will have to be administered by a parent instead of a school official, according to a letter received Friday by one of the concerned parents.

Three parents adopted the cause after two of their children were spanked for mooning a school bus Oct. 31. One of the women's children also participated but didn't receive the same punishment.

The parents' main concerns are whether the offense warranted such severe punishment and whether schools have the authority to spank children.

"It's our place to discipline our children," said Jennifer McLeod, who refused to let her son be paddled.

The parents are not alone in their concerns.

Many organizations across the country - including the American Academy for Pediatrics, the National Association of School Psychologists and the N.C. Parent-Teacher Association - oppose corporal punishment.

North Carolina permits corporal punishment in schools.

Cape Fear Middle's principal, Bonnie Parks, maintains that the punishment is used only as a last resort, and parents always have a choice.

The parents plan to attend the school board's Dec. 2 meeting to speak out about the issue, but feel the revised policy is a sign of progress. But they'd like to see the policy abolished altogether.

"I'm still not satisfied, but it's a step in the right direction," said Kimberly Hess, whose son was paddled as a result of the mooning incident.

Setting the scene

The frustration over the use of corporal punishment started on Nov. 8, when all three mothers received calls informing them of what had happened. They met individually with the principal that day.

Ms. Hess said she was given two choices - allow her son to be paddled three times and kicked off the bus for 10 days or have him banned from the bus for the rest of the year.

A single mom who works in Wilmington, Ms. Hess said she had no choice but to allow the spanking because she doesn't have the means to take her son and pick him up every day.

"I felt my hands were tied, so I said, 'Do what you have to do,'" Ms. Hess said, noting that she was in the room during the paddling. "I was shaking and crying. I couldn't look."

Her son, Stevan, an eighth-grader, received three whacks on his bottom with a half-inch-thick wooden paddle.

"It hurt," Stevan said, adding that he was embarrassed.

He agreed that the punishment was too severe.

Tammy Swinson also felt limited in her choices.

When she arrived at the school on Nov. 8, she was told her son, Jeffrey, a sixth-grader, would be suspended from school for 10 days or paddled and kicked off the bus for five days. She opted for the latter.

"I didn't want my child suspended," Ms. Swinson said.

After the first hit, she said Jeffrey was screaming and jumped on a nearby couch. By the time the third hit was administered, Ms. Swinson said tears were starting to develop in her eyes.

"I was so upset," she said.

Ms. McLeod also had two choices - consent to a spanking or have her son kicked off the bus for the rest of the school year.

She said she told the principal, "I just want you to know, you're not going to paddle my son."

As a result, her son is no longer permitted to ride the bus.

Ms. McLeod said she thinks corporal punishment goes beyond the bounds of authority for school officials.

"I don't beat my kids with a stick," Ms. McLeod said. "Why should I let someone else do it?"

She explained, however, that this was not her first disagreement with the school's principal.

All three mothers noted that they punished their children for the incident.

Stevan was placed on restriction for more than a week, which meant no phone, no television, no games, no friends and more chores. Nick had extra chores, and Jeffrey wasn't allowed to use the phone or to watch television for two days.

"We're not defending what they did," Ms. Hess said. "I just don't believe in corporal punishment."

Official response

Ms. Parks, the middle school principal, doesn't dispute what happened. But she said Thursday that she's prohibited from discussing specific incidents. She stressed, however, that parents are always given a choice between corporal punishment and some other form of discipline.

"We would never use corporal punishment without a parent's permission," Ms. Parks said, adding that the punishment is carried out in accordance with state law and Pender County school board policy.

Corporal punishment, she said, is generally used after other types of discipline have failed. For instance, it may be called on if a child has already been suspended from school for constant disruption or blatant disrespect.

"It's certainly a last resort," Ms. Parks said. "My job is to keep order and safety in the school. I have a no-tolerance attitude about constant disruptions. ... We're not talking about situations that are minor."

Cape Fear Middle School officials have used corporal punishment no more than five times since the school year began, the principal said.

Some parents have requested corporal punishment because they feel nothing else is working or because they don't want their children kicked out of school.

"We try to work with the parent," Ms. Parks said. "It's important what parents feel about this. It's always very closely monitored. ... We are very careful about it."

The paddle, made by a parent, is not meant to look dangerous, Ms. Parks said.

"It's not meant to be scary," she said. "And nothing is ever done in anger or frustration. It's our responsibility to educate the kids, and we take that responsibility very seriously."

Legally speaking

North Carolina is one of 23 states that allow corporal punishment. Under the law, individual school systems decide whether they will permit paddling.

The Cape Fear Middle School parents, however, said they didn't know the law existed. As the parents try to gain signatures on their petition, they had to convince other parents that the law exists.

Pender County's policy says corporal punishment should not be used for a first offense except for an extremely serious infraction. It also gives the school authority over incidents that occur off school property if they are related to a school event.

Preston Wells, Pender County Schools' director of student services, said corporal punishment isn't used often in Pender County schools. He couldn't say which schools use corporal punishment.

"It is used in what are considered to be more serious offenses," he said.

Mr. Wells stressed that the county's policy is in line with state law, which assigns principals the responsibility of maintaining order and discipline in their schools.

Some portions of the policy, however, give principals a lot of leeway, he said.

The policy doesn't specifically say for which offenses corporal punishment may be used.

"That is subjective and left up to the principal," Mr. Wells said, adding that individual schools are required to keep records of how often they administer corporal punishment.

Contrasting policies

Elsewhere in Southeastern North Carolina, school systems take different approaches. Columbus and Duplin counties permit corporal punishment in their schools, and they have policies similar to the one in Pender County.

Tommy Nance, superintendent of the Columbus County Schools, said the decision on whether to spank a child is left up to principals and teachers. Each school also can decide whether it will allow corporal punishment. He added that it's not used often.

Duplin County Schools Superintendent Tommy Benson said corporal punishment isn't rare in his schools, but it's not done frequently. He didn't have specific numbers.

New Hanover County banned corporal punishment in 1991. It's also prohibited in the Whiteville City Schools.

Dozens of organizations in North Carolina and throughout the country oppose the use of corporal punishment in schools.

The national and state PTAs are among them.

"We would encourage school systems to find other alternatives to corporal punishment," said Tannis Nelson, N.C. PTA president and a New Hanover County resident. "There are a number of studies that show that children who are hit tend to become hitters and bullies."

Mrs. Nelson applauded the efforts of the Pender County parents.

"Parents can effect change," she said. "They need to be addressing this issue."

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