corpun logoWorld Corporal Punishment Research

rainbow ruler   :  Archive   :  2003   :  US Schools Dec 2003


School CP - December 2003

Corpun file 12409


The Town Talk, Alexandria, Louisiana, 4 December 2003

Judge rules schools can't paddle students if parents disagree with policy

By Emily Peters
The Town Talk

Schools have no right to swat a child if his parents have requested an alternative discipline, ruled 9th Judicial District Court Judge George Metoyer on Wednesday.

The judge ruled in favor of George and Theresa Setliff, who sued the Rapides Parish School Board and the Northwood High School assistant principal for paddling their son after they repeatedly asked for an alternative method of discipline.

"The school system may not need consent of the parent to paddle a child, but when administration is specifically told not to, another medium of discipline should be found," Metoyer said.

He awarded the Setliff family $45,000 in damages. The Setliff's are also due additional medical costs for treating their son's emotional disorders they claimed were worsened by the paddling incident.

Assistant Principal William Floyd paddled the Setliff's then-9-year-old son for biting another pupil in February 2001. Floyd said he forgot the Setliff's asked him not to do so.

Metoyer said he is not condemning the practice of corporal punishment, but "the mere fact that the student is in the hands of the school system does not give any one administrator or teacher the right to paddle that child as they so choose."

The Setliff's lawyer, Silas O'Neal, declared the judgement a victory for parents' rights.

A few Rapides Parish schools send home letters at the beginning of the year asking parents if it is alright to paddle their children at school, but those letters are not required.

State law does not say schools need permission from the parents to conduct corporal punishment.

In recent history, the School Board has prevailed over everyone that has sued them for corporal punishment.

In the past few months, the Rapides Parish School Board has considered banning paddling to avoid lawsuits.

Even though the district usually wins the corporal punishment lawsuits, the defense costs can prove costly, said Lyle Hutchinson, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

"I don't disagree with (corporal punishment)," Hutchinson said. "I just don't like the way our principals get arrested and treated like thugs for following policy."

However, the corporal punishment policy remains intact. Students can receive no more than six swats with a regulation paddle with a witness present.

Laura Sylvester, lawyer for Floyd and the School Board, said she is not sure if her clients want to appeal.

Copyright © 2003, The Town Talk, a division of Gannett Company Inc.

Corpun file 12441

Time Warner logo, Austin, Texas, 12 December 2003

Corporal punishment not the norm at parochial schools

By Allie Rasmus

A jury ignored pleas for probation and sent two brothers to prison Friday for severely beating one of their Bible study students last summer.

scene at a parochial elementary school

Joshua Thompson will serve a jail term of 26 years and his twin brother Caleb will serve 14.

Both were convicted Wednesday on two counts each of injury to a child and aggravated assault.

The Thompson brothers' trial has some members of the religious education community concerned. Some parochial schools are worried that the impact of the trial will spill outside the courtroom.

With a child abuse conviction behind Caleb and Joshua Thompson, religious educators now wonder if this case of a Bible study class gone bad will hurt public perception about parochial schools.

"It's unfortunate and it will cause some people to wonder the next time they pass a church," Doug Rigdon, with Strickland Christian School, said.

Rigdon said there's a difference between corporal punishment and what the Thompson brothers did.

"That definitely was not discipline, that's obviously abuse and the jury has spoken on that," Rigdon said.

There's no state law barring any school, private or public, from using corporal punishment, but in most cases, parents have a say in when that kind of punishment is used.

"They don't just go out and give punishment to your child and not let you know anything about it," Amber Contreras, a Strickland school parent, said.

Contreras believes it's unfair to paint all religious schools with the same brush.

"It's the individual persons themselves that feel they need to treat someone like that to get a point across," Contreras said.

"Christian schools have to work very hard at improving their perception because there is some misunderstanding. Anytime something this terrible happens it can be seen as a set back or opportunity," Rigdon said.

Rigdon hopes parents can give all parochial schools an opportunity to show that cases of abuse are the exception, not the rule.

Parochial schools are not licensed by the state, but many are accredited by the National Christian School Association. Their disciplinary guidelines are available on their Web site.

Copyright © 2003 TWEAN d.b.a. News 8 Austin

Corpun file 12439


Erie Times-News, Pennsylvania, 18 December 2003

Panel proposes ban on paddling

Associated Press

HARRISBURG -- At least a few state lawmakers oppose a State Board of Education proposal to ban corporal punishment, saying teachers and administrators shouldn't be forced to spare the rod if they believe paddling is an effective way to make students behave.

The ban is part of a broader set of proposed regulation changes that were presented to the House Education Committee on Tuesday. The committee is expected to vote Jan. 7 on whether to support the revised regulations, which govern discipline, student records, rights and responsibilities, and student services.

Similar bans have been adopted in 28 other states, and Pennsylvania is one of 13 that explicitly allows corporal punishment, said Edith Isacke, a state board member who leads a committee that endorsed the ban.

Although current regulations allow an exception for students whose parents notify school officials that they object to paddling, many parents believe such punishment is already outlawed in Pennsylvania and are surprised when their children are subjected to it, Isacke said.

"Our public schools are the last publicly operated institutions where corporal punishment is permitted. The board believes it is time to end this practice," she said.

For 1999-2000, the most recent years for which data are available, 407 students were struck in Pennsylvania, a very small fraction of the state's 1.8 million public school students, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, said the proposed ban would erode local districts' control over setting disciplinary policy and would restrict the ability of schools to maintain order in the classroom.

"I think you're going to do harm to the policy that school districts are able to set and give them less leverage," he said.

When administered appropriately, paddling can effectively keep students who are disobedient or openly defiant in line without harming them in the long term, said Rep. Samuel Rohrer, R-Berks.

"I experienced a spanking or two in my early elementary school years, and I'm sure a lot of you have. ... I can't look back and say that it was negative," he said.

But defining appropriateness is problematic, said Isacke, who added that she has heard several anecdotes of what she considered to be extreme situations, such as a student in Warren County who was paddled in front of his classmates for forgetting his homework.

The new policy would allow teachers and administrators to use "reasonable force" under specific circumstances, such as self-defense or restraining a student.

"If you want to quell a disturbance, fine ... but you can't paddle them for minor infractions," Isacke said.

blob Follow-up: 19 March 2004 - State panel seeks ban on student spankings

Corpun file 12438


The Times & Democrat, Orangeburg, S. Carolina, 19 December 2003

Consolidated 4 tightens policy against gangs

By Lee Hendren
T&D Staff Writer

COPE -- Schools in Orangeburg Consolidated School District 4 generally don't have secret societies or gang activities, Superintendent Dr. Sandra Tonnsen said Tuesday.

She wants to keep it that way.

"We know the potential is out there," she said. "We don't want to have a problem."

The trustee board gave first reading to a policy revision that "prohibits the presence and activities of gangs on or near school property and at school-sponsored events."


Second reading was given to policy revisions that eliminate corporal punishment and let students possess and use paging devices and cell phones under strict rules.

Tonnsen said her staff has begun building the district's budget for 2004-05.


The only public comment came from a Springfield mother who claimed that a boy "socked" and began to beat up her daughter on the school bus, and the girl was punished for hitting him back.

Board Chairman Aaron Rudd replied, "If somebody started hitting on me, I'd probably have to hit back, yes, ma'am."

Tonnsen said she would investigate the incident.


© Copyright 2003, The Times and Democrat. All rights reserved

Corpun file 12560


The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 21 December 2003

Discipline on the front line

Assistant principals keep peace

By Wayne Risher

Asst principal with student
By A.J. Wolfe
Manassas High School assistant principal Glen Chapman restrains a student following a fight recently. Breaking up fights is relatively rare, Chapman said. He estimates there is a fight every two or three weeks.

A hallway fight roused Glen Chapman from his paperwork barely 15 minutes into the school day.

The Manassas High School assistant principal sprinted from his office, following students' shouts, to find two freshmen girls flailing away at each other.

He and a teacher pried the girls apart, and Chapman led a hysterical ninth-grader, arm pinned behind her back, to his office.

In a room full of snarling tigers -- Manassas and University of Memphis mascots -- Chapman played detective, mediator, child psychologist and disciplinarian.

He suspended both girls, but made sure they'd be back in time for semester exams.

Then he tossed a couple more forms -- labeled "home suspension" -- on a pile he would process before leaving school 14 hours later, after a ball game.

Welcome to the world of assistant principals: chief disciplinarians, enforcers of rules, keepers of the peace and teachers of adult responsibility.

They seem to do it out of a genuine love for children, although "tough love" best describes what went on behind some of their doors on recent school days.

McCarter with student
By Matthew Craig
Tommie McCarter, assistant principal at Ridgeway High School, disciplines a student who tried to start a fight.

Some students resent their efforts and retaliate through anonymous letters, verbal abuse and physical threats, assistants said.

There has been speculation that students who tossed a homemade bomb into a Cordova High School assistant principal's office Dec. 8 may have been seeking revenge, though county school officials downplayed that prospect.

"I always say a good disciplinarian is a combination of Mother Teresa and Attila the Hun," Ridgeway High principal Hal Russell said.

Houston High principal John Aitken said assistant principal is the toughest job in a high school.

"You're there on the front line," he said.

Several assistant principals said they rarely fear physical harm from students, owing largely to their rapport with them.

That's not to say there haven't been problems: the parent who pounded on Mike McIntyre's desk; the student who picked up Tommie McCarter's desk.

Kathryn Jones with students
By Alan Spearman
Houston High School assigns an assistant principal to each grade, and Kathryn Jones has freshmen this year. As students move up, so do the assistants. "Every time (students) do something they shouldn't have, that is a learning moment," Jones said.

McIntyre had suspended a student from Germantown High for the zero-tolerance offense of possessing tobacco, and the boy's father didn't accept his explanation.

McCarter said a Ridgeway student cursed her, then threatened her with the desk. She called security on the radio and bailed out of her office's side door.

Punished students are likely suspects in threatening notes McCarter has received in five years as an assistant principal. The notes were made from clipped and pasted magazine letters.

During the anthrax scare after 9/11, she got an envelope filled with white powder.

"You could smell it and tell it was baking powder," McCarter said.

In appearance and demeanor, assistant principals are more like a congenial security detail than a squad of brutish bouncers.

"A good assistant principal is a person who can relate to kids, a flexible person, not a clock watcher, but relating to kids is the most important thing," Aitken said.

They're among the first to arrive and the last to leave.

By Alan Spearman
Mike McIntyre, Houston's 10th-grade assistant, says he calls parents if the offense is major or minor. "I've found if we call on little bitty things, it prevents major things."

Their days revolve around recording attendance and discipline, policing tardiness, defusing conflicts and handling "referrals" -- kids in trouble.

They help evaluate teachers, coordinate parent-teacher conferences and plan services for special-needs students.

During class breaks, they keep watch over hundreds or thousands of students.

Houston assistant principal Kathryn Jones began a day with a 6:45 a.m. meeting with mothers of two freshmen. The boys sprayed foul-smelling aerosol on a school bus.

"It took one squirt to cause a dither," Jones said.

Jones called the parents as part of an effort to root out inappropriate middle school behaviors.

"Every time they do something they shouldn't have, that is a learning moment," she said.

Houston assigns an assistant to each grade, and Jones has freshmen this year.

As students move up, so do the assistants.

"If you don't love the kids, you couldn't make it," said Jones, 56, of Collierville.

McIntyre, 48, of Germantown, Houston's 10th-grade assistant, was disciplinarian at Germantown before moving to Houston two years ago.

"I'm kind of old-fashioned," McIntyre said. "I call the parents if it's major or minor. I've found if we call on little bitty things, it prevents major things."

He sent for a sophomore who was habitually late for school and told her she was on the verge of in-school suspension.

He found out the girl's father drives her to school. Reluctantly, she agreed it would be good if McIntyre called her father.

McIntyre recalled suspending two students for 10 days for accidentally setting a fire in art class. They were playing with matches and rubber cement. He brought in the fire marshal, who issued a juvenile summons.

"I wanted to impress on them how serious it was," he said.

It pains McIntyre to see students get long-term suspensions for zero-tolerance infractions such as illegal drugs, alcohol and weapons.

"They have a school as good as this one, and to do something where they can't come here," he said.

McCarter said her principal's Mother Teresa-Attila the Hun example "describes me to a T."

McCarter, 49, of Germantown, usually handles Ridgeway's ninth- and 10th-graders.

Two heavily taped paddles lie in a corner behind her door. They weren't dusty.

McCarter, a former flight attendant, said some students prefer whacks on the backside to detention hall.

She finished the day meting out justice to students accused of threatening a classmate, skipping school and cutting class.

She told ninth-grade boys they were acting like girls by risking a fight over hearsay.

She got a ninth-grade girl's mother on the phone to let her know the girl was getting in-school suspension for cutting class.

Her harshest words were reserved for an 11th-grader whose father turned her in for skipping school and partying at a friend's house.

"You really hurt your dad's heart, didn't you?" McCarter asked the tearful senior. "Why do we hurt people who care about us?"

"The students say I'm mean," McCarter said, but never to her face.

Manassas's Chapman, 52, of East Memphis, said, "I've been told before I need to be more hated."

After dealing with a tough kid, Chapman said he'll ask himself, "'Did I handle that right?' If I come out of the building, and I'm the last one out, I sometimes wonder if somebody will be waiting on me. But you can get paranoid thinking like that."

His investigation showed the fighting girls had begun quarreling after school the day before, and that friends had egged them on.

"Both of you could have avoided the whole situation," he told them. "Like other times, you let somebody else boost you up. What are they doing right now? They're in class laughing at both of y'all."

Besides Tigers, the other things on Chapman's walls are photos of former students.

"That's really the driving force to me, to see some of these kids get out in the world and do very well."

Copyright 2004, - Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.

blob THE ARCHIVE index

blob Video clips

blob Picture index

blob About this website

blob Country files  Main menu page

Copyright © C. Farrell 2004
Page updated July 2006