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ruler   :  Archive   :  2004   :  US Schools Oct 2004



School CP - October 2004

Corpun file 14260

The Palladium-Item, Richmond, Indiana, 3 October 2004

Discipline strict but fair

Paddlings were effective in keeping students in line

By Bill Eagle
Staff writer

Many teachers at Nicholson ruled their classrooms with an iron hand and a wooden paddle.

Paddling was still a part of everyday discipline and, through the years, teachers were not afraid to use paddle-on-fanny as a way to discipline students.

"There was respect for teachers," Derek White said. "They used to put brown paper over the (glass) door and that was it. I remember I got paddled in the third grade and that was it for me. I got the message."

"If they saw you misbehaving the first time it was a firm talk," Tim Williams said. "After that the paddle would come out. I think we were being parented."

And it was a given that if children acted up in school and got paddled there, a paddling was probably in their future from their parents when they got home.

"It was a tight-knit neighborhood and that kind of news traveled fast," Alice Ferguson said.

"But every paddling I got I deserved," said Charles Pennington, who attended Nicholson in the late 1940s and early '50s. "You followed the line. They were strict."

James Bonner II went to Nicholson in the 1960s. He said "everybody acted straight."

"There was no jacking around in class in those days," he said. "The teachers were stern about what you had to do. But that was good. I thought it was real special."

Vagas Ferguson admitted that he "wasn't the best kid."

"I got paddled a bunch of times and I spent a ton of time in the encyclopedia copying words," he said. "But that was good. That's what I needed."

Corpun file 14140

WKYC on line, Cleveland, Ohio, 4 October 2004

School swats students with paddles

Reported by Kim Wheeler

WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS -- A local charter school that's already been in the news for its strict uniform policy has another controversial practice.

More than 100 students at the taxpayer funded charter school in Warresville Heights were all sent home last week because they didn't have complete uniforms.

The International Preparatory School also uses paddling as a punishment.

While most public schools do not practice corporal punishment, it's not against the law in Ohio, but it is up to the school's governing board or school board to set the corporal punishment policy.

One mother did sign a release allowing the school to use corporal punishment.

"When I was growing up [I] did get swats, so that didn't bother me if they get out of line," Regina Glass said.

Sundrina Washington says she's been paddled before.

"If late to class, [you] have to get two swats," she said.

Marnisha Brown is a laid off Cleveland school teacher who took a job at the International Preparatory School. She worked there for three days before she resigned.

"They used wooden paddles," Brown said.

She was troubled by the learning environment and she also saw the paddling. One paddle had holes in it.

Channel 3 talked to the superintendent and CEO of the school about the discipline policy.

"In fact, we have parents call and ask us to paddle their children," Khadeeja Sherrell-Morse said.

She says parents are more than supportive.

"Some parents come up here and ask us if they can use our paddle," the CEO added.

The Ohio Department of Education oversees charter schools and says this practice is allowed and it is aware of its use at this school.

Corpun file 14110

Dallas Morning News, Texas., 6 October 2004

Midlothian players face charges

By Matt Jacob
The Dallas Morning News

MIDLOTHIAN – A group of Midlothian High School football players are eligible to play Friday night against Waxahachie despite pending charges against them by a teacher for disorderly conduct.

Midlothian superintendent J.D. Kennedy said in a prepared statement Wednesday that the players' reprimand was limited to either two days of in-school suspension or corporal punishment.

"The disrespectful behavior on the part of some of the students and the failure to follow the teacher's instructions was definitely inappropriate and merits disciplinary action," Kennedy said.

"Because there were no threats of retaliation or physical harm, there will not be any further school punishment for the incident to the students involved."

Kennedy and Midlothian principal James Smith were at an academic administrators conference Wednesday and were not available for further comment. Phone calls left for Midlothian football coach Gary Oliver and the teacher, Cassondra Zielinski, were not returned, and the players were not made available.

Zielinski told school officials and police that players and other students totaling six, went to her classroom following a Sept. 24th pep rally to inquire as to what could be done to help a teammate pass a class. When Zielinski told them she would not discuss another student's grade, they did not leave despite repeated requests. One student also allegedly touched Zielinski's shoulder and another blocked her door as she tried to get them to leave her room.

Midlothian police ticketed the individuals – four 17-year-olds, one 18-year-old and a juvenile – with Class C misdemeanors punishable up to a $500 fine.

Mark Griffith, an attorney for one of the players, said he is appealing the punishment inflicted to his client as well as Zielinski's acting outside of school policy with the matter.

"With regards to her capacity as a teacher, giving the names of the students [to police] involved a disciplinary action outside of school policy," said Griffith, of the Waxahachie-based firm of Griffith & Associates. "I don't feel like the actions that he and the others were involved in were more than simply acting responsibly and sticking up for a friend.

"These are excellent students and good people, and the charges brought against them were blown unbelievably out of proportion."

Before administering corporal punishment to Griffith's client, whose name Griffith would not release, Midlothian assistant principal Robert Kindred signed a letter acknowledging that Griffith's client accepts the punishment but that the appellate process to clear the player's name had already been started.

Corpun file 14108

The Nashville Tennessean, 7 October 2004

Grandmother sues over boy's being paddled

Punishment went too far, she says

By Michelle E. Shaw
Staff Writer

MURFREESBORO — A Rock Springs Middle School student and his grandmother are suing the school, its assistant principal and the Rutherford County school system over a 2003 paddling they say went too far.

Judy Martinez said her grandson "is no angel," but the severity of the corporal punishment Wesley Martinez received was "way out of line," so much so that her grandson, who was 13 at the time of the paddling, is named as the plaintiff in a $75,000 civil lawsuit in Rutherford County Circuit Civil Court.

She said the paddling left three bruises on her grandson's backside: one just above the right knee, another in the middle of the left thigh and one on his lower right buttock.

When reached by phone at his home, Rock Springs Assistant Principal Joel Rowlett would not comment on the allegations.

James Evans, spokesman for Rutherford County schools, also would not comment. He said it is standard policy that the system does not comment on matters in litigation.

The suit, filed last month, says the punishment was carried out in an unreasonable manner. It also says that Wesley had to get medical treatment for torn muscles in his back as a result of the punishment.

Martinez, 61, of Smyrna said the suit stems from the discipline Wesley, now 14, received for an incident that occurred during breakfast at the school Sept. 6, 2003.

"I threw a packet of ketchup on the floor in the cafeteria," Wesley said. He said he "was going to sweep it up because I was supposed to clean the floor that day, but I got called to the office instead."

Martinez said Rowlett called her around 8:45 a.m. that day and told her that Wesley was in trouble and he was going to be suspended or he could be paddled.

"I didn't want him to be suspended," she said, "so I gave my permission for him to be paddled, but I had no idea it would be like that."

According to Wesley, Rowlett hit him "like he was swinging a baseball bat."

"It felt like a bunch of bees stinging me," said the boy, who is now in the eighth grade and still attends the school. "I couldn't walk good after that and my legs hurt real bad."

Paddling is legal in Tennessee and it is up to each school system to apply the state law on corporal punishment, said Kim Karesh, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education. State law does not address the degree of force used during a paddling or what type paddle should be used.

Martinez said that once she found out the district attorney's office would not press charges against the assistant principal, she decided to file the civil suit.

"If I'd done that to them, the kids would have been out of my house and I'd be behind bars."

She said her grandson did not deserve a paddling that left bruises.

"I didn't want him to be suspended, but I didn't want the crap beat out of him, either. I mean, Wesley is no angel, and I'm not trying to paint him as one, but no child deserves what he got."

Tennessee law

The state law says any teacher or school principal may use corporal punishment in a reasonable manner against any pupil for good cause in order to maintain discipline and order within the public schools. The law also gives each local board of education the right to adopt rules and regulations as it deems necessary to implement and control any form of corporal punishment in the schools in its district.

Rutherford County Board of Education policy

The Rutherford County school board does not require the permission of either a child's parent or guardian before corporal punishment is administered. The board's policy on corporal punishment says the punishment should be "reasonable," but does not specify any exact offenses when paddling should be used. The policy also says consideration of the offender's age, sex, size, physical and emotional condition should be considered when determining the degree of punishment.

Copyright 2002 The Tennessean

Corpun file 14138

Waxahachie Daily Light, Texas, 8 October 2004

Charges filed in MISD student/teacher incident

By Floyd Ingram
Daily Light


MIDLOTHIAN – Six high school students have been charged with disorderly conduct after a confrontation with a math teacher on homecoming weekend.

The incident occurred about 3 p.m., Sept. 24, after the homecoming pep rally when 11 young men allegedly approached a high school math teacher in her classroom and asked her to do something about a fellow athlete's grade.

The incident has been investigated by Midlothian ISD officials, and students involved were given the choice of two days in-school suspension or two licks with a paddle.

The incident was also made known to the Midlothian Police Department, and after their investigation, charges of disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanor, were filed against five of the young men and a juvenile.

Joshua Russell, Tommy Horn, Colby O'Neal, Rashad Flannigan, all 17, Corey Smith 18, and an unnamed 16-year-old juvenile, have been charged by police and face an Oct. 21 court date in Midlothian Municipal Court.

"These students requested permission from a coach to go talk to Mrs. (Cassondra) Zielinski about Derrick Washington's grades," said MPD investigator Tony Bovinich. "The group went over there but not all went into the classroom."

MHS recently released grades for the first six weeks. Under state requirements, athletes who have a failing grade are not allowed to play sports.


Corpun file 14167

Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 8 October 2004

End to school paddling sought

But polled parents support spanking

By Ruma Banerji Kumar

Memphis city school board member Lora Jobe is resurrecting a plan to abolish school paddling, despite a recent survey of 1,006 Memphis parents that found 70 percent support corporal punishment.

"It's like putting leeches on to lower blood pressure in this day and age when you know there are medicines available that work better," Jobe said Thursday. "They're not embracing the research and literature that shows there are other, more effective ways to discipline children."

Jobe, whose anti-paddling push has been on the back burner since February, will bring her proposal back before the full school board Oct. 18.

School board vice president Wanda Halbert plans to put up a counter proposal that would strengthen the existing policy with firm consequences for those who misuse corporal punishment, but would not do away with paddling altogether.

"I have heard vehement opposition from teachers who don't want us to do away with paddling," Halbert said. "They worry that doing away with it completely gives the appearance to children that they have the authority to completely disrespect."

School data that showed black boys and middle schoolers are disproportionately paddled has fueled the local debate, and news reports of abusive discipline like that of Hamilton High basketball players paddled for missing free throws stoked the fire.

In community forums and school board meetings, the issue has spurred hot philosophical and religious debates that had parents and board members jousting over whether paddling is sanctioned child abuse, or discipline biblically justified by the "spare the rod, spoil the child" adage.

Memphis Supt. Carol Johnson, who opposes paddling, collected data that showed nearly 98 percent of the 13,804 students paddled in the 2003-04 school year were black and 73 percent were male -- in a district that's 88 percent black and 50 percent male.

Despite data that showed arbitrary and inappropriate use of paddling, a recent phone survey conducted by the Memphis school district found more than 71 percent of parents "trust the school staff to use spanking fairly." More than 80 percent consider paddling "effective discipline," and would OK paddling for less severe behavior like cursing and skipping school.

That concerns Memphis Council PTA president Zorina Bowen, a paddling opponent.

"I thought we'd be more enlightened than that," Bowen said. "For every case of corporal punishment that's administered correctly, there are 10 that aren't."

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

Corpun file 14158

Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 13 October 2004

School paddling debate gains national attention

Prominent black leaders take firm stand against corporal punishment

By Ruma Banerji Kumar

The debate over paddling in Memphis city schools is capturing national attention.

Alvin Poussaint, a board member of anti-paddling group EPOCH-USA, has rallied the support of top black leaders in a call against corporal punishment in Memphis schools and others nationwide.

In a press release sent to city school board members Tuesday, Poussaint called Memphis data that showed black males are disproportionately paddled "outrageous."

"We feel this is archaic and turns many of them against school," said Poussaint, who is also a psychiatry professor at Harvard University.

"It's important for the black community to realize that the leaders they respect so much are on the record against corporal punishment in schools."

Poussaint has rallied prominent black activists to support a ban of paddling in schools, including Julian Bond, chairman of the board of the NAACP, Kweisi Mfume, president and CEO of the NAACP, Marc Morial, president/CEO of the Urban League and Rev. Jesse Jackson.

"Board members are really going to have to rethink their position in light of highly respected, intelligent people urging us to make a change," said school board member Lora Jobe, who is leading the local push to ban corporal punishment.

"People like Julian Bond coming forward saying end corporal punishment, that's powerful. This is more than some little local person coming up with a bright idea."

Jobe is resurrecting a plan to abolish school paddling despite a recent survey of 1,006 Memphis parents that found 70 percent support corporal punishment.

The city school board meets Monday to discuss paddling.

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

Corpun file 14266

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri, 14 October 2004

Jefferson County Post

Fox School District weighs corporal punishment policy

By Sheri Gassaway
Special to the Post-Dispatch

The Fox School Board will consider later this month whether to change the district's corporal punishment policy. School policy calls for corporal punishment as a last resort at the elementary school level, when it is believed to help maintain discipline. All corporal punishment must be administered by a principal or other district administrator and witnessed by another adult staff member.

Superintendent Jim Chellew said the district reviews its policies yearly. In that process, he said one of the board members had suggested a review of the corporal punishment policy. "It is truly used as a last resort, and some principals refuse to use it no matter what," Chellew said.

Chellew said he would offer board members two options for changing the policy: One would ban corporal punishment, and another would allow it with written consent from the child's parents.

Board member Dave Palmer said he was in favor of the policy that requires consent. "I think we need written documentation from the parent to do this, and if we don't have it and can't control the situation, the parents will need to come in and pick up the student," he said. Two board members, Cheryl Hermann and Linda Nash, said they supported banning corporal punishment. "Allowing corporal punishment gives the appearance that the district endorses it," said Hermann.

The board is expected to consider changing the policy at its meeting Tuesday.

(Copyright (c) 2004 The Post-Dispatch)

Corpun file 14409

The Town Talk, Alexandria, Louisiana, 15 October 2004

Your Mail 10-15

Discipline needed

The Town Talk has dropped to a new level when a disruptive child can make the front page, even though the principal was cleared of the charges against him. The other students in that class who were obedient, hardworking and cooperative did not merit even a passing comment.

The Rapides Parish School Board is at a crossroads debating taking corporal punishment out of the hands of school personnel. My experience showed me long ago that there is a small segment of the student body which will play havoc with educational opportunities of other students unless they are either stopped or removed from the school.

Not too long ago the debate was suspensions, but little was said about why those students were removed from school. It is grossly unfair to the vast majority of students to let a few take away their educational opportunities. Yes, defiant students include those at a very early age. Their defiance is accepted at home, and they expect it to be accepted at school. Our prisons are full of examples of people who did not learn some common limits in life.

Often parents of those students do not know what to do with them at home, or they are unwilling to take steps to curb their unacceptable behavior. They resent anyone at school doing anything to correct their children since they often do not see any problem, or they do not want it called to their attention.

The idea that all students will become cooperative with a little counseling is pure baloney. We are talking about a very small number of students when we talk about paddling at school. Both teachers and administrators cringe at the thought of padding a child because they do not want their reputations tarnished -- even if they are cleared.

A student who was fighting in the library once told me that his mother said that no one could correct him at school. I paddled him and then called his mother. She verified what he said. I told her she was teaching him wrong, and that when the police picked him up for breaking the law, they would not call her for permission to book him and jail him.

Francis Elliott

Copyright 2004, The Town Talk, a division of Gannett Company Inc.

Corpun file 14241

The Observer-Reporter, Washington, Pennsylvania, 20 October 2004

Meeting roundups

Washington School Board


Date: Oct. 18

Action: The board approved a first reading of a policy to ban corporal punishment for students in the district. Dr. Roberta DiLorenzo, district superintendent, said although the state allows corporal punishment of public school students and district staff are permitted to use it only if certain procedures are followed. A second reading must be approved for the change to take place.


Corpun file 14259

Lufkin Daily News, Texas, 20 October 2004

Couple asks TEA to investigate paddling incident

By Gary Bass
The Lufkin Daily News

A Groveton couple has requested that the Texas Education Agency investigate a Sept. 29 incident in which their 9-year-old son received a paddling for continuously refusing to turn in his homework.

The two "pops" by the high school principal were hard enough to leave red welts on the boy's behind that lasted four days, said his mother, Shelley Hall of Groveton.

"What scares me is that this is not the first time that something like this has happened," Hall said in a telephone interview. "About a year ago, an 11-year-old got three pops that were hard enough that he had welts. He also had blood in his underwear.

"It's very upsetting to have to fear for your kids when they go to school. I shouldn't have to worry about them."

As result of what happened to her son, Hall is now home-schooling her three school-age children. She said although she enjoys teaching her kids, she regrets that they are unable to go to school with their friends.

Hall said they have been in contact with TEA officials, who said the state agency has 60 days to decide whether they will investigate the incident.

Monday night, the Groveton school board took no action after Hall and her husband, Chris Sr., appeared to make a formal complaint to the panel about the incident. After the meeting, Superintendent Joe Driskell declined to comment on the matter, citing "personnel matters" that were discussed in closed session.

Driskell was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

In a letter written to Groveton ISD officials on Sept. 30, the Halls requested that the district's corporal punishment policy be revised so it is only used in instances of physical confrontations, obvious aggression toward teachers or disruptions in the classroom setting.

"I can't comment on the specifics of what happened because it's a personnel issue," said Mickey Gilbert, the Groveton Elementary principal. "Corporal punishment is one of our tools of discipline. We followed school policy."

Gilbert said as part of Groveton ISD policy, the parents are supposed to be notified if their child receives a paddling. He said witnesses are required to be present any time corporal punishment is used. Whether or not paddlings are appropriate depends on the situation, Gilbert said.

"We're not trying to be bad folks," he said. "We're trying to do the best we can to take care of our kids."

Hall said her son, Christopher Jr., has ADHD, and that she and her husband had been trying to mainstream him with other students his age. She said because he had had problems with turning in his homework at the district he'd attended prior to coming to Groveton, she requested that his teacher send a note with Chris Jr. detailing his homework assignments.

In their letter, Hall said she was unable to get a homework note from her son's teacher two days in a row.

On Sept. 29, Christopher Jr. was sent to the office during the tutorials period because he failed to do his homework, Hall said. Because Gilbert was not there, high school principal Cliff Lasiter stepped in for him. Christopher Jr. asked to be given after-school detention, but the principal paddled him, Hall said.

The boy also received five demerits, a poor grade and had to miss recess that day, Hall said. She said in the six weeks they had been in school, he got to go to recess about six times.

Hall said on the day that Christopher Jr. was paddled he complained about his rear end hurting. Hall told her husband to check it out later that evening, and they found "two, huge welts on his buttocks." Along with her e-mail, she sent a picture taken the following Sunday that showed that he still had visible red marks.

The next day, the Halls went to the school to complain.

"Finally, around 9:30 a.m., we found Mr. Lasiter back at the high school," the letter stated. "He said, he did nothing wrong and that sometimes there are bruises."

Hall said they took the Groveton ISD officials a letter saying they were revoking the school's authority to use corporal punishment on their children. Lasiter told them the school district's policy would not allow them to do that.

Sometime after the paddling incident, Hall stood in front of a Groveton store in an effort to get people to sign a petition to get the school district to revise its corporal punishment policy. Although she only got 56 signatures, many people expressed support, and said they were hesitant to sign it because they feared reprisals from Groveton ISD officials.

"The job of any school employee, whether it is elected, volunteer or paid, is to have a love for children," the Halls' letter stated. "We have four children, and three of them need to be in school.

"Are we supposed to to make them go to school and be afraid of the adults that surround them or should we keep them at home and be afraid of going to jail?"

2004 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. - The Lufkin Daily News

blob Follow-up: 27 January 2005 - Parents of ex-Groveton students taking school paddling complaints to state

Corpun file 14242

The Tennessean, Nashville, 20 October 2004

Rutherford looks at paddling policy

Lawsuit sparks discussion on district's policy not to require parental consent

By Michelle E. Shaw
Staff Writer

MURFREESBORO As a father, Mark Byrnes doesn't think his kids should be paddled in school.

That's why as a Rutherford County Board of Education member, Byrnes wants the district to examine the way it handles this type of discipline.

"I want the board to think about changing their policy," Byrnes said yesterday. "I think at the very least we need to institute some kind of parental permission, at the very least."

Byrnes is one of two people who got the board to discuss the system's corporal punishment at its regular monthly meeting this week.

Paddling is legal in Tennessee and it is up to each school system to apply the state law on corporal punishment, Kim Karesh, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education said. The state law does not address the degree of force used during a paddling or what constitutes a paddle.

In Rutherford County schools, the current district policy does not require parents to give their consent before a child is paddled.

Byrnes said his interest in the county's corporal punishment policy was sparked by a lawsuit filed by a former Rock Springs Middle School student and his grandmother.

Last month Judy Martinez and her grandson, 14-year-old Wesley Martinez, filed a civil lawsuit in Rutherford County Circuit Court.

The suit seeks a $75,000 reward and claims the paddling left three bruises on her grandson's backside, one just above the right knee, another was in the middle of the left thigh and the last one at the base of his right buttock. The suit alleges the punishment was carried out in an unreasonable manner and says Wesley had to get medical treatment for torn muscles in his back.

The other person who requested that the system's paddling policy be put on tomorrow's monthly meeting agenda is Nashville resident Tom Johnson.

Johnson, a member of the advocacy group Tennesseans for Non-Violent School Discipline, said he is aware of the Martinezes' lawsuit. Rutherford County Board of Education spokesman James Evans said Johnson wrote the board a letter and requested that the issue be put on the agenda.

In the letter Johnson says the board should reconsider its current corporal punishment policy.

"It should be reconsidered on account of the risks involved," he wrote. " I am hopeful that I can make a good case for at least modifying the current policy."

Byrnes said he doesn't know Johnson, but he is encouraged that at least one other person wants the district to examine the policy. "I know some principals use corporal punishment as a tool and I certainly don't want to take anything away from them, but I think there's a better way to do this," he said.

Some parents are ambivalent about the district's policy.

Jack Thomas, a La Vergne father of two and vice provost for academic affairs at Middle Tennessee State University, said that he and his family recently moved to Tennessee and that he didn't know his kids could be paddled without his knowledge.

"We're coming from Maryland where that is illegal," he said. "But now that it's been brought that to my attention, I have mixed feelings about it. I grew up in Alabama where paddling was allowed, and I remember some students being paddled then, but you also have to consider schools now," he continued. "That's why I have these mixed feelings. Some kind of disciplinary action does need to be put in place, but I'm just not sure it's paddling."

Susan DuBray, Smyrna homemaker and mother of three, said she's against the current policy.

"It's not that I don't feel like my kids should disciplined, but I think if that kind of measure is to be taken, I think a parent needs to be informed before it happens."

Judy Martinez declined to comment. She said her grandson Wesley has been transferred to Smyrna West, an alternative school in the district.

Public meetings

The Rutherford County School board will hold a work session today and its regular board meeting tomorrow. Both meetings are 5 p.m. at 2240 Southpark Blvd., in the main boardroom, and are open to the public.

State law

The state law says, any teacher or school principal may use corporal punishment in a reasonable manner against any pupil for good cause in order to maintain discipline and order within the public schools. The law also gives each local board of education the right to adopt rules and regulations as it deems necessary to implement and control any form of corporal punishment in the schools in its district.

Rutherford County school board policy

The Rutherford County school board does not require the permission of either a child's parent or guardian before corporal punishment is administered. The board's policy on corporal punishment says the punishment should be "reasonable," but does not specify any exact offenses when paddling should be used. The policy also says consideration of the offender's age, sex, size, physical and emotional condition should be considered when determining the degree of punishment.

Related story: Grandmother sues over boy's being paddled (Thursday, 10/07/04)

Copyright 2002 The Tennessean
A Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper

Corpun file 14361

Daily News Journal, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 22 October 2004

Board sends paddling policy to committee

By Scott Broden
DNJ Staff Writer

Rutherford County School Board members wrapped up a long discussion on paddling by agreeing to assign the issue to a policy committee Thursday.

The board's policy committee is scheduled to meet Nov. 10.

Board member Mark Byrnes said he wants the policy to at least require parental consent for paddling if the other elected officials are reluctant to ban corporal punishment.

"It's really officially sanctioned violence against children," Byrnes said. "As a parent, I would be pretty outraged if someone from the school system paddled my child without my consent. If an administrator wants to strike my child, I need to be involved."

Byrnes said he requested the issue be added to the agenda after learning how a parent is suing the board after her child was paddled at Rock Springs Middle.

"This is a can of worms. I understand that," said Byrnes, who informed the other elected school officials that the Murfreesboro City School Board abolished corporal punishment a couple of years ago. "I know most principals are trying to do the right thing."

In the middle of the board discussion, Kittrell School mother Elizabeth Palmer stood up to complain about how her son received corporal punishment without her consent.

She told the board that the principal assured her the boy would never be paddled again but learned a week later that her son received corporal punishment for a second time.

"This is something that definitely needs to be looked at," Palmer said.

County Schools Director Harry Gill Jr. told the mother he agreed with parental consent being important.

"We should honor that request," Gill said.

Kittrell Principal Joe Herbert, after the meeting, said he was surprised to see the mother bring the issue up at the meeting.

"All of those issues have been resolved," Herbert said.

In addition to hearing from the mother, board guest speaker Tom Johnson urged the elected officials to end corporal punishment.

"The paddle was not originally invented for children," said Johnson, who held up a paddle during part of his presentation. "The paddle was originally invented to beat slaves."

A Franklin resident, Johnson said he requested to appear on the board's agenda after learning about the recent litigation.

He further told board members that schools that paddle students risk being exposed on black market Internet Web sites because someone could sneak a camera into a school to photograph a child being paddled.

Kittrell School mother Terri Neely said parents do need to realize that educators often face behavior issues from the same children over and over.

"I'm not an advocate for paddling, but I realize what the teachers are dealing with," said Neely, who's an active volunteer at the school. "I personally want consent (if administrators wanted to use corporal punishment with her child). I'll do it myself."

Corpun file 14362

The Nashville Tennessean, 24 October 2004

Six districts around Metro OK paddling

By Michelle E. Shaw
Staff Writer

Of the school districts surrounding Nashville, six allow paddling as a form of punishment.

Metro schools have had a no-paddling policy since 2002, according to spokesman Woody McMillin.

Williamson County is the only other county school system in the area that says no to paddling.

Middle School principal holding paddleMATTHEW H. STARLING
Butch Vaughn, the principal at Blackman Middle School in Rutherford County, holds the paddle used at his school. The county's school system will examine its policy on paddling next month.

Cheatham, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner and Wilson counties all have school board policies that say corporal punishment is acceptable. Lebanon Special School District in Wilson also says it is acceptable.

Rutherford County's acceptance of paddling has landed the system in court, and Schools Superintendent Harry Gill said this is not the first time. The district will examine its policy next month.

Other districts that allow paddling don't use the punishment very much, system directors say.

"I really didn't realize the policy said it was OK," said Lynn Seifert, interim Cheatham County schools superintendent. "We haven't done it in so long, I just thought the policy said, 'No.'"

All of the districts that allow paddling have guidelines, and some allow parents to opt their children out of the punishment.

"Parents can sign a form at the beginning of the year if they don't want their kid paddled," said Andy Brummett, superintendent for Lebanon Special School District in Wilson County.

None of the district policies, however, requires school administrators to contact parents before a paddling. That bothers some parents, even those who don't mind their kids being paddled.

Deena Buckler of Murfreesboro, the mother of two teenage sons who attend Rutherford schools, said she had no idea her sons could be paddled without her permission.

"I am extremely shocked about that," she said. "Now, with one of my sons, we tried the whole actions vs. consequences thing with him … but none of that worked, so we went with paddling and it was effective, but I knew about it the whole way.

"What I don't want is somebody deciding to paddle my kids and I'm never consulted about it."

Seifert said Cheatham County school officials would call parents before paddling a child, if they ever have to punish a child in that manner.

James Duncan, Wilson County Schools superintendent, said paddling in his district must be a punishment of last resort.

"We don't have to paddle any child," he said. "We have a healthy respect for parents who would rather their student not be paddled, and on the other hand we do not allow a parent to force us to paddle their child."

"We do get that from time to time," he added with a laugh.

The Rutherford County lawsuit that prompted one board member to question the county's corporal punishment guidelines hasn't started a chain reaction in other Midstate counties.

"I haven't heard a thing," said Ronnie Meador, superintendent of Robertson County schools. "I think everything is fine here, especially after the board voted to change the policy to allow only principals to paddle."

Brummett, of the Lebanon Special School District, said he doesn't think a change is in the wind in Lebanon because there are a number of parents who support corporal punishment.

"There are still a good many number of parents who expect us to punish their child if they're acting up," he said. "I think there's still that mind-set and it goes way back to that 'if it was good enough for my daddy' type thing."


Memphis City schools board policy

Corporal punishment is permissible in the Memphis City Schools, but other means of punishment should be tried first. Corporal punishment may be administered by the principal, acting principal, assistant principal, or the teacher involved, provided permission is granted by and the punishment witnessed by one of the three previously mentioned administrative persons. The punishment should not be inhumane or degrading at any time.

Wilson County school board policy

The Wilson County school board does not require the permission of either a child's parent or guardian before corporal punishment is administered; however, parents can opt their children out of the punishment. The instrument used in the punishment must be approved by the principal and punishment must be administered in the presence of another school employee.

Sumner County school board policy

The Sumner County school board allows any principal, assistant principal, or teacher to paddle students. It is not required that parents give their permission before the punishment. The punishment shall not cause bodily injury.

Franklin Special District school board policy

Franklin does not allow corporal punishment as a disciplinary tool; however, the use of reasonable physical force will not be considered corporal punishment in certain situations, such as self-defense or to protect other people from physical injury.

Related story: Three school systems weigh paddling policies 

Copyright 2004 The Tennessean A Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper

Corpun file 14363

The Nashville Tennessean, 24 October 2004

Three school systems weigh paddling policies

By Michelle E. Shaw
Staff Writer

The days of padding children in school, as a form of discipline, could be numbered as three school systems across the state debate whether to continue the practice or look for alternatives.

On the Cumberland Plateau, some Crossville residents are trying to get the attention of the Cumberland County school board to begin a formal discussion. In Middle Tennessee, a lone Rutherford County school board member has asked that board to reconsider its policy. And in West Tennessee, the Memphis school board may be ready to put its long-standing paddling policy to a vote.

Paddling is legal in Tennessee, and it is up to each school system to apply the state law on corporal punishment, said Kim Karesh, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education. The state does not keep detailed records on which districts use the punishment because it is legal, she added.

A resident in Crossville and a school official in Memphis would like to see the paddling policy in their districts change. However, in Rutherford County, a lawsuit filed by a Smyrna grandmother is what renewed the debate.

Last month, Judy Martinez and her grandson, 14-year-old Wesley Martinez, filed a civil lawsuit in Rutherford County Circuit Court, seeking $75,000 in damages. The suit alleges that a paddling bruised her grandson's backside and that the punishment was carried out in an unreasonable manner.

The suit moved Mark Byrnes, a Rutherford County school board member, to publicly address the county's policy at the monthly meeting last week. The punishment rule has been referred to the board's Policy Committee and will be reviewed next month.

What's going on

Toni Roberts, a Crossville mother of two and the vice president of Tennesseans for Non-violent School Discipline, said she became fed up with paddling after volunteering in a Cumberland County elementary school.

"I was watching these little kids get paddled, and they're screaming, and it takes one teacher to hold them and another teacher to paddle them, and I thought, 'This is too much,' so I decided to do something."

Roberts said she feels like the county is making "a little progress" because the new Cumberland County High School principal has chosen not to allow paddling of the students there.

Still, her group hasn't been able to formally speak with the board of education about changing district policy.

"I think there's a lot of support in the community for corporal punishment," she said. "It's a cultural thing, and it's just kind of ingrained in people."

In Memphis, schools spokesman Vince McCaskill said an outgoing board member is behind the deliberation on the issue. The district's policy was drafted in 1958 and was been amended in 1963 and 1982.

"Lora Jobe … is really pushing heavily to have the board abolish corporal punishment," McCaskill said, referring to the board member. "Now, there have been situations throughout the years where there has been abuse of the policy, but her concern is that we have a policy in place, but it is not being followed as it was written."

McCaskill said an example of policy abuse occurred a few years ago when a high school basketball coach was found paddling his players for missing shots on the basketball court during practice.

He said the Memphis board could vote on the future of its corporal punishment policy in early November.

Change could be in the wind for the Rutherford County paddling policy, thanks to Byrnes.

Donald Jernigan, who sits on the Rutherford County school board with Byrnes, said he supports corporal punishment in schools but not the current language in the county's policy. The county's policy does not require parental consent.

"I would like to leave it there, but I do have some reservations about it, from the standpoint that I don't think you should administer it without parental consent," he said.

Harry Gill, Rutherford County schools superintendent, said he realizes there is a need for parental consent when administering corporal punishment. Gill didn't say which way he's leaning in the debate, but he called paddling "risky business."

"It's risky from the standpoint of everybody's not in favor of it," he said. "We've been litigated against more than once, so it's certainly risky … but it does offer a viable option to the principal, and I think if corporal punishment is used, it should be with the blessing of the parents."

Expert perspective

Some local and national experts agree that schools might not be the best place for corporal punishment.

Experts who are in favor of spanking in the home say that type of punishment may be better served if dished out by parents.

Dr. Den A. Trumbull, a pediatrician in Montgomery, Ala., has participated in studies and authored opinions that support parents' spanking their children but generally stay away from corporal punishment in schools.

"In my opinion, I think spanking is best left in the hands of parents," Trumbull said. "But I think a small school setting where parents are very involved might be an exception."

Trumbull said when he gives a professional opinion during lectures and presentations, he rarely talks about school-related punishments because he believes it's the parents' prerogative on how and when to discipline their children.

Dr. Lloyd Elam, a Nashville psychiatrist, said when removing corporal punishment from an established system there probably will be resistance.

"The acceptance of corporal punishment varies from culture to culture all over the world," he said. "In the distant past everybody accepted it as the way to go, but it just so happens that our society has gotten so violent and this is the reason we are beginning to move away from that."

He said paddling doesn't help children understand what they've done wrong.

Like Elam, Terry Kopansky, founder of Tennesseans for Non-violent School Discipline and a retired Metro schools administrator, said the way to teach the offending child the lesson could involve a number of strategies, not including corporal punishment.

"There are a whole variety of things you can do," he said. "For instance, if a child writes on a table, you can do a number of things … but something like cleaning the table in question or all of the tables in the room, which is called overcorrection, might serve the child better."

The story so far

The Rutherford County school board decided to examine its paddling policy last week.

The examination stems from a lawsuit filed by Judy Martinez and her grandson, 14-year-old Wesley Martinez. In the suit, the Martinezes say a paddling left three distinct bruises on Wesley's backside: one just above the right knee, another in the middle of the left thigh and one at the base of his right buttock. The suit alleges the punishment was carried out in an unreasonable manner and says Wesley had to get medical treatment for torn muscles in his back.

At last week's meeting, the board didn't make any decisions because a recommendation has to come from the school board's policy committee first.

Board member Mark Byrnes asked that the topic be put on the meeting's agenda and said he hopes the board will at least consider amending the policy.

The next meeting of the school board's Policy Committee will be at 3 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Rutherford County Board of Education, 2240 Southpark Blvd. in Murfreesboro.

Related story: Six districts around Metro OK paddling

Copyright 2002 The Tennessean A Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper

Corpun file 14423

logo (WREG3-TV Memphis), Tennessee, 26 October 2004

Father Angry Over School Paddling

Memphis, TN -- A Kirby Middle School parent says a teacher hit his child without permission. The only trouble is, the Memphis City School District doesn't need permission to paddle your child. If you don't agree with corporal punishment, then it's your responsibility to let school administrators know.

Ron Soldano says he thought he had to give school authorities permission to paddle his son. A teacher caught his son horsing around in the school bathroom last Friday. Soldano says the administrators gave his son the choice to accept a suspension or get a paddling. He says his son opted to take the licks because he feared his parents would find out about the suspension. "I don't think he's able to make a decision like that you know," says Soldano.

Soldano hopes all parents will now realize if they don't want the principal to paddle their child, they need to tell them.

All content Copyright 2001 - 2004 WorldNow and WREG. All Rights Reserved.

Corpun file 14424

South Bend Tribune, Indiana, 30 October 2004

Attempt at discipline a work in progress

Community standing up to issue of deteriorating student behavior in 'Project Respect'

By Michael Wanbaugh
Tribune Staff Writer


SOUTH BEND -- A 13-year-old girl at Marshall Intermediate Center recently vowed never to take a gun to school.

She wears braids in her hair, braces on her teeth and means what she says. She doesn't like guns and insists violence isn't cool.

Regardless, each day before leaving the house, her 15-year-old brother puts a gun on his body like some people might put on a wristwatch or a class ring.

"He carries a gun with him wherever he goes," the girl said after a recent anti-violence program in the Marshall gymnasium. "Even school."

Granted, children pining for a space in the newspaper or a spot in front of a television camera have a natural temptation to embellish.

Still, the girl's revelation is not lost on those responsible for both her education and safety.

Why else would students throughout the South Bend Community School Corp. be required to take a pledge that day to leave guns alone and at home?

The culture of public school has shifted dramatically in the past decade. Superintendent Joan Raymond characterizes it as an erosion of values pertaining to language, dress and respect for authority.

"I don't know what has happened to the standard by which we measure the behavior of young people these days," Raymond said.

So, it has come to this. It's come to mandatory pledges denouncing what had been the unthinkable. And there is a 13-year-old girl at Marshall Intermediate Center who says she sees why every day.

Losing the classroom

The issue of school discipline and deteriorating student behavior reaches far beyond guns in schools. It encompasses fighting, truancy, vandalism, bullying and more traditional disobedience.

When current school trustee Ralph Pieniazkiewicz began teaching industrial arts at Riley High School in 1963, students taking guns to school wasn't even on the radar.

Still, he never hesitated to use some of his more intimidating handiwork on some of his more ornery students.

"I had everybody that nobody else wanted," he said.

Meaning, many of the school's troublemakers were assigned to Pieniazkiewicz's watch.

Paddling, he said, was an effective tool of discipline. Since then, corporal punishment has been abandoned by the corporation.

"I'd love to go back to paddling," Pieniazkiewicz said. "The only problem is they'd probably come back and shoot the teacher. When we gave up the paddle, we gave up the classroom. I firmly believe that."

Suspensions, both in and out of school, steadily became the diet of discipline in South Bend schools.

In 2002-03, roughly 2,600 suspensions were handed down in South Bend's four public high schools alone.

Closer examination of those numbers indicate a disproportionate number of black student suspensions.

Of those suspended that year, 35 percent were white and 55 percent were black -- nearly the exact opposite of the racial makeup of the student body.

Administrators point out that many of those suspensions were given to repeat offenders. This lends support to their claim that most students in the corporation are behaving. Still, those who are disobedient detract from the educational time of those who are not.

"Teachers spend 95 percent of their time disciplining 5 percent of the students," Pieniazkiewicz said. "That is totally unacceptable.

"When I was in school, there was an element of fear (of authority). These kids don't fear anything anymore. They don't fear the teachers. They don't fear the police. They don't even fear their parents."


Copyright 1994-2004 South Bend Tribune

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