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School CP - August 2005

Corpun file 16280

The Highlander, Marble Falls, Texas, 4 August 2005

In Marble Falls school district, discipline is a matter of record

By Angela Timmons
Highland Lakes Newspapers


Discipline in schools always is a touchy subject, but the Marble Falls Independent School District makes its policies known and available.

According to the "Student Code of Conduct for the MFISD", the handbook is in response to Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code, which requires school districts to define misconduct and a range of disciplinary procedures.

Detailing everything from dress code to drug policy, the Code of Conduct was adopted by the district's board of trustees along with advice from its district-level committee, according to the code's purpose.

The handbook lists violations of the Code along with appropriate consequences, and students and parents must sign and turn in forms acknowledging they have read the handbook.

MFISD dictates disciplinary procedures ranging from verbal warnings to expulsion, depending on the severity of the violation. Like most other Texas schools, the MFISD allows for corporal punishment and also is state-mandated to have a Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP).

In written correspondence from Austin, MFISD Superintendent Ryder Warren said corporal punishment is a sensitive subject and merely a way to modify behavior in school.

"We publish all of the discipline management tools we use in our handbooks every year, and parents/guardians must sign acknowledgment forms," Warren wrote. "These forms are kept in the students' files at their campuses. On the acknowledgment form, we have a space available for parents to request alternative forms of discipline besides corporal punishment. Each principal keeps a list of these students in our offices."

Warren said the corporal punishment policy applies to all grade levels, but not to all students. He also said the schools must be careful not to apply the policy to students who have been identified as victims of abuse.


The MFISD Code of Conduct policies is available to students, parents and anyone otherwise interested at the MFISD Web site,

Copyright 2005 The Highlander

Corpun file 16344

Dallas Morning News, Texas, 10 August 2005

Mesquite News

Schools to open to new rules

District changes how students may dress, be punished

By Karin Shaw Anderson
The Dallas Morning News


As classes resume in Mesquite and Sunnyvale schools Monday, students will see some policy changes.

Although Mesquite school officials vow to enforce the district's new standardized dress code vigorously, paddling violators won't be an option.

"We've completely removed corporal punishment from our code of conduct," said Debbie Gilbert, administrative officer for instruction for the district. "We very seldom used it anyway."

The district took the lead from state legislators by banning paddling, even if parents request it, she said.

But students who don't comply with the new stricter dress code may get tagged with a Class II violation, which could result in a week of in-school suspension. In previous years, violations of the dress code garnered a lower level of discipline.

The standardized dress policy requires boys to wear solid-color shirts and contrasting slacks or knee-length shorts, while girls must wear solid-color tops and contrasting skirts, jumpers, slacks or knee-length shorts. Jeans and T-shirts will be banned.

"I don't think any of us on this board are taking this in any way lightly," school board President Gary Bingham said when the standardized dress code was approved in March.


Corpun file 16379

Birmingham Post-Herald, Alabama, 19 August 2005


Kids pick lickings

Paddling linked to school's teacher shortage

By Andrew Nelson
Birmingham Post-Herald

Jan-Michael Stump/Post-Herald
Principal Byron Campbell and Assistant Principal Barbara Snider.
One by one, 28 boys walked into the principal's wood-paneled office after violating the school's haircut policy.

There the baseball coach of Mortimer Jordan High School would administer the punishment with a Plexiglas paddle with a handle wrapped in black electrical tape.

"You could hear a smack, than a yelp, than a boy running out with his hands on his butt," said Ashlie Marcus of Kimberly, a 17-year-old senior at the Jefferson County high school in Morris.

A week ago today, 28 boys at Mortimer Jordan High School in northern Jefferson County were paddled for violating the haircut policy. It was the second day of the new school year.

By comparison, fewer than 30 paddlings were administered during the course of the previous school year when the school offered in-school detention for infractions.

A growing student population and a shortage of four teachers has prevented the school from offering in-school detention this year, resulting in paddlings for infractions that were previously punished by in-school detention, said Principal Byron Campbell, 52. School district figures show Mortimer Jordan had 607 students at the end of the previous school year. On Monday, the third day of school, they had 690 students. And that makes them four teachers short, according to Campbell's figuring of the student-to-teacher ratio.

Fewer options means those who ignored the haircut policy last week were given these options: Go home, or get paddled.

Twenty-eight chose the paddle, Assistant Principal Barbara Snider said.

Parents of those paddled seem to have varying opinions on the matter. An expert and author on disciplining students has said he was shocked.

But Campbell and Snider were willing to discuss the matter.

This is what they said happened:

The first day of school was Aug. 11. The day began with an assembly in one of the school's gymnasiums. The students sat in the bleachers as Campbell outlined the dress code, which is described in the Jefferson County School District Code of Conduct.

The guidelines state that hair must be cleaned and well groomed. No hairstyle that is "disruptive to the learning environment" is allowed.

Campbell says that means he must make subjective decisions as to what is disruptive and what is not. He believes that hair hanging in a student's eyes is disruptive because it interferes with student-educator communication.

"We want a neat, respectful, well-thought-of student body that can communicate with that teacher and where nothing interferes with learning," he said

But he never told students they must get haircuts.

"What we did say was, 'Get your hair cut, or style it in a way it doesn't get in your eyes,' " he said.

As the students exited the gymnasium, Campbell and Snider stood by the door and wrote down the names of violators as they passed by.

A girl was wearing a tank top, a violation, so Snider loaned her a T-shirt, she said.

A boy was wearing a T-shirt advertising a brand of whiskey. He was made to go to the bathroom and turn it inside out, Campbell said.

The next morning administrators held another assembly in the gym that featured a "dress code fashion show," where acceptable and unacceptable dress was demonstrated by students.

It is a popular event, Snider said, and she always gets many requests by students to model clothing.

That afternoon, Thursday's haircut violators there were about 50 of them, all boys were called into the principal's office in groups of about eight.

Those who had altered their hair to bring it within district standards were dismissed, Campbell said. If somebody was not in compliance but said he had scheduled a haircut, he also were dismissed.

Those left were given a choice: out-of-school suspension or paddling. Pat Keedy, an administrative intern and the school's baseball coach, administered the punishment to 28 students, Campbell and Snider said. Each boy got two whacks from the paddle, Snider said.

After each paddling was administered, each student was allowed to return to class.

Corporal punishment is not Campbell's preferred method of disciplining students. He would much prefer to conduct in-school detention, which keeps the kids in the school and allows them to keep up with schoolwork while being punished.

But the area served by his school in northern Jefferson County is growing rapidly. Developments with new houses and fresh pavement are scattered all around the pastoral town.

Campbell said he hopes to bring back in-school detention when the district can hire more teachers for his school.

Snider said alternatives such as having parents volunteer to oversee in-school detention won't work because the volunteers wouldn't be subject to the background check of a school employee.

Larry Koenig, a family therapist and author, was appalled when told about the paddling, even if Campbell does lack options for modifying student behavior.

"I am shocked at this principal's action," said Koenig, author of "Smart Discipline: Fast, Lasting Solutions for Your Child's Self-Esteem and Your Peace of Mind." "It's an unprofessional way of handling things, and it also doesn't work."

It doesn't work because most kids would prefer to be spanked over other punishments, and revoking privileges is more effective, said Koening, a Baton Rouge, La., academic who specializes in disciplinary issues.

And it was ridiculous to think of a student allowed to return to class in open violation of the rules, even if he had just been paddled.

"What have you accomplished now the kid is running around the school with long hair," he said. "It's just so absurd. It's pathetic because it didn't accomplish anything. It would have been far better to say, 'Look, you're suspended. You can come back to school as soon as you have your hair cut.' "

David Agnesia, 39, is the father of name, a 14-year-old Mortimer Jordan freshman who was paddled. He said he wished he had been given more time to get his son's hair cut before the paddle was used. But he said he does not disapprove of corporal punishment. He does not consider Ronnie's infraction a big deal but he doesn't consider his punishment a big deal, either.

"I would have thought they would have given us until the weekend, or maybe even called us before," he said. "That's the only gripe we had with it, really."

Tyler Webb, 16, an 11th-grader who was paddled, does not see it the way Agnesia does.

"I think it was pretty ridiculous how they did it and everything," Tyler said in a telephone interview earlier this week. "I think they should have another method of dealing with it other than paddling."

Nez Calhoun, the public information officer for Jefferson County Schools, said she was not surprised by the paddlings. Mortimer Jordan has a decades-long reputation for strictness, she said.

"That school is long known as a real strong disciplinarian institution, and hair regulations and grooming regulations were absolutely enforced, no question about it," she said.

She said former Principal Jimmy Trotter, who retired a few years ago, was a beloved legend at Mortimer Jordan who was a stickler for grooming.

The school has had a reputation of "home, hearth, family, strong discipline, strong grooming enforcement," she said. "It's hard to forget a legend."

Campbell himself points out that the dress code has liberalized through the years. When he worked for the county schools in the 1970s, grooming standards were much stricter.

And he's not a bad guy, he said. Monday morning he loaned a boy $12 so he could get his hair cut.

"I'm probably the most liberal guy you're going to meet because I understand their rights," he said.

"It does matter, the discipline of your school. It does matter, your reputation," Campbell said. "All diplomas are not created equal."

Copyright 2005 Birmingham Post Co. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 16378

Daily Dunklin Democrat, Kennett, Missouri, 19 August 2005

School off to smooth start in Kennett

By Jennifer Freeze


Kennett Middle School students in Robert Gill's science class listen to him read over the policy and procedure manual. Thursday was the first day of class after the students returned from summer vacation.

In his 20 years in education, Kennett Middle School Principal Ward Billings said that this has been one of the smoothest starts to a school year that he can recall.

The Kennett School District welcomed students back from summer vacation on Thursday morning. The middle and high school both held opening day assemblies for the students.

"It's a new era," Ed Siebenhuener, KHS principal, told students at the assembly. "This year will be a challenge. We're going to change the reputation of this place."

Kennett Middle School students learn the combination of their new lockers at the first day of school on Thursday. The brand-new lockers were installed over the summer on the third floor of the middle school.

Both KMS and KHS, under new leadership, will focus on a common theme this school year.

"It's all about respect," Siebenhuener said. "Once we learn respect, we can do anything."

Billings agrees with his fellow administrator.

"Our highest priority this school year is respect," he told students at the middle school's opening day assembly. "Disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated."

Students were told that they will learn to respect themselves, other students and faculty members.

Handling discipline issues, such as tardies and dress code, were also major points made in the principal's opening speeches.

"When you're at school, you're going to act right," Siebenhuener said. "I have no problem with paddling. If you don't want to take paddling, you can go to the A.E.P. (alternative education program.) It's going to be tough this year."

Billings said that he covered the new tardy and attendance policy with the middle school students.

The policy, which was adopted by the board of education on Tuesday night, calls for more severe disciplinary actions when a student has an unexcused tardy.

Hats, strapless shirts, 'sagging pants' and 'belly shirts' would be tolerated for today only, Siebenhuener told the high school students.

"Today we're going to let some things slide," he said. "When you're wearing those baggy shorts, I better not see your underwear. If I do, I'm going to tie them off nice and high [with a zip-tie] so you look like a nerd."

Although the students laughed at his humor, Siebenhuener was serious about the high school's more stern disciplinary actions. In fact, about five freshman were escorted out of the assembly for various disruptions.

Encouragement to succeed was also given to the students at both schools.

"I told the students that when they walk into my office, they will see many significant pictures," Billings said. "The most significant one is the first one you see when you walk in the door."

The picture is of Billings and Prentice Gautt, the first African American to play football at the University of Oklahoma and a former coach of Billings' at the University of Missouri.

"He overcame discrimination and racism," Billings said. "I told the students that he [Gautt] embodied courage, commitment, integrity, humility, loyalty and love."


Corpun file 16427

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock, 19 August 2005

Educator did not abuse boy by paddling him, judge says

By Melinda Rogers
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

BERRYVILLE A Carroll County judge Thursday overturned an Arkansas Department of Human Services finding that a Berryville School District administrator committed abuse in her paddling of an 11-year-old pupil.

Circuit Court Judge Alan Epley ruled that not enough evidence exists to prove that Assistant Principal Shelly Holman of Berryville Elementary School violated Arkansas Code Annotated 12-12-503, which states it's abuse for a public school employee to cause a nonaccidental physical injury to a child.

Holman, 37, was placed on the state child-maltreatment registry in May 2004 after a parent complained that Holman hurt the parent's son when she hit him with a wooden paddle three times for fighting on the school playground.

Epley ordered that Holman's name be removed from the registry within seven days.

Susan Duncan of Berryville contacted the Department of Human Services in April 2004 after witnessing Holman's paddling of her son. Duncan agreed to the paddling because she said she didn't want her son suspended.

She later complained that Holman caused bruises so severe on her then fifth-grade son's buttocks that he had to seek medical attention.

A physician didn't find any injury other than the bruises, court documents state.

The agency investigated and found the educator guilty of abuse. It subsequently listed Holman on the child maltreatment registry.

Some school districts, daycare providers and other agencies check the list before hiring employees.

Holman sued the Department of Human Services after losing a final appeal for removal from the registry in March. The department's administrative law judge, Lech Matuszewski, wrote that Holman did not administer paddling with "extreme tact, care and caution" as required by the school district's discipline policy.

Epley called Matuszewski's report "arbitrary, capricious and not supported by evidence." During the hour-and-a-half hearing, he repeatedly asked attorney Sherry Wilson, who represented the department to present evidence that Holman violated school policy and state law.

The Arkansas School Discipline Act allows teachers to administer corporal punishment if the school district has a policy defining protocol. The act states teachers are immune from civil liability they incur from administering corporal punishment.

Wilson argued that Holman didn't carry out the school district's policy, which authorizes "reasonable corporal punishment of unruly students." It says administrators may give a student no more than three swats and says the measure shouldn't be used as a "first line of punishment" except in cases that are "anti-social or disruptive in nature" such as cutting class, fighting with other students, engaging in excessive public displays of affection and possessing tobacco.

Parents are notified before children are spanked and school officials offer parents the chance to administer the paddling. Another school official must witness the corporal punishment.

Photos of the boy's buttocks showed deep purple bruises, and he experienced pain proof that Holman didn't administer the paddling with care, Wilson said.

"I'd hope there was pain," Epley replied.

Epley also said he was "appalled" that the boy's case file, containing interview notes and photos about the situation, was made public record. He ordered photographs of the boy's buttocks to be sealed and not open to public inspection.

Berryville Superintendent Mike Cox said the judge's decision pleased him.

"I'm not surprised. The principal followed the rules and followed the handbook," he said.

Holman and Duncan declined comment after the hearing.

Copyright 2005, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved.

blob Follow-up: 5 October 2006 - Court: School official not abuser

Corpun file 16389

Greenville Advocate, Alabama, 19 August 2005

Board releases incident report

By Regina Grayson


The Butler County Board of Education recently released the 2004-05 Student Incident Report, which gives detailed information about the number of school incidents reported and the actions taken by school officials.

Although the numbers look high, school officials offered some perspective to the reports.

At W.O. Parmer Elementary School there were 52 incidents, or office referrals, reported for defiance of authority. Out of those 52 incidents, 13 students were suspended.

"We must have the parents' written permission before we can administer corporal punishment," Carol Teague, W.O. Parmer principal, said. "If parents object to it, then we are left with fewer options, one of which is suspension. But overall, our students are good.

Teague said the school also rewards for good behavior instead of punishing for bad behavior.

We have a school-wide discipline plan in place, and we frequently reward students for good behavior, she said We have 'Student of the Month' and 'Student of the Week,' which allow him or her to have special privileges."


Corpun file 16382

Tribune-Herald, Waco, Texas, 22 August 2005

Confusion in law causing schools to put away paddles

By Dan Genz
Tribune-Herald staff writer

Local educators are divided about whether a new state law bans school personnel from paddling and spanking students for disciplinary reasons.

The confusion arose this summer because a law written to give parents the legal right to spank their children says the only people who can use corporal punishment are the parents, grandparents or step-parents or guardians who have the responsibility and duty to discipline the child.

While the author of the bill, Harold V. Dutton Jr., D-Houston, is adamant the law does nothing to impact the use of corporal punishment in education, some administrators have banned paddling and spanking until they have further advice from the state.

The Texas Education Agency itself does not know the answer, and has requested the Attorney General's Office to rule on what the law actually does in early September.

Waco ISD board members unanimously voted to prohibit the practice Thursday night because of the law, and Connally ISD Superintendent Bruce Shores told his principals to wait for a decision.

"To play it safe, we're going to refrain from using corporal punishment until we get a clarification," Shores said.

Dutton said he is willing to testify the bill had no intention of affecting schools and calls any reading otherwise an "erroneous interpretation." "Whatever schools have been doing, they can keep doing. This doesn't affect them at all," Dutton said.

Law's language misleads

Yet concerned educators note the actual language indicates the only people who can use corporal punishment are relatives or those raising the child.

Shores asked lawyers to talk to his principals about the new law earlier this month and decided to use other discipline methods in the meantime.

"You'd be amazed how many parents ask for corporal punishment to be used on their kids," Shores said.

On the other hand, Hallsburg ISD Superintendent Jan Hungate agrees with Dutton and said the law is only intended to impact family law and has no jurisdiction on education.

"That law was written to defend a parent. The legislative intent on the law was not that schools could no longer use the paddle," Hungate said.

A paddle sits in plain view in her office at the small rural school and every parent is asked before classes begin to sign a sheet noting whether they will permit Hungate to paddle their children. She calls for parental permission before doling out the punishment in her office with a witness present.

TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said a school concerned about the law could still allow corporal punishment if it asks for the parent to go to the school and do the paddling.

Hungate said she let that happen once and will never do that again.

"The parent nearly killed the child right in front of me," Hungate said.

Local lawmakers said they did not expect the law would be interpreted to affect schools.

State Rep. Charles "Doc" Anderson, R-Waco, and state Sen. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor, said the question came up during debate on the bill, and that it was clearly explained that the proposal would not touch schools.

State Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, joked that Dutton is squarely in the "pro-spanking" camp of the Texas Legislature, and said he expects the attorney general's ruling will reflect that lawmaker's intent.

If the ruling, due in September, states the law does ban corporal punishment, Dutton said he would work next session to change the wording of the law.

However, Waco ISD administrators say it is important to follow the word of the law for now, especially when a law defines who can inflict corporal punishment and school personnel members are not on the list.

"That's what the law says and we don't want to take a chance," said Marsha Ridlehuber, assistant superintendent for accountability.

blob Follow-up: 8 November 2005 - Local districts keep right to use paddle

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Copyright Colin Farrell 2006
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