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School CP - January 2009

Corpun file 20932


St Joseph News-Press, Missouri, 11 January 2009

District eliminates corporal punishment

By Alonzo Weston

The St. Joseph School District will spare the rod. School paddlings are now a thing of the distant past as the Board of Education recently voted to abolish corporal punishment in the district.

Corporal punishment has rarely been used in the district in recent years. Alternative methods of discipline have proven to be more effective, said Brian Shindorf, assistant director of elementary education for the district.

"I think the reason the board made that decision is because it represents our philosophy," he said. "The truth is, none of our administrators have used corporal punishment in a long time."

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School policy for years said that corporal punishment as a measure of correction was permitted only after all other reasonable means had failed. It was to be administered by the principal in the presence of a teacher, and the

parents were to be informed. The school policy also stated that corporal punishment preferably was to be administered "by swatting the buttocks with a paddle, or swatting the hands is also acceptable."

Megan Dilley, a parent, agreed with the elimination of corporal punishment. If a punishment is going to involve spanking or any other physical measure, it should be done by the parents, she said.

"I think it's the parents' job to stand up and take care of and teach their children right from wrong, instead of leaving it up to the teachers," Mrs. Dilley said. "Parents need to stand up and be responsible for their children and their children's actions."

Mrs. Dilley and her husband, Chris, have an 8-year-old son who attends a local parochial school and a 4-year-old daughter at home. She said they use other forms of discipline in the home, but a spanking is not out of the realm of possibilities.

"I don't do it on a general basis," Mrs. Dilley said. "They have other rules of discipline, they get warnings, they get time out, they get toys taken away," she said.

Corporal punishment is becoming a relic of the past in area public and private schools.

At St. Joseph Christian School, it's on the policy books as a disciplinary tool for elementary students.

Danny Maggart, St. Joseph Christian secondary principal, notes Proverbs 13:24: "He who spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes."

"Certainly the verse is one that can be interpreted that way," he said. "And certainly we feel like here that form of discipline doesn't go against the Bible."

But corporal punishment is still a last-resort measure, he added.

"If it were to take place, both parents would have to approve it and we'd have an adult witness there," Mr. Maggart said. "We really partner with the parents and work closely with them when it comes to all aspects of discipline."

Amy May said she didn't grow up in a time when spankings in school were the norm. As principal of Spickard R-II Elementary School, she wasn't going to allow it there, either.

"We have it in the handbook to use with the parents' permission. I haven't used it and probably will not use it," she said.

But Lisa Hyatt, another St. Joseph parent, said she thinks the school district should keep corporal punishment as an option. She has one child at Central High School and another at Truman Middle School, and if they deserve a spanking, she doesn't see a problem with that.

"If it gets out of hand, I can understand it," she said. "I don't see any reason why they can't keep it in the system. I don't see nothing wrong with it, I really don't."

Corpun file 20943


Chicago Tribune, 12 January 2009

Schools take aim at paddling culture

New program battles old-school discipline

By Carlos Sadovi
Tribune reporter

Akeem Nathaniel still remembers what would happen to Marshall High School basketball players who misbehaved in class, disrespected teachers or failed to do homework: Coaches, brandishing a heavy wooden paddle, would take seven or eight full shots.

As a sophomore, Nathaniel felt the sting of the swings and the burning on his backside and witnessed the welts raised by the old-school discipline.

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"I guess he was trying to [keep us in line], but that was not the right way to do stuff," said Nathaniel, 18, now a senior at the School of the Arts at South Shore Campus. The players are "frustrated by it. It just ran people away from the team."

Illinois outlawed corporal punishment in 1993, yet the Chicago Public Schools are enmeshed in a paddling controversy. Nine coaches and three Chicago police officers working as security officials faced scrutiny. The district is trying to fire two teachers, including a Marshall coach who won the state title. And an assistant volleyball coach at Simeon High School resigned.

Later this month, the school board will vote on whether to settle a lawsuit brought by a coach who said he was fired after he tried to blow the whistle at Marshall.

In response, the district is beginning a mandatory character development training program for all coaches and players to address the problem. The message? Paddling is no longer an option for motivation or discipline.

That's a good lesson to communicate to students, said Nadine Block, executive director of the Center for Effective Discipline, which monitors corporal punishment practices across the country.

She said that while 21 states still allow corporal punishment, she does not believe hitting is a good motivator for anyone, especially children.

"It taught them that people who are older can hit you. . . . It teaches you that violence is a way of solving problems rather than using words, ideas and reasoning," Block said.

Much like a fraternity pledge class is hazed, paddling remained an accepted part of city basketball culture passed down by generations. Many of the coaches grew up being hit. And even district chief Arne Duncan -- President-elect Barack Obama's choice for U.S. education secretary -- remembers being paddled while a standout basketball player in youth programs during the 1970s.

Calvin Davis, the district's director of sports administration, said paddling "bothers me because they are holding on to the old-school mentality. It was probably done to them, so maybe they erroneously thought it was the right thing to do."

School athletic programs are silent about the paddling controversy. Many students approached for this story declined to comment, saying coaches told them not to talk about the situation with reporters.

The district, meanwhile, turned the cases over to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for investigation. The agency isn't commenting.

Amid the silence, former Marshall basketball coach Lamont Bryant is talking. He was fired in early October 2007 before the basketball season after he said he turned in to school officials an assistant coach who students accused of paddling them and slapping one player.

"They just basically overlooked it," said Bryant, now a basketball coach at the School of Entrepreneurship at South Shore Campus.

The district investigated the allegations but did not find them to be substantiated.

School officials tried to implicate him in the paddling controversy, Bryant said. While the district is not investigating him, Bryant is suing Marshall Principal Juan Gardner, athletic director Dorothy Gaters and the district. All have denied Bryant's allegations.

District investigative notes obtained by the Tribune appear to back Bryant's contention that several students were hit. None said they were seriously injured.

One unidentified student allegedly told district officials that "sometimes we . . . take the paddle, [the assistant coach] did that. They paddle me."

Another student said, "I got paddled . . . when I was a freshman. I missed an assignment. I got 3 licks. It was nothing, my momma do better than that."

But another student said he "heard that [the assistant coach] used to paddle but that was 3 years ago. I'm not sure that's true. I know guys who have messed up [and] nothing happened."

Court documents indicate a tentative settlement with Bryant has been reached, and the school board could consider it at month's end.

A lawyer representing Marshall's alumni association said the district is scapegoating the coaches for a practice that is well-entrenched. Nathaniel Byrd remembers seeing players routinely struck by their coaches as a way to motivate them and keep them in line when he played basketball at Marshall in the 1960s.

"I personally saw world-renowned coaches not paddle but hit a couple of them with their fists," Byrd said. "For the [school] board to now say, 'This is how we are going to correct it, we're going to fire you,' is fundamentally wrong."

In the wake of the controversy, one assistant coach resigned at Simeon, one at Marshall was cleared and the school board is trying to dump another at Marshall and one at Morgan Park High School. Investigations involving five coaches are pending, and the Independent Police Review Authority is looking into paddling allegations against three police officers who were working as security at Phillips Academy.

Within a couple of weeks, coaches and players will start spending one hour a week in a new training program that stresses respect, fairness and sportsmanship. They'll sit in a classroom and participate in role-playing exercises highlighting different scenarios coaches and players may confront.

The aim is to have coaches and players understand the best way to handle issues that may surface before a game and the best way to dole out discipline without hitting.

"We're trying to spread this across the district and build this character in our coaches first so it filters down to our students," Davis said. "It shows that we are addressing it, so coaches will know that paddling is no longer an option for motivation or discipline."

Tribune reporter Bob Sakamoto contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009, Chicago Tribune

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