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School CP - February 1971

Corpun file 25138 at

The Mountain Eagle, Whitesburg, Letcher County, Kentucky, 4 February 1971, p.6

15 Paintsville High girls face paddling or expulsion

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Fifteen girls will be expelled from Paintsville's Johnson Central High School -- unless they agree this week to allow Principal Herschel Conley to paddle them.

This situation has developed from an incident which saw the fifteen girls intentionally defy a dress code which prohibits them from wearing long pants, no matter how cold the weather. About 25 girls, acting upon a suggestion passed among them in the school's rest-room, showed up a week ago yesterday wearing long pants rather than skirts or dresses; and Principal Conley showed up to say that they would have to be paddled for it.

Conley told The Mountain Eagle that he'll do the paddling himself, using a slat-like board. "This punishment isn't at all out of the ordinary," he declared. His position is that the girls "deliberately violated the rules." The girls, on the other hand, contend that the "rules" violate common sense.

Diana Nichols, 16, president of the school's student council, told a reporter the reason for the action: "I catch a bus at 7 in the morning and you can imagine how cold it is at 7 in the morning. Some of these kids have to walk down long hollows and then wait for the bus. I'll tell you that pant-suits are a lot warmer.

Mr. Conley was asked whether such cold weather might justify the girls' desire to stay warm: "Listen," he told The Eagle, "those people have been told they can wear slacks to their buses and then change into their school clothing. Besides, not too many of them live very far away."

Conley is upset about the publicity this issue is getting. "I don't think it's the girls making a protest out of this thing -- it's the news media that's doing it," he insisted. "The punishment for this is just like for any ordinary infraction."

He explained that he favors paddling for a whole number of violations, "such as skipping school, leaving the building without permission, being in the corridors without a note." He claims he "gets results" this way.

It's not clear just what kinds of results he gets. Miss Nichols said that she has heard of some students "who have quit school rather than take a paddling." She says she knows of paddle victims who have been hurt and bruised.

Conley says that it is his discretion who gets punished how. "But we have this dress code and it must be enforced," he proclaimed. What's wrong with pant-suits, he was asked. "Well, some of them just don't wear them respectably or decently." Conley said he really couldn't explain what standards he used to gauge this, but he did imply that "sometimes they've been wearin' 'em pretty tight."

The girls say they will come to school with their parents, and if necessary will appeal to Superintendent of Johnson County Schools Virgil Porter. Porter told the Eagle that the county "doesn't have a written policy regarding kinds of punishment."

He said that he too is upset at the press attention to the problem. "Why, they've had everything wrong," he stated. Such as? "Well, the papers were saying that all the girls were seniors. Now that just isn't true. But it's typical of present-day reporting."

Porter also said that he "wouldn't necessarily" support the paddling of the 15 girls, although Conley said that Porter has assured him of support. The Superintendent also insisted to a reporter that Conley "definitely has not decided that they'll be paddled."

Conley, however, said that he definitely does plan to stand by his original policy. "It's up to us to make sure they learn as soon as they can that they have to follow the rules," the principal declared.

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