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School CP - August 1982

Virginia Beach Sun, Virginia, 25 August 1982

Spankings Almost Outlawed

By Mike Gooding
Sun Editor

Parents in Virginia Beach will now be able to exempt their children from corporal punishment in the school system, a result of action taken last week by the city's school board.

On a motion made by board member Duncan S. Wallace, a psychiatrist, the board voted by a five-to-one margin to adopt several changes in the 13-year-old policy. Four members of the 11-person board were absent from the meeting, and Dr. Roy A. Woods, the board's chairman, does not vote unless there is a tie.

Along with the exemption provision, several other alterations were made to School Board policy 5134.3. Corporal punishment will now only be administered to students by administrators of the same sex. Reason for carrying out the punishment will be given to students beforehand, and the children must first be given an opportunity to respond. Finally, the school board will be kept abreast of all instances of corporal punishment with a report to be given at each monthly board meeting.

Calling the changes "a step in the right direction," Wallace applauded his peers for voting as they did. "The best thing, of course, would be to abolish corporal punishment because it is just not effective," Wallace said. "But I understand there is some question whether we could abolish it since the state legislature has said corporal punishment is permissable in the school system.

"The next best thing is to put as many restrictions on corporal punishment as is possible, and that is what we have done," said Wallace, who represents the Bayside borough.

Wallace bestowed credit for the policy changes upon fellow board member John A. Fahey, who had requested discussion on the matter. Following his attendance at the 42nd Annual Conference of the National School Board Association in Atlanta last April, Fahey requested an evaluation of the policy by the board. In a letter to School Superintendent E.E. Brickell, Fahey termed corporal punishment "medieval", and he indicated he would vote for its removal given the opportunity.

"I didn't ask for elimination of corporal punishment because I don't think there is sentiment on the board to move that way," said Fahey, the Lynnhaven borough representative. "So, what we have done instead is define the policy in a very positive way. Now, the guidelines are clearly drawn."

Wallace concurred. "The fact that the school board will now be reviewing each and every case will make the people who administer corporal punishment think twice before doing so," he said.

"Now, they'll have to make sure they explore every alternative and determine if there is real justification for using corporal punishment.

"In effect, we have nearly done away with corporal punishment," Wallace continued. "The instances of corporal punishment being administered in Virginia Beach schools are absolutely minimal in comparison to just a few years ago." Wallace added he would like to one day see corporal punishment completely removed from the school system, but, at this time, "that just doesn't look possible."

Both board members said they were somewhat surprised at the ease in which their efforts were approved. "Just say I was pleasantly surprised," Wallace said. "We have a very enlightened school board, and that is reflective of the attitude exhibited by the superintendent." Fahey called his fellow board members "reasonable people who are open to new ideas."

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