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School CP - December 1990

Corpun file 11868
Press-Journal, Vero Beach, Florida, 17 December 1990

Paddling Dropped 60 Percent In County This Year

By Geri Aston
Press-Journal Staff Writer

While some educators think corporal punishment is the only way to get through to students, others think it sends a mixed signal to children and that educators overstep their boundaries by using it.

In the Indian River County last year, educators paddled students in 133 instances. But parents and school officials disagree about the use of corporal punishment.

"I'm surprised a county that tries to be progressive in most areas would allow that to stay on the books," Vero Beach High School Principal Lance Rozsa said.

"I think it's obsolete, and it only promotes what it's supposed to reduce," he said. "If you're promoting nonviolence, how can you can paddle a child?"

Some educators think paddling is the only way to send a message to a child after other disciplinary measures, such as calls home and detentions, fail.

graphic with statistics"In some cases it will modify behavior, and kids will get the message," said Superintendent Gary Norris. "But we ought to use it sparingly. It's almost a last-ditch effort."

School Board rules allow spankings given by an instructor or administrator. Principals usually administer the blows with a wooden paddle. Corporal punishment must be witnessed by another staff member, cannot be too severe, cannot be given in front of other students and cannot be administered to a child with an emotional or physical disability.

The number of paddlings dropped from 329 cases in the 1988-89 school year to 133 last year, a decrease of 60 per cent.

Although all Florida school districts used corporal punishment in the 1987-88 school year, the number of cases dropped, from 84,495 cases that year to 65,060 in the 1988-89 school year.

"Basically, it's a trend now, although the state gave districts the option," said Gifford Middle Seven Principal Eddie Hudson. "But we're finding it's a type of punishment that is not as readily accepted as it was in the past."

"I feel very strongly that corporal punishment doesn't change behavior but stops behavior," Dodgertown Elementary School Principal Bonnie Swanson said.

graphic with statistics"It's something we don't use often," she said. "(We used it) usually when a child is repeatedly doing the same thing over and over again, and we had to draw attention to it." Swanson paddled seven children in the past two years.

"It worked for me," Hudson said about his school days. "It didn't make a bad person out of me."

Even those opposed to corporal punishment think it works sometimes

"I'm not saying it's not a deterrent," Rozsa said. "For some kids it is. But the negatives outway [sic] the benefits.

"You risk a lawsuit," he said. "You don't know what type of emotional or physical problems it might have or the impact it might have on a child."

Rozsa said he thinks paddling is a way for parents to punish their children, not principals their students.

"If parents want to have that done, OK fine, you tell the parents to do it themselves," he said.

Some parents said they feel the same way.

"I spank my children when I think it's necessary," said Marsha Aiken, president of the County Council of PTAs. "But that's me and not anyone else. I'm not about to let anyone else smack my child."

The district honors parents' letters asking school officials not to paddle their children, district Director of Administrative Services Gregory Smith said.

"I am opposed to it, especially the way it is done in this county," Aiken said. "One of my children was paddled, and that's how I found out about it." Aiken thinks parents should be notified first.

That is the practice at Dodgertown Elementary, Swanson said.

"We try to notify parents," Hudson said. "It's hard to call every parent every time."

Lynn Moss, whose daughter Shawn attends Vero Beach Junior High, thinks corporal punishment is acceptable if a parent has agreed to it beforehand.

"But at this age, I don't think spanking is the answer," she said about junior high school students.

Students don't like the idea of paddling.

"I don't think it's necessary," ninth-grader Lisa Morris said. "I think we're too old to be spanked. It just makes students rebel against (administrators)."

Another ninth-grader, Tami Bishop, also doesn't think the district should allow school officials to paddle students.

"They should not have any right at all to hit someone else's child," she said.

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