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School CP - February 1994

Gannett News Service, 9 February 1994

Florida committee refuses paddling ban

TALLAHASSEE - Despite unanimous public testimony that corporal punishment in schools does more harm than good, a Senate committee Wednesday did not ban the activity practiced in about 21 school districts, including Lee and Escambia counties.

Last year, 20,295 students were hit by school teachers or administrators as punishment, an activity that nine people testified is barbaric and unproductive.

But the Education Committee, influenced by Sen. Fred Dudley, R-Cape Coral, and others tied 5-5 on the proposed ban, which meant the bill would have died. But Sen. George Kirkpatrick, D-Gainesville, who originally voted against the ban asked for reconsideration and the bill will again be discussed at a later time.

The volatile issue failed during the last two Legislative sessions, and sponsor Sen. Karen Johnson thought it would be easier to pass this year.

"I don't hear anyone speaking against it," she said before the meeting.

Indeed, all the people testifying to the committee echoed the remarks of Jack Levine, executive director of the Florida Center for Children and Youth. He said, "Assault and battery is not an educational tool worthy of merit."

Others said the practice teaches children that violence is a way to resolve conflicts, and that message only spurs more violence.

But some legislators spoke in favor of the punishment, reciting personal experience and the positive impact it had on them. Dudley proposed an amendment that would make corporal punishment permissible only as a last resort, but that was defeated.

"Negative reinforcement doesn't teach violence; it teaches respect," said Sen. John Grant, R-Tampa.

Dudley also argued that because the state has removed most mandates and allowed local school advisory councils to set policy, the state shouldn't mandate whether it can use corporal punishment.

Corporal punishment is allowed providing another person is present and parents are notified.

"If they want to ban corporal punishment in a school district, that ought to be up to the parents," Dudley said.

In Melbourne, corporal punishment was banned last year by the Brevard County School Board. Teachers are encouraged to use other means to maintain discipline and control, but they are given no guidelines.

Just a few schools in Escambia County use corporal punishment, a decision left to principals, said spokeswoman Barbara Frye. Parents must give permission and other strict guidelines are followed, she said.

The Lee County School Board in Fort Myers is currently studying corporal punishment, still used in some of its schools.

Levine, who quickly left the meeting after the vote and missed the reconsideration, was upset; "It's a violence-promoting vote and much of what they say (about curbing violent juvenile crime) is very hollow."

Copyright 1994, Gannett News Service, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc.

Corpun files 07388/06806

St Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri, 11 February 1994

School Officials Stall Ban On Punishment

By Joan Little
Of the Post-Dispatch Staff

Roy Malone of the Post-Dispatch staff contributed information for this story.

For the past six years, Rep. Kaye Steinmetz, D-Florissant, has been sponsoring bills to ban corporal punishment in Missouri schools. But the bills have never made it out of the House education committee - partly due to lobbying by school boards and administrators, Steinmetz says.

While Missouri statutes allow the spanking of students in school, 26 states have banned it. Illinois is the most recent state to do so, with a law that went into effect Jan. 1.

In testimony last week before the House education committee, a man from the St. Joseph, Mo., area, said he had videotaped black and blue marks on the back and legs of his grandson. The boy was paddled for bringing chewing tobacco to school, his grandfather said. In rural Arcadia, Mo., some parents are complaining about what they say is a long tradition of excessive corporal punishment in schools there. Faith Light said her son, Paul Light Jr., 8 at the time, was paddled black and blue at Arcadia Valley Elementary School in May for disobeying a teacher. Don Goodman, the principal who allegedly struck the boy, declined to comment. The school superintendent, Terry Adams, said he could not talk due to confidentiality reasons.

The school recently sent parents a letter about a new disciplinary policy for fourth-graders, requiring isolation in a "cubicle" after a number of infractions. Some mothers described the cubicle as a cardboard box. Adams described it as a screen.

Fern Hammerman of St. Louis leads the Coalition To Ban Corporal Punishment in Missouri's Schools. The group collected petitions with more than 1,000 signatures from across the state for the House committee. The coalition includes many organizations active in child-welfare issues. The petition notes that corporal punishment is not allowed in prisons, the armed forces or mental hospitals. The petition says research has shown that corporal punishment impairs children's development and interferes with learning. It quotes the American Psychological Association as saying, "Physical violence at an early age induces habitual violence in children."

One of those who testified against Steinmetz's bill was Gary Sharp, a lobbyist for the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals and the Missouri Association of School Administrators. "We support legislation that would allow local control of disciplinary policies," Sharp said. "Corporal punishment can be positive," he said. "It can help with the discipline code. The use or potential use of it works as a deterrent for misbehavior."

Corpun file 11870

Tampa Tribune, Florida, 19 February 1994

Proposed law takes aim at paddling

By Cheryl Waldrip
Tribune staff writer

TALAHASSEE - Under fire around the nation and headed for a fight in the Florida Senate, the paddling of American students is a dying tradition.

If a proposal before legislators becomes law, Florida educators could lose their teaching certification if they spank pupils, or threaten to do so.

Critics say paddling is legal violence against kids and encourages them to act up.

Supporters say it has kept generations on the straight and narrow and the state's drug- and gun-infested schools need more of it.

"I strongly believe that if we spare the rod, we will spoil the child," said state Sen. John Grant, a Tampa Republican. "Too many of our children are being rocked and coddled into disrespect for authority."

cuttingState Sen. Karen Johnson, D-Inverness, is sponsoring a bill to ban corporal punishment. It passed the Senate Education Committee this week. The House is considering a similar proposal.

"Paddling has not helped deter violence in our society," Johnson said.

Various organizations, including the Florida Association of School Psychologists, oppose the practice. Several other states have banned corporal punishment, but it remains strong throughout the South.

Schools that paddle, the association says, have higher rates of vandalism, truancy, dropouts and lawsuits than schools that don't. State Department of Education figures show a greater percentage of black students are paddled than whites. In some districts, nearly all the black students are paddled and white students rarely are.

But state Rep. Sam Mitchell, D-Vernon, says he strongly supports paddling because it worked when he was a principal.

"I ran a school for 30 years and we never a had a police officer in the halls," he said. "How many schools can say that today?"

He said he rarely had to paddle because every child knew he would do it. He contends adults today are too soft and that's why so many kids are going astray and heading for prison.

"In today's world, we simply don't have enough people willing to stand up and correct a child," Mitchell said.

The bulk of the 20,295 students paddled in Florida last year attended schools in the Panhandle. Eighteen school districts have already done away with the paddle and others use it rarely.

Only 51 students attending school in Hillsborough County last year were paddled.

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