July 15, 2008

Twiggs Brings Back Paddling With Parental Permission

By Julie Hubbard, The Macon Telegraph, Ga.

Jul. 15--Twiggs County principals will be pulling out their dusty paddles when school resumes and using them when students act up.

At least that's the school system's aim.

The Twiggs County school board reinstated its corporal punishment policy this summer to allow students to be spanked to curb misbehavior.

Some board members felt that in many cases, detention for students or a scolding wasn't working.

"We had a policy but we weren't using it," said Ethel Stanley, one of the board's five members. "Sometimes smaller kids will obey better if they have a paddling. The more you give them rope, the more they try.

"It's something to deter them," she said.

Last year, Twiggs County schools reported more than 300 student misconduct incidents and 62 fights, according to a state report. The system has about 1,100 students.

At least two board members said student discipline problems are also a factor in higher-than-normal teacher turnover this past school year, and officials are trying ways to improve student achievement.

Most of the system's source of misbehavior comes from middle schoolers, said Levi Rozier, Twiggs County's campus police chief.

"That's when they're finding themselves," Rozier said.

But for the deterrent to work, teachers and principals will need to be consistent when correcting students' behavior, and parents will have to accept the change, he said.

"It has to be bought inby parents," he said.

Twiggs parents will have to sign a permission slip for their child to be paddled by an administrator, and witnesses will have to be in the room, Stanley and board member Johnnie Moore said. There also will be a meeting to inform parents of the changes, Stanley said.


Experts and education officials -- even those in the midstate -- are divided on whether paddling actually deters misbehavior.

Murray Straus, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory and a professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, said children who are spanked are more likely to be physically aggressive or become juvenile delinquents.

Others in the field claim that spanking a child can be effective in some cases for those who repeatedly misbehave and for whom nothing else works.

Twenty-eight states have banned corporal punishment in schools, although Georgia allows school systems to decide whether to use it.

"It's a hotly debated issue," said Sharon Patterson, superintendent of the Bibb County school system. "We do use corporal punishment, but it can't be used as a first line of discipline."

It's also up to the discretion of principals, and parents can opt out if they choose.

In Bibb County, principals at Hutchings Career Center, Central High, Union Elementary and Taylor Elementary schools say they prefer not to spank students.

Principals at Westside High, Howard Middle and Skyview Elementary, however, say they use corporal punishment when they need to.

Lynne Donahoo, Burghard Elementary School's principal, says she paddles students sparingly -- and never on special education students or those younger than first grade.

Last school year, she used corporal punishment just a handful of times, including on a second-grader for throwing pencils and for others with chronic misbehavior for whom time out and counseling did not work.

"Sometimes these little ones are hard headed and you have to show them you mean business," Donahoo said. "I haven't used it often, but I have used it."

The Houston County school system does not allow its faculty members to paddle students.

"Corporal punishment is not an appropriate means of discipline in Houston County schools," said Robin Hines, assistant superintendent for school operations.

"We have a great deal of confidence in our progressive discipline procedures that utilize classroom strategies as well as schoolwide procedures that include detention, in-school suspension and home suspension."

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.



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