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Is it time to spare the rod in schools?

Johnson City Press • Feb 5, 2018 at 12:00 AM

The Elizabethton Board of Education approved first reading of a disciplinary policy last month that continues to allow corporal punishment in the school system. Final approval of the policy will be made at school board’s next meeting.

As Elizabethton Bureau Chief John Thompson reported in January, the policy says “any principal, assistant principal or teacher may use corporal punishment in a reasonable manner against any student for good cause in order to maintain discipline and order within the public schools.”

The policy goes on to define corporal punishment as “spanking (striking the buttocks with the open hand) and/or paddling (striking the the buttocks with a paddle). All other forms of physical punishment are expressly forbidden.”

Other parts of the policy require the instrument used to be approved by the principal and the punishment must be performed in the presence of another professional employee.

The policy had been previously amended by board member Phil Isaacs to specify that parents shall be notified before corporate punishment is administered.

Board member Susan Peters, who cast the lone vote against the policy, told her colleagues she believes spanking sends the wrong message to children.

“I don’t think with all the anti-bullying and anti-violence that we preach to the children that we should have the option of using any kind of physical violence with the children,” Peters said.

Tennessee code gives local school districts control over when or if to use of corporal punishment. Schools in Johnson City and Sullivan County do not allow corporal punishment. Instead, those school systems rely on detention, suspension or expulsion to discipline misbehavior.

Meanwhile, the school systems of Washington, Unicoi and Johnson counties allow the use of spanking or paddling as a means for correcting students. Even those polices, however, have their own unique twists.

In Carter County, for example, parents can submit written requests to principals, assistant principals or teachers to ask that corporal punishment not be administered to their children.

Johnson County schools require parents to provide doctors’ notes to school principals if there’s a medical reason their children shouldn’t be paddled.

Studies show schools in the South are more likely to believe that sparing the rod does indeed spoil the child. A report released a few years ago also found Southern parents are far more likely to spank their children than their counterparts in other areas of the country. One poll found 62 percent of Southern parents spank their kids, as compared to 41 percent of non-Southern parents.

We’d like to hear from you. Do you think paddling schoolchildren is still an acceptable form of discipline?

Send your comments to mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification.

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