As Press staff writer Nathan Baker reported on Oct. 7, local school administrators say paddling is on the way out. While specific policies on corporal punishment differ with the school system, area educators say fewer students are being paddled these days.
Tennessee law gives teachers or principals the power to administer corporal punishment. State code also gives local districts control over when or if to use it. The boards of education in Johnson City, Kingsport, Bristol 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 Elizabethton and 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. 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 why their children shouldn’t be paddled. The Elizabethton School System has a written policy on corporal punishment that says: “In no instance shall it be of such severity as to cause bodily injury.”
Elizabethton Director of Schools Ed Alexander said he generally discourages the use of paddling for liability reasons.
“In some cases it could be used to motivate good behavior and discourage bad, but our principals rarely use it,” Alexander said.
Studies show schools in the South are more likely to believe that sparing the rod does indeed spoil the child. A report released five 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.
More than 14,860 students in Tennessee were paddled during the 2006-2007 school year. That is the sixth highest number of the 21 states that still allow corporal punishment in schools. Alice Farmer, a fellow with the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, believes spanking is a barbaric and counterproductive practice.
“Corporal punishment is abusive, but it’s also not effective,” she told The Tennessean in 2009.
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