Decatur City Schools is backing away from a plan to ban corporal punishment, but will require administrators to paddle with “extreme care, tact and caution.”
The board may revise its corporal punishment policy at a later date to define specific things, such as how many times a student may be struck and how parents may request that their children not be paddled, Superintendent Ed Nichols said at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
Nichols said the board wants to “do a little more studying” before permanently removing corporal punishment from the student code of conduct.
“We’re going to hold things in place next (school) year,” he said. “In most cases when it’s been used, parents have requested it. I’d much rather allow parents have a say than to take away that option.”
None of the board members challenged the decision to retain corporal punishment as a discipline option.
“I will leave that decision up to the professionals who have studied the issue,” board President Karen Duke said.
“I agree with her,” board member Dwight Jett Jr. said.
Julie Worley, who is president of Tennesseans for Non-Violent School Discipline, said Decatur missed out on an opportunity “to stand up for students who are put in a defenseless position” for “so-called punishment.”
“We entrust schools with our kid’s safety, and I don’t think there are any justifiable reasons to be hitting them,” she said.
School Safety Supervisor Dwight Satterfield and a group of administrators recommended last month that Decatur stop what he called “a very controversial practice” that some principals feel uncomfortable doing.
He said a small revision to the policy will state that the board believes the corporal punishment “should be seldom used.”
Alabama is one of 19 states that permit corporal punishment, although some school systems, such as Huntsville City, have banned the practice.
Satterfield said paddlings in Decatur schools have declined from 12 for defiance of authority in 2008 to only eight in the past four years.
State law requires school systems that allow corporal punishment to have procedures in place.
Decatur’s policy is one of the most stringent: Administrators are allowed to paddle only after other methods of discipline have failed. The policy requires a conference with the student’s parents or guardian, and the student has to be given an opportunity to defend charges before being paddled. Only the principal or a designee of the principal can paddle, and at least two certified employees must be present, Satterfield said.
No matter the circumstances, Worley said, it’s fundamentally wrong to hit anyone for punishment.
“We’re asking our schools to inflict pain for punishment, and that is wrong,” the mother of three from middle Tennessee said.
Decatur is not the only school system to tackle the paddling issue recently. Two weeks after Satterfield introduced the committee’s recommendation, the Muscogee County School District in Georgia banned corporal punishment after the buttocks of an 11-year-old girl at East Columbus Magnet Academy were bruised during a paddling.
Last month, the Huntsville school system fired a contract worker accused of paddling an 8-year-old boy with a belt, although the system bans corporal punishment.
“We’re going to continue to look at this, but we want to make sure parents have a voice in what’s developed,” Nichols said.
Deangelo McDaniel can be reached at 256-340-2469 or email@example.com.
States with corporal punishment
According to the Center for Effective Discipline, the following 19 states permit corporal punishment: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.
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