Paddling becoming rarity in schools

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 9, 2003

Anyone who was punished at school knows the experience can be

hard to forget.

There was the angry look on the teacher’s face and the laughter of friends as you were written up for bad behavior.

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The long, slow walk to the principal’s office seemed to take forever.

The sting of having to face your parents after getting in trouble at school hurt worse than the principal’s paddle.

This is the reason why corporal punishment in the Selma City School System is being enforced less often. Just the threat of a spanking is enough to improve a student’s behavior.

Once Speed learned the techniques of positive reinforcement, however, Mr. Oak has come out of hiding less often. After praising and encouraging students with good behavior, the rest of the class tended to follow the lead.

Speed, like many teachers, tries to exhaust a wide variety of efforts before sending a problem child to the principal’s office.

When a student misbehaves in class, the teacher first tries talking to the student directly. If this fails, a conference is called between the parents and teacher.

Finally, if the student continues to act out, the punishment is typically detention or suspension.

Capers said the typical behavior he usually deals with is &uot;fighting, sassiness, making hand gestures, and constant classroom disruptions.&uot;

While some parents and educators may disapprove of corporal punishment, it is protected by state law.

According to section 16-28A-1 in the Code of Alabama, teachers are given the authority to use corporal punishment if it is allowed by the local board of education.

The Code states, &uot;so long as teachers follow approved policy in the exercise of their responsibility to maintain discipline in their classroom, such teacher shall be immune from civil or criminal liability.&uot;

Both the Selma and Dallas County school systems allow &uot;reasonable corporal punishment of pupils&uot; in their policy manuals.

The school boards can also provide legal representation for teachers and principals if they are ever charged with assault.

Despite the legal immunity, certain procedures must be followed before spanking a student.

Corporal punishment can only be administered by a principal or a designated representative in the presence of another school system employee. The punishment must be properly documented and parents should be notified.

Lynn Henderson, public relations and attendance supervisor for the city schools, said even though spanking a student is used sparingly, it seems to work when utilized.

Parents also seem to be satisfied with the city school system’s policy on discipline.

Many educators have said the responsibility of teaching a child proper discipline should come from parents, not the school.

Lately, it seems the city school system’s corporal punishment policy has the same job as Mr. Oak. It’s only supposed to scare students, not actually be used.