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Schools may ban corporal punishment

By Kathy Chaffin
kchaffin@salisburypost.com
The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education is considering revising its code of conduct to abolish corporal punishment.
Karen South Carpenter, who had requested that the policy be on the agenda for Monday’s meeting, said she received an e-mail from a parent questioning why the school system still allowed corporal punishment ó paddling or spanking ó as a form of discipline.
Carpenter said the e-mail reminded her of her own concerns as well. “Under any circumstance, hitting is not an appropriate form of discipline,” she said.
Chairman Dr. Jim Emerson said the state leaves the decision on whether corporal punishment is allowed to the local school boards. “As an old school principal, I wouldn’t dare use it anymore,” he said.
Emerson is retired from the Charlotte/Mecklenburg School System, where he worked 30 years as teacher, principal and finally area superintendent.
The Kannapolis City Board of Education has not allowed corporal punishment since 1993, according to Community Relations Director Ellen Boyd. That’s when the current policy manual was written, Boyd said, so corporal punishment may have even been abolished before that.
“It’s been in place for as long as anybody can remember,” she said.
Dr. Walter Hart, assistant superintendent for administration, said the current code of conduct leaves it up to individual principals as to whether to use corporal punishment as a form of discipline. The vast majority are opting not to use it, he told board members Monday.
One of the concerns about using corporal punishment is the possibility of lawsuits, Hart said. “There is a general trend for boards to opt to do away with corporal punishment.”
Board members asked Hart to revise the code of conduct to abolish corporal punishment and to bring the draft to their next meeting for consideration.
Attorney Don Sayers urged the board to be careful in writing the revision so that teachers would still be allowed to have physical contact with students in case they have to break up a fight or something of that nature.
Hart said on Tuesday that five elementary schools ó Bostian, Hanford Dole, Hurley, Isenberg and Koontz ó still use corporal punishment. “Ironically, when it happens,” he said, “it’s typically because the parents ask for it.”
Though principals do not need parental permission to use corporal punishment, Hart said the code of conduct policy is included in a Student-Parent Handbook distributed to students and parents at the beginning of the school year states that if parents do not want it used, the school system will not use it. “There’s a form that goes home in our code of conduct that a parent can complete and send back to the school.”
In today’s society, Hart said he personally would never use corporal punishment on a student and would never advise a principal to use it. “There are lawsuits that stem from corporal punishment, and accusations are sometimes made against principals regarding corporal punishment.
“As my children can attest, my children have been spanked,” he said, “and I was spanked myself. I think the real concern here goes to using it when you’re dealing with someone else’s child …
“We’re in a different era now. I think expectations are different than they used to be, and it puts us in a delicate situation.”
Carpenter, in a telephone interview on Tuesday, said she raised the issue because she doesn’t think “hitting is a good thing, ever.”
“I don’t think the message it sends is a good one,” she said. “How can we as adults hit children and then say to them, ‘But you can’t hit anybody else.’ ”
Carpenter said she respects parents’ rights to discipline their children however they choose, but said she would like to see the code of conduct also revised to prohibit parents from using corporal punishment on school grounds.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.

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