School system should stop paddling right now

June 1, 2003
Jackson Tennessee Sun

It is long since past the time that the Jackson-Madison County School System eliminates corporal punishment as a discipline measure. While paddling a high school-age student is obviously absurd, it should be banned not only at the high school level, but also across every grade level in the system. Other school systems in rural West Tennessee should follow such an example.

Physically striking students has no place in school. It is as antiquated in the education community as the one-room schoolhouse and the slide rule. It should be abolished for two reasons: First, it may (and probably will) result in significant legal liability to the school system. It is not a big leap to see a criminal assault charge, perhaps a sexual assault charge, against a teacher or administrator.

Second, paddling has no positive impact on discipline.

We have heard the arguments from the pro-corporal punishment crowd, that a whack or two never hurt anyone, and that if it was good in their day then it should be good today. We disagree. First, it wasn't necessarily "good'' in their day. Second, that day is long gone.

That day is gone because our society has changed and no amount of well-intentioned wishing will bring it back. Our schools and our children now must struggle daily with the belief that violence is part of our society. Just turn on the television and you'll see over and over again that violence is portrayed as a legitimate way to settle disputes. This clearly wasn't the case in the old days. The last thing teen-agers and pre-teens need is authority figures using violence to reinforce violence-as-a-solution images that don't need to be reinforced. It simply doesn't make sense to add fuel to that societal fire. And the complaints that come from teachers and school administrators ring hollow when they worry that students today are too violent, all the while searching for the belt. That doesn't make sense.

There also is no evidence that paddling works. The schools are no safer under the current policy that allows paddling. In fact, our schools now have police officers stationed in the hallways. Teachers still raise concerns about discipline. Test scores are no higher. The dropout rate remains high. What exactly has paddling gained? The answer is clear: Not a thing.

Any educational strategy must have a goal. What is the goal of paddling?

School officials also must realize that students see enough violence, unfortunately, too often at home. Madison County has a very high number of domestic violence cases. Fuel is not needed to add to this fire either.

The issue of liability ought to give the school board pause as well. Recently, City Court Judge Blake Anderson chose not to bring criminal - yes, criminal - charges against South Highland Learning Center principal Jesse Jacox when police said the a student had "deep purple bruises about 3 inches wide'' and the foster parents said the bruises were from a paddling administered by Jacox. State law does permit paddling, but it does not permit assault, and some day a paddling may be seen that way by a judge. The system simply is placing itself in jeopardy for both criminal and very expensive civil charges. It doesn't have to do that.

Most any educator of note will tell you that discipline can be kept and kept well without paddling. It happens at hundreds of schools across the country each day.

Paddling is a barbaric act that accomplishes nothing and may end up costing the system dearly in the long run. It should be stopped now.