School officials probe paddling incident

November 12, 2005

The Columbia Daily Herald

(Maury County School District)
By THOMAS MUNRO/Staff Writer

A Mt. Pleasant resident has alleged a paddling of her son at Mt. Pleasant Middle School crossed the line into child abuse, but a grand jury disagreed.

The 38-year-old woman said her 12-year-old son was struck nine times with a paddle after misbehaving at the school late last week. She said he was paddled three times by a teacher, who she said then handed the paddle to the boy's biological father.

The woman said the biological father, whom she said has no legal custody of the child, hit him twice with the paddle, which broke on the second strike. The woman and her son say the biological father then paddled the boy four more times with the broken paddle. According to school board policy, corporal punishment should be limited to three strikes.

The boy's mother filed a complaint of abuse against the teacher and the biological father and Mt. Pleasant police investigated the incident, Detective Tommy Goetz said. The detective said Monday he had heard there was a videotape of part of the incident but he had not seen the tape.

Goetz took the case to a grand jury Tuesday. The grand jury declined to issue an indictment, District Attorney General Mike Bottoms said Wednesday.

"Quite frankly I was a little bit surprised, but (the grand jurors have) got a job to do, and I guess they did it," Bottoms said.

Director of School Eddie Hickman said he was investigating the situation and would be "dealing with it appropriately." He had no other comment.

The woman said her son was bruised by the paddle. The boy's upper legs and buttocks showed extensive bruising. He also had bruises under his left arm, which he said he suffered when the teacher tried to restrain him.

Mt. Pleasant Middle School Principal Elliotte Kinzer and School Board Attorney Jason Golden declined to comment on the case or confirm the names of those involved, saying the matter remains under investigation.

The woman and her son said the teacher and the biological father were the only people present for the paddling. According to School Board policy, a second professional employee should be present to witness any corporal punishment.

The woman's husband, 44, who said he has had custody of the boy throughout his life, said he brought the boy to the school Monday morning and spoke with Kinzer and Assistant Principal Christine Potts. He said he told them the boy would no longer be attending the school and he intends to homeschool the child.

The boy's mother said police collected the broken paddle as evidence. She said she agreed to the paddling and sent her ex-husband, a Summertown resident, to oversee it. She said the boy has been paddled twice before — once in Columbus, Ga., when he was 8, and once last year in Hickman county.

The woman said the boy suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, seasonal affective disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and bipolar disorder. She said he takes medication and sees a psychiatrist in Mt. Pleasant but is not a special education student.

She said she does not have the money for a lawyer but intends to sue the schools through Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands.

According to a review carried out by the Central Office at the request of The Daily Herald, Mt. Pleasant Middle School reported two incidents of corporal punishment last year.

The School Board declined to review its corporal punishment policy at a policy work session Nov 3.

Thomas Munro may be contacted at tmunro@c-dh.net or (931) 388-6464 ext. 3032.