-- The Daily News Journal, March 1, 2001

City School Board Bans Paddling

Unanimous vote ends corporal punishment
by Scott Broden

Instead of paddling, Murfreesboro City Schools staff could make stern eye contact with students to punish them, board member Lon Nuell said.

The board, in a 7-0 vote, ended corporal punishment Tuesday night, and Nuell said district staff need to be creative in finding alternative forms of discipline.

"All research we've seen really does not support the notion for paddling, so it's just time to move on and do something else," said Nuell, who brought the paddling issue before the board in December. "We can't paddle them, but there are other ways," said Nuell, who said staff could use eye contact as an effective discipline.

"Locking in on eye contact and reprimanding them with quiet words gets right to the soul," explained Nuell, an MTSU art professor. "Children are particularly very sensitive to eye contact. The eyes speak very directly into the brain and the soul."

School staff have many other ways to discipline children, he said. "The silent treatment really hurts," Nuell added. The students who get into trouble are "basically good kids," Nuell said.

"They don't understand the damage they can do through inappropriate behavior," he said. "We love them. We want to do what's best for them. They have to learn to understand and respect authority.

"They have to learn to be tolerant of other children. When they know they did something wrong, they have to know what the school rules are and what the consequences are."

"There are all kinds of ways of dealing with it," Nuell added. "When a prisoner breaks a prison rule, the punishment is never corporal. We're not allowed to beat the prisoner, so how can we do that to children?"

Board member Terryl Williams agreed that the system needed to ban paddling. "It's just time to get rid of it," she said. "Times have changed. Society is different. It's a much different society than it was 20 years ago."

System Director Marilyn Mathis recommended a policy forbidding corporal punishment, tying in with the district's mission statement to bring children academic and personal success, Williams added.

After a 10-minute discussion Tuesday, Williams joined the other six board members to "promote nonviolence in schools," she said. "We need to teach children on how to deal with anger," Williams added. "We don't need to inflict pain on them. We need to look at other forms of discipline. I am a big believer in focusing on positive reinforcement."

Board member Nancy Phillips said it was important for the board to be unified on the issue. "Every member of the school board has the same goal, and that is in the best interest of the child," explained Phillips. "I am not a person who has strong feelings either way on the corporal punishment issue."

Although some principals have use corporal punishment on rare occasions throughout each year, the district had so many safeguards in place that abuse was not a possiblity, Phillips said. "I truly understand both sides of the issue," added Phillips, who said it was important to support the director's recommendation.