Ban the paddle Ban the paddle

N.C. lawmakers should prohibit corporal punishment

Charlotte's Rep. Martha Alexander has filed a bill to ban corporal punishment statewide. The legislature should take this opportunity to retire an antiquated, largely ineffective tool for discipline.

Most states already outlaw paddling. So do most industrialized countries. But in North Carolina, 68 school districts still allow it, while just 47 don't. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools banned it more than a decade ago.

Rep. Alexander is joined by several other lawmakers in pushing for a statewide ban. She also has two other vital allies in this fight: state Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson and Eddie Davis, president of the N.C. Association of Educators.

Current N.C. law has specific guidelines for districts that use corporal punishment. It cannot be administered in the classroom when other students are present. Only principals, teachers and certain others can administer it. Students must be informed beforehand what conduct will result in corporal punishment.

But these rules can't mitigate the problems. Research shows paddling often results in injuries to students. It shows paddling is disproportionately used on poor children, minorities, students with disabilities and boys. And educators attest that as a deterrent to bad behavior, paddling doesn't work. The same children are punished over and over. Six years ago, Avery County principals requested the ban because corporal punishment was ineffective.

In fact, corporal punishment sends exactly the wrong message to students -- that violence is an acceptable response to conflict.

Rep. Alexander said she was inspired to introduce her bill after she heard of a Robeson County 12-year-old who was hit so hard he was severely bruised and had to be taken to an emergency room. But no action was taken against the teacher. A complaint was made to the Department of Public Instruction, which reportedly said it had no authority to act.

Supt. Atkinson said new programs that teach and reward good behavior are preferable to paddling. The positive behavior model has shown a drop in referrals to principals' offices, expulsions and suspensions in the nearly 300 schools where it is used, she said.

Many of the N.C. districts that allow corporal punishment rarely use it. That's good. But Rep. Alexander noted that nearly 5,000 N.C. students were given corporal punishment in 2002. That's wrong. It's time to retire the paddle in North Carolina. Lawmakers should do so this session.

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