Paddling principal won't face charges


May 24, 2003
Jackson Sun

By TAJUANA CHESHIER
tcheshier@jacksonsun.com

South Highland Learning Center Principal Jessie Jacox will not face criminal charges for allegedly using "excessive force" when he paddled a 13-year-old student last month.

Judge Blake Anderson reviewed the case Friday in Jackson City Court and decided against issuing a warrant for Jacox's arrest, said Jackson Police Department Capt. Jerry Priddy.

During court, Anderson raised the issue of conflict of interest because Jacox is a member of the Jackson City Council, which votes on funding for city court. Since Jacox was not re-elected to his seat in Tuesday's election and will not be voting for this budget year, Anderson decided he could hear the case.

The student claimed that Jacox hit him more than 10 times with a wooden paddle across his buttocks on April 25. His foster parents, Mary Lynn and Eldridge Russell, took the teen to the emergency room for treatment of his injuries.

Police say the 13-year-old had deep purple bruises about 3 inches wide and long across his buttocks from the paddling.

Jacox claimed the student was disciplined because he was using racial slurs with some of the other students.

The Russells have been placed under a gag order by Youth Villages and could no longer comment on the incident. Youth Villages Clinical Supervisor Todd Meise said because of anonymity required for the protection of children in foster care, parents and counselors are not allowed to make public comments.

But in their April 29 interview with The Jackson Sun, the Russells said the teen believed he was disciplined for talking in the cafeteria.

"I'm not against paddling in schools. A couple of licks is good for child, but this was assault," Eldridge Russell said in an earlier interview.

Jacox, who did not appear in court Friday morning, said he was confident that he would not be charged for the paddling.

"I followed the state rules, and I've never abused any kids in my 29 years of education," Jacox said Friday. His school is a temporary location for intermediate and middle school students who are removed from their regular schools because of discipline problems. His relationship with the teen has improved after the paddling incident, he said.

"He's been hanging around me all of the time," Jacox said. "The discipline must've worked because now he's a well-behaved student and an enjoyable person to be around."

The Controversy
About 23 states still have corporal punishment as a legal method of discipline in their schools including in the South, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama.

Vivian Harris, co-president of the PTO at Jackson Central-Merry High School, believes it's only a matter of time before corporal punishment is removed from the schools.

"I still believe that paddling is effective on the elementary and middle school levels," Harris said. "But on the high school level, I think there needs to be another form of discipline because students that age are likely to have resentment and try to fight back."

Across the nation, various organizations have voiced their opinion against corporal punishment in schools.

A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics claimed in 2000 that corporal punishment in schools has an "adverse effect on a student's self-image and school achievement and may contribute to further disruptive and violent student behavior," according to the AAP Web site, www.aap.org

Some parents have expressed to Harris that they don't want their child to paddled in school.

"They holler abuse, but the real abuse is not correcting a student's bad behavior," Harris said.

Pope Elementary School Principal Emily Crabtree is also an advocate of paddling as a last resort to punishment in schools.

"At my school, parents are contacted first, before paddling occurs. Many other options like the extra-mile program, where students are removed from the classroom, help the student cool off and settle down," Crabtree said.

Each Jackson-Madison County school is responsible for documenting how many students are paddled.

"I can probably count on one hand the students we've paddled this year," Crabtree said.

Jackson-Madison County Schools has a six-point guideline for school officials to follow for paddling procedures including: corporal punishment will be used after less stringent measures have failed; instrument used for punishment must be approved by the principal; corporal punishment shall be reasonable; corporal punishment must be administered in the presence of another employee; punishment should be in proportion to the offense and consideration should be given to age, sex, size, physical and emotional condition of the student.

|Tajuana Cheshier, (731) 425-9758