Image via WikipediaSometimes when I read something I just say WTF? I am pleased to see that a group is trying to reduce corporal punishment in schools. But, excuse me, shouldn't we be trying to eliminate it completely? Honestly, why is this still done at all?
Groups Aim Again to Reduce Spanking in N.C. SchoolsRaleigh, N.C.
Children's advocates in North Carolina are this year seeking a spanking ban on students with disabilities after losing political tussles over corporal punishment in public schools the past few years.
Equipped with a report showing corporal punishment was used more than 1,400 times in 26 school districts last school year, speakers at a General Assembly education committee asked lawmakers Wednesday to consider a paddling ban for children with physical, mental or learning challenges when they reconvene in Raleigh in May.
There are better and more positive ways for teachers and administrators to deal with these children for their disruptive behavior than hitting them, said Sheri Strickland, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators and a longtime teacher of disabled children, which comprise about 13 percent of the state's public school population.
"I didn't hit my children for not knowing how to read ... and I wasn't going to hit my children for not knowing appropriate behavior," Strickland said. "We know that it's critical to a child's academic success to have positive contact with caring adults."
The new effort comes after the Legislature has declined to approve broader spanking bans. The House rejected in 2007 a statewide prohibition in all 115 school districts as opponents argued current state law should remain in place giving local education boards the choice to decide whether spanking is effective.
The House approved by a wide margin last year a bill giving parents the option of exempting their children from corporal punishment in the district where such a penalty is still carried out, but the Senate narrowly defeated the idea.
Now advocates have scaled back their request.
"That's our limited request to you to consider in this session," Tom Vitaglione, a senior fellow at Action for Children, told legislators.
Thirty states and the District of Columbia have barred corporal punishment in the public schools, according to The Center for Effective Discipline, an Ohio-based group seeking to end the practice.
Data on corporal punishment are hard to accumulate in North Carolina because local districts aren't required to report to the Department of Public Instruction on its use.
Action for Children contacted each school district and found 89 either ban corporal punishment outright or don't use it. Fourteen districts banned the practice in the past three years, the report said.
Of the other 26 districts, the number of times the punishment was administered during the last school year ranged from once in the Randolph County Schools to 325 times in the Burke County Schools. Three county systems — Burke, Nash (296 times) and Robeson (167) — comprised more than half of the punishments, the report said.
Some education oversight committee members expressed shame that North Carolina still allowed corporal punishment.
"To me it is an embarrassment for the state of North Carolina that we continue to participate in this type of behavior," said Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe.
But others were concerned about endorsing a change when there's no detailed information about whether the children received paddling several times, why students receive the punishment or how many are identified as disabled.
"We need to proceed with caution," said Rep. Laura Wiley, R-Guilford, who supports an outright ban but points out children with a reading disability could dodge punishment even though the difficulty has no connection to poor behavior.
Vitaglione said a U.S. Department of Education report determined students with disabilities received corporal punishment on 290 occasions in 2006 in North Carolina.
Rep. Curtis Blackwood, R-Union, criticized the choice of words in the Action for Children report, which he said was trying to arouse emotions so people would support the change.
Arthur Stellar, who was named Burke County Schools superintendent last fall, said he is personally opposed to corporal punishment and wants to talk to system officials about the policy but mentioned there are other pressing priorities. There also would need to be an alternative punishment model in place and support for the change from parents.
"If they objected that strongly, it would have been gone a long time ago," he said in a phone interview.