First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON - Advocates for a national organization opposed to corporal punishment told the school board Monday night that spanking is ineffective and dangerous and should be banned from the Public Schools of Robeson County.
Peggy Dean of Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education told the school board that the county ranks second in the state for the number of ”hits,“ according to a civil rights study.
Dean said teachers lack training to administer paddling, which she called outdated, ineffective and dangerous. She held up a large photograph of the buttocks of Rowland Middle School student who was paddled on Sept. 12. The boy's buttocks appeared bruised and swollen.
”I have never seen such an atrocity,“ Dean said. ”I am not here to chastise you all as a county. I am here to ask for you all to make this a learning experience. There are so many alternatives than hitting a child.“
Tina Morgan said her 12-year-old son was hit five times with a wood paddle after he and another student were caught ”cutting up.“ School officials said the teacher, Anthony Britt, followed protocol.
District Attorney Johnson Britt elected not to file criminal charges. Corporal punishment is permitted by the school system, but only with permission of parents or a guardian who sign a consent form before the school year.
School board member Severeo Kerns said Dean was exploiting the incident.
”It makes it sound like we are the only county in North Carolina doing this … and this is happening in every one of our schools,“ Kerns said. ”I don't think it is.“
Dean, who is from Charlotte, said the school system is in violation of a state law that requires systems to list violations that would warrant corporal punishment. She said Robeson County's policy is arbitrary and said there were other punishment options to use on Morgan's child.
Kerns said behavior problems have grown inside the schools because of a lack of discipline.
”I don't believe in excessive corporal punishment, but I experienced corporal punishment growing up and I think I turned out pretty good,“ Kerns said. ”When I was in school 30 years ago, they used a leather strap.“
Board member Terry Smith said corporal punishment isn't used as often as when he was in school.
”The only difference is when I got it at school, I got it at home, too,“ Smith said. ”In today's times, that doesn't happen.“
Board member Stephen Stone said he used corporal punishment during the 12 years he was a principal, but that he had never seen bruising like was depicted in the photograph.
”Regardless of how offensive this is, it's still not right for any child to have these kinds of marks on them,“ said board member John Campbell. ”We cannot ignore this.“
Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education has asked state Rep. Doug Yongue to introduce a bill that would ban corporal punishment in North Carolina. Twenty-seven states have already done so.
Morgan was upset after the meeting, saying she didn't care for the response she got from the board.
”If that was their child, would they still try to say that it is OK to bruise a child?“ Morgan said in tears. ”They are blowing it off as if nothing happened.“
Morgan has hired a lawyer.
Tom Johnson, a member of organization's board of directors, drove from Nashville, Tenn., to tell the board about social problems that he says come with spanking.
”What's hard to understand is why teachers are getting away with doing this to kids while a parent, who did the same, would have the cops and Social Services all over them,“ he said.
Some board members expressed concerns that details of the presentation weren't disclosed beforehand, including the photograph that was distributed.
”I am not sure if the pictures were appropriate,“ said Chairman Mike Smith. ”She could have spoke in two weeks during the public comment but we shouldn't be ashamed of information. If we can all learn from the experience, that's what it's all about.“