LUMBERTON — The number of students in the Public Schools of Robeson County who received corporal punishment for mishaving declined by 60 percent during the school year that ended in June.
NC Child released data earlier this week showing that schools in Robeson, Graham, and Macon counties were the only ones who used corporal punishment during the school year, and there was an overall reduction of 50 percent in its use from the year before.
The survey found that 35 children were paddled in Robeson County during the 2015-16 school year, down from 88 cases the year before. There was no information on which schools used it the most often.
Graham was down from 44 to 22, while Macon was up slightly, from 11 to 14. Macon has since dropped it use of corporal punishment.
Uses of corporal punishment in Robeson County have been on the decline since the 2010-2011 school year, when the punishment was used 359 times. Traditionally, the practice has been implemented more frequently in schools with higher American Indian student populations.
Tom Vitaglione is a senior fellow at NC Child, an advocacy group that opposes corporal punishment.
“The survey has gotten easier each year, as fewer schools use this ineffective and outmoded practice,” Vitaglione said.
“There are now more than 80 studies that indicate that corporal punishment is an ineffective form of discipline,” he said. “We hope that the education leaders in Graham and Robeson will soon join their colleagues in the state’s other 113 local school districts in making corporal punishment in North Carolina a thing of the past.”
Mike Smith, the District 6 representative of the Robeson County school board, said he was pleased that the number is down.
“It’s supposed to be used as a last resort anyhow. If the numbers are going down, I think that’s great,” Smith said.
In Robeson County, administrators must receive written permission to use the punishment from parents, and then contact parents before it is used.
There is no indication that the drop is a result of a directive from the school board.
“No, I don’t think the board has encouraged them to stop,” said Charles Bullard, the District 4 representative who was sworn in in July said. “I think the principals are doing a good job of dealing with discipline in different ways. Sometimes you need discipline but maybe you find different ways to punish than corporal punishment.”
North Carolina is among 19 states that allow corporal punishment in schools and under its law, each local board of education decides if corporal punishment can or cannot be used in schools.
If the board decides corporal punishment can be used, parents and guardians are given a form when the student starts school to allow or prohibit corporal punishment if their child misbehaves. Parents can also submit a letter stating the school does not have permission to administer corporal punishment to their student. If the student’s parent does not turn in the form or submit a letter, corporal punishment may be administered.
According to the law, the punishment may not be administered in a classroom with other students present; should not be done in excessive force that would result in the student needing medical attention; and may only be performed by a teacher, principal or assistant principal in the presence of a fellow teacher, principal or assistant principal who knows what the student has done.
“We want to ensure sure that all principals are following the policy and what the law states and that they understand corporal punishment should be used as a last resort after they have gone through all procedures pertaining to discipline,” said Tommy Lowry, superintendent of Public Schools of Robeson County.
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.