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Corporate punishment available at schools but rarely used
Mar 11, 2004 12:00 am
To many Wilson County families, the old adage of sparing the rod and possibly spoiling the child is a very accepted maxim for parenting.
However, in Wilson County's schools, corporal punishment or paddling is quickly becoming a disciplinary measure of the past.
Despite a Wilson County Board of Education policy allowing corporal punishment in all county schools, a survey of high schools by The Lebanon Democrat shows one school doesn't paddle female students while others don't paddle students at all as a matter of policy.
When school administrators make the decision to use corporal punishment, several factors are considered including the student's gender. A female administrator must either be present or deliver the punishment herself if a girl is to be paddled, according to countywide school policy.
But on a school-by-school basis, the principal has the discretion to decide if corporal punishment will even be a part of that school's discipline plan.
At Lebanon High School, one parent has given permission for his daughter to be paddled, but was told that even if circumstances should warrant, it is unlikely that she would ever receive that punishment.
"A student is not paddled unless we feel it is the right thing to do on an individual basis," LHS Principal Don Hassler said. "There is one assistant principal here who administers corporal punishment – limited corporal punishment.
"We are very cautious with corporal punishment," he added.
Hassler said of the three assistant principals at the school, only one considers corporal punishment an option for unruly students. He said the other two assistants choose not to paddle students, which is their right.
One of those administrators, Nancy Ash, is the only female assistant at the school. She does not employ corporal punishment practices, making it unlikely that female students would be paddled. That fact does not set well with one parent.
"If corporal punishment is in the policy and a parent has directed them to use it, why aren't (they) using it?" the parent asked.
The parent, who asked that his name not be used for this story to protect his daughter's identity, said if a corporal punishment policy exists then someone should be designated to carry it out at each school.
"Somebody has to be designated," he said. "You can't pick and choose what's in your job description. If someone is designated to do a job and is refusing to do that job, then to me, that's a problem."
At the middle school level, students are subject to corporal punishment administered by either male or female assistant principals as circumstances dictate.
"I do not paddle any girls," Mt. Juliet Middle School Principal Mike Gwaltney said. "We have a lady assistant principal here who paddles when parents request it, but most of the time, we don't get requests like that from girls' parents."
All county middle schools contacted said they use corporal punishment.
Wilson County Director of Schools Dr. Jim Duncan said corporal punishment guidelines allow school administrators to choose when and whether paddling a student is appropriate.
"The corporal punishment policy is available to the principals, and they make the decision at the school level on how it will be used," Duncan said. "I would think that most principals are reluctant to paddle female teenage students. But there is no rule that says a young lady does not get paddled. If the school chooses not to do it, that is their right. Corporal punishment is not a requirement."
In fact, at most area schools, corporal punishment is meted out rarely, if at all, say administrators polled by The Democrat.
Watertown High School Principal Rick Martin said paddling is only used at the parents' request or with their permission.
"We contact the parent before we do that," Martin said. "Yes, we do paddle students, but usually because the parents have requested it. We have paddled both (boys and girls), but before we do, we make that phone call to the parents. We check it out pretty closely before we do that, and then only with parental consent."
At Wilson Central High School, corporal punishment is not encouraged.
"To my knowledge, we have not used corporal punishment here since the school has begun," Wilson Central High School Principal Larry Kernagis said. "If a parent wishes to do that, we invite them to come to the school."
Kernagis said on only a very few occasions has a parent come to the school to paddle a student. He said he prefers teachers and administrators at his school employ alternatives to corporal punishment.
"We just don't do it," he said. "There are other possible disciplinary consequences."
Kernagis said that he has found methods like detention and Saturday school to be more effective than a paddling would have been.
"It gives them a chance to complete some academic work and reflect on what they've done," he said.
But the concerned parent in this case said he would prefer his daughter "take a few licks and get back to class." He said that the alternative – internal suspension – has affected his daughter's grades.
"If she just takes a couple of licks and goes back to class then it's not an internal suspension," he said. "Now, this makes it so that she's getting failing grades."