'Hearing aids' for students
By Lyndol Wilkinson, The Huntsville Item, January 27, 2006

Old. I know I am. Stubborn and conservative. I know I am. Reaching the conclusion that I’m right came quite subtly, but no less powerfully when a decision by the United States District Court for Eastern District of Texas against Groveton Independent School District was published this week.

A Groveton News article last week said: “Groveton ISD has received notice that the U.S. District Court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Michael and Lynn Causby against the district, its band director Jeremy McKissick and a former coach, Josh Finney.

“The Causbys had filed their lawsuit against the district and the two teachers trying to hold them monetarily liable for damages arising out of the administration of corporal punishment to their child, a student at the district. The Causbys attacked the district’s use of corporal punishment as to their child as well as a means of discipline in general.

“The federal court, citing long established law, acknowledged that even if everything claimed by the Causbys were true, the paddling of recalcitrant children has long been an accepted method of promoting good behavior and instilling notions of responsibility and decorum into mischievous heads of school children.

“The district has recently experienced adverse media attention concerning its use of corporal punishment as a disciplinary alternative. According to GISD Superintendent Joe David Driskell, the Causbys’ claims had, prior to their initiation of the lawsuit, been reviewed by school officials, Child Protective Services and a Trinity County Grand Jury, all of which failed to entertain the same. Driskell acknowledged that it was encouraging to know that the long-held GISD board policy pertaining to the use of corporal punishment was still in line with state and federal law.”

Long recognized for its outstanding athletic programs — chief of which was a football program that was so powerful that alumnus got interested only when it was time for the 13th game of the season — to those of less powerful football experience that would be the first play-off game. They were good — and they were good every year.

What people didn’t talk about so much was the excellence of their school district as a whole, the academic excellence that was the norm and the pride with which they participated in UIL (University Interscholastic League) Literary events even as much as they did two-a-days in the dog days of August before the first game.

It was easier to suspect that they hid bad students with special education status and such in order to make eligible some of their All-State players. What Groveton really does — and did — was educate the students sent to them daily by trusting parents. What we students did was behave — the way our parents expected us to behave.

I graduated from Groveton High School in 1964, after experiencing the assassination of a president, the arrival of The Beatles and the end of a football season because school was still school in Groveton, students still went by the rules and punishment was meted out appropriately when necessary.

It was the best of times.

We don’t win many football games anymore; Rodney Thomas, Ivy Evans, Kevin Parker and Hugh Robb are names of old football heroes; Casidhe Leonard is a current hero; and we still educate our children.

Parents send their children into an environment of order, they trust that the school district’s policies will be within the law, they elected a school board to oversee that they do, and they do just like Susie and Olan did when I stepped out of line. They attached a bit of “hearing aid” (St. Susie’s words) to my behind — or whatever part of my body she could attach it.

St. Susie didn’t always have a uniform or standard paddle. She hit me with whatever she could find at the time. I could list the items of punishment if it were necessary, but I think everybody understands that she loved me, she wanted nothing but the best for me, and sometimes a little extra volume was needed on my hearing aid.

And so you have it. The courts have finally said what needs to be said. Schools should operate inside the law, they should exercise every option at their disposal to see that children are treated fairly and are educated to their highest potential.

The paddle is in place, by law, in Groveton, Texas, and I’m glad to hear it. We’ve still got a way to go in the football comeback, but that is second to taking care of the behavior and discipline of our children.

The ruling is novel, certainly. But placing the process back into the hands of those who are sent into the trenches to educate our children is the right thing.

I applaud the court is wisdom — and for agreeing with me.

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