Parents File Suit to Stop School Paddling, ABCNEWS.com
May 7, 2001
Two families in Zwolle, La. have filed lawsuits charging their children have been subjected to excessive corporal punishment, but they say their goal is not financial gain but to put a halt to the practice. However, according to the the Shreveport, La. Times the families are seeking "unspecified monetary damages."
The practice of paddling is banned in 27 states, but it is legal in the other 23, including Louisiana. Part of President Bush's education reform package is a provision that would give teachers broad immunity from civil lawsuits arising from paddling incidents.
Robert Cahanin, whose 10-year-old daughter Megan was paddled after a shoving incident with another girl, said he feared his 68-pound child had been seriously injured when she came home with large bruises on her body.
"It had me scared," he said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "I thought maybe it might have hurt her kidneys or broke her back because the bruises kind of went to her back."
Dan Leslie, the superintendent of the Sabine Parish School Board, said that the girl was struck only three times and that administrators and teachers are instructed about how to deliver a paddling.
"We have policies that govern corporal punishment and those policies indicate the manner in which corporal punishment is administered," he said. "It states that you have to take into account the age and size of the student when corporal punishment is administered."
Deterrent or Detriment?
Leslie said that paddlings are just one way that teachers discipline children, and said they always take into account how the child misbehaved, as well as the character of the child, when decided on the course of action.
"It is one deterrent to inappropriate behavior," the superintendent said.
For Megan, it has become a deterrent to going to school. She said she is afraid of going to school now, not only because she fears she herself will be paddled again, but because she cannot bear when other students are sent to the principal's office for a licking.
"I've seen her every day hitting kids and it makes me feel sad," Megan said.
The parents of Anthony Ebard said their son, who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, was paddled on 17 different occasions over a period of eight weeks, during that time receiving a total of 56 blows.
The lawyer for the two families, Kent Mercier, admits that he is recruiting other families to join the lawsuit, but said money is not the goal for either him or his clients.
"I think these two [suits] exemplify the severity and frequency by which this behavior continues and it needs to stop," Mercier said. "It's a principle lawsuit. Let's get this stopped and let Louisiana join the rest of the world."