School board hears Tom Johnson's opposition to paddling
By Thomas Munro/Staff Writer
The Daily Herald, December 9, 2005

Tom Johnson of Tennesseans For Non-Violent School Discipline holds a paddle aloft as he tells board members paddling was first used as a punishment for slaves. Johnson suggested this may partly account for the continued prevalence of corporal punishment in former slave states. Staff photo by Thomas Munro

The Maury County School Board sent a mixed message to the director of schools Thursday.

The board agreed to extend Eddie Hickman’s contract through July 15, 2008, but the director had hoped for an extension through Jan. 15, 2010.

The board also heard from an anti-corporal punishment advocate.

Hickman’s contract was originally discussed in July when he received the strongest evaluation by board members of any director in more than a decade. At the time, several board members felt the renewal of the contract should be delayed until a year was left on the director’s contract. The original 21/2-year contract was set to expire Jan. 15, 2007.

Board Vice-Chair Judy Vick opened discussion by suggesting a 3-year extension, the maximum allowed.

“I think it’s important to give a stabilization to the system,” said Board Chairman Shaw Daniels as he urged board members to approve Vick’s motion.

However, several board members argued that it was too early to agree to such a long extension.

“Would we give any employee an extended contract after one evaluation period?” asked William Muehlbauer.

The board voted on and rejected a 1-year extension. Board member Richard Thompson then suggested 18 months.

“I think this does not say fairly to the director what we think of him,” Vick said.

However, Vick joined Thompson, Muehlbauer, Chet Rhodes, Talvin Barner and Whitney Seaton in approving the shorter extension. “Mr. Hickman, you forgive me — I’m going to vote yes,” Vick said as votes were counted.

Hickman said he would have to discuss the offer with his family and attorney.

“I’ll have to see if this would be feasible, or if I have to look elsewhere,” Hickman said. He said he would give the board an answer in 30-60 days.

The board also heard from Tom Johnson, a Nashville-based representative of Tennesseeans for Non-Violent School Discipline, an anti-paddling organization.

Johnson told the paddle first saw wide-spread use as a tool for punishing slaves because it was painful but did not often cause permanent injury. He brought up a number of other issues of concern for those opposed to corporal punishment, including the use of paddling as a form of sexual exploitation, the lack of training given to those who administer paddling, issues of unequal treatment of the sexes and of sexual harassment.

Johnson said fears that ending corporal punishment will undermine school discipline are unfounded, citing the example of the Memphis School District, which banned corporal punishment a year ago. Johnson said Memphis has seen discipline problems go down.

“I hope you’ll take these concerns to heart,” Johnson said. “We do kids a disservice if we keep sweeping it under the rug.”

Johnson’s presentation received a round of applause. The board made no comment and took no action.

Johnson came to the meeting after reading in The Daily Herald about a Mt. Pleasant woman who claimed her son was left black and blue by a paddling administered first by a teacher and then by the boy’s biological father. After a police investigation, a grand jury declined to issue charges in the case.

The boy’s mother, who attended the meeting, said she had obtained the pro bono services of a Franklin-based lawyer and intended to sue the county.

In other business, a delegation of local black leaders submitted Horace Oliver Porter to the board as an option for the name of the new Spring Hill Elementary School.

Porter was an educator in the county for 42 years and never missed a day of work. He was the principal at College Hill for 30 years and a community leader. Jim York, the former board member who addressed the board on behalf of the delegation, noted that only one Maury County school, Randolph Howell, is named for an African American.

The board agreed to discuss zoning changes at a Jan. 19 work session. The meeting will also include discussion of grade configuration at the new Spring Hill elementary school.

Thomas Munro may be contacted at or (931) 388-6464 ext. 3032.

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