LUMBERTON, NORTH CAROLINA — Members of a national organization against the use of corporal punishment confronted the Robeson County school board Tuesday, saying members and Superintendent Johnny Hunt had ignored repeated requests to meet and discuss alternatives.
Hunt flatly denied the accusation.
The main accuser, Paula Flowe of California-based The Hitting Stops Here, spoke first about the issue during the public comment portion of the meeting, and called out some members by name.
"Why do you allow it Dr. (Johnny) Hunt, (board member) John Campbell?" Flowe asked, holding up a sign showing the bruised buttocks of a child. "You represent children and you are ignoring us."
Hunt said later that he, other school officials and Robeson Association of Educators President Monica Graham had discussed the issue with Flowe and other parents for more than four hours on two occasions.
"I don't know why she is saying we didn't meet when we did," Hunt said. "In a public meeting they bring up specific situations that I cannot discuss. I told them that and I told them I am willing to listen."
During her presentation, Flowe decried the use of corporal punishment as unconstitutional.
"Some of you might say I was whipped and I turned out OK," she said. "I don't know how right you are if you continue to allow children to be beaten. Once they put their little toe on that campus, there is no law that protects them.
"The only people who are paid to paddle someone's behind are porn stars, prostitutes and teachers."
It was not clear if the protest was the result of a recent incident involving corporal punishment at a Robeson County school, but in September 2005, Tina Jones claimed a Rowland Middle School educator used excessive force after her then 12-year-old son got in trouble at the school. After filing a complaint with the school board, a moratorium was placed on the use of the practice to review the facts, but the ban was later lifted.
It was determined that the educator did not intentionally harm the child and since permission had been given by the parent to allow the child to be paddled, no criminal action was taken. Later there was a civil settlement.
North Carolina is one of 21 states that allows corporal punishment in its public schools. It is left to the school system whether to receive permission from parents or guardians. Hunt said schools use corporal punishment as a last resort and that all schools require parental permission.
Board Chairman Robert Deese said the group would best serve children if they lobby the General Assembly to ban corporal punishment.
"Not only the Robeson County children would benefit but the whole state would benefit if they could get it through the General Assembly," Deese said. "What we do is follow the law. And the law says we have a choice and we offer choice. The parents have the choice whether their child is spanked. It is not forced on the parents."
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