LUMBERTON, NORTH CAROLINA — A national organization criticized the Robeson County School Board on Tuesday night for not banning corporal punishment in public schools after numerous requests.
A representative from the national organization, The Hitting Stops Here!, also accused school officials of ignoring them.
“Why are you avoiding this issue?” asked Paula Flowe, the director of The Hitting Stops Here! “Why do you want to hit kids?”
Flowe and four other speakers — including two children — addressed the board about the issue during the public comment session of the meeting. The group called on the board to form a committee to look at alternative ways to discipline children and end paddling in schools.
Flowe told the board the group is planning a boycott in order to be heard.
“We have enough parents that are behind us,” she said. “We don’t want to have a boycott but we will.”
During her presentation to the board, Flowe picked up a poster with an image of a child’s bruised buttocks. She said the fact that children are injured to such a degree without legal recourse is a major problem.
“Some of you might say I was whipped and I turned out all right,” she said. “I don’t know how right you are if you continue to allow children to be beaten and there is no law that protects them. There is not one person in here who would bend over, grab their ankles and posture their behinds so someone can paddle them.
“The only people who are paid to paddle someone’s behind are porn stars, prostitutes and teachers.”
A case involving a Rowland Middle School student caught the organization’s attention. In September 2005, Tina Jones claimed a teacher used excessive force after her son, who was 12 at the time, got in trouble at school. The seventh-grader had bruises on his buttocks.
Jones filed a complaint with the school board, and it issued a moratorium on the use of corporal punishment a month later so officials could review the school system’s policy and determine whether its use should continue. The ban was lifted a few weeks later.
The Robeson County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the case and determined that the teacher did not intentionally harm the child and that the parent gave permission to use corporal punishment.
The group held demonstrations earlier this year calling on school officials to end corporal punishment in public schools. The group protested at several schools in March against corporal punishment. Organizers said at that time they wanted Robeson County to be the starting point of a statewide ban on corporal punishment. Once the board agreed to end corporal punishment, the group would go to another county to protest.
North Carolina is one of 21 states that allows corporal punishment in its public schools. It is left to the discretion of each individual school system whether to receive permission from parents or guardians.
In May, Flowe requested that the board form a committee consisting of individuals for and against corporal punishment, teachers and parents. That committee will discuss the pros and cons of the use of paddling in school and will obtain feedback from the community.
School officials met with Flowe and other parents on two occasions said Superintendent Johnny Hunt after the meeting. He said he would be willing to meet with the group again.
“In a public meeting, they bring up specific situations that I can not discuss,” he said. “I told them that, and I told them that I am here to listen. I will be willing to listen. I have already met with them for four hours, but I will meet with them again.”
Schools use corporal punishment as a last resort, he said, and most schools have a form that is sent home to parents to sign off if they want corporal punishment to be administered or not.
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.”
The group and the national organization, Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education, have started a petition asking legislators to pass a bill banning corporal punishment. A bill failed in the General Assembly in May 2007.
Flowe told the board several parents have collected about 1,000 signatures calling for the ban of corporal punishment and for the schools to use positive discipline methods.
Renee Stackhouse, a Robeson County resident and parent, said she supports a ban on corporal punishment.
“We strongly believe if corporal punishment is banned from our schools, our children would be better served by an administrative staff of teachers and administrators that do not have to result to violence and abuse to achieve the goal of teaching our children,” she said.
Staff writer Venita Jenkins can be reached at email@example.com or (910) 738-9158.
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