Paddle ban: Harnett County sees the light regarding corporal punishment in school, The Fayetteville Observer, September 15, 2008

Let this be a warning to students in Harnett County schools: The banning of corporal punishment should not be perceived as permission to act out. It just means that the big people have made an oath to set a better example for you.

The Harnett school board voted for the ban Monday. Hereafter, inappropriate behavior will be dealt with through more constructive measures.

In updating discipline codes, officials said they felt the need to reconsider longstanding policy.

ďAfter consulting with the school attorney and looking at other discipline options, the board decided that we had options other than corporal punishment,íí Superintendent Dan Honeycutt said. He added that since they hadnít actually resorted to the practice for some time, school officials decided to go ahead and abolish it altogether.

You donít need a law degree to see the wisdom of that. Spanking other peopleís children leads into treacherous legal waters.

Most states prohibit corporal punishment. North Carolina is one of 21 that still allow it.

Action for Children, a child advocacy group, charges that North Carolina is the only state that doesnít even monitor the administering of corporal punishment. Only a few school districts require prior written consent before spanking a child. Parents typically donít find out until after itís been done.

About half the districts in the state have already banned it. Thatís the policy here in Cumberland County.

When it comes to policymaking, itís difficult to make a case for corporal punishment, given the reams of research that point to its negative effects. These can include depression and antisocial behavior in adulthood.

That doesnít mean every adult who was whipped as a child is going to fall into the bottom of a whiskey bottle or turn to torturing cats. Itís just that there are better ways to get a child to behave.

Schools already do a good job of addressing problem students by employing reward-based programs or in-school suspensions, when necessary.

Administering a spanking, even in the presence of another, can create more headaches for school districts than itís worth, especially if an irate parent challenges the action as unwarranted. It can take up precious time, and lawsuits are expensive ó win or lose.

North Carolina schools should avoid such legal battles by doing the right thing: abolishing corporal punishment and relying on better alternatives.

After all, setting a good example is the best way to teach a child anything.

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