Gaston County Schools puts down the paddle
By Amanda Memrick
Gaston Gazette, June 22, 2011

Paddling as punishment won’t be permitted at Gaston County Schools next year.

The Board of Education voted Monday night to prohibit corporal punishment, dropping the number of North Carolina school districts that allow the controversial form of discipline from 18 to 17 districts.

Principals and administrators told school leaders that corporal punishment was no longer needed or used so it wasn’t necessary to have it on the books as a form of punishment, said Board Chairman Mark Upchurch.

“That’s more positive for the students out there. You just don’t know what kind of home life they have, and you want to make school a positive place for them,” Upchurch said. “We don’t want it to be a negative place.”

Gaston County Schools students were paddled 14 times during the last school year, according to district data. Paddling was used most often on kindergartners, who were paddled seven times. Second-graders were paddled four times. A first-grader, third-grader and seventh-grader were each paddled once last school year.

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“I’ve never used it as an administrator,” said North Belmont Elementary Principal Chris Germain. “I don’t think it’s my style to punish children that way. As a dad, I don’t do that at home.”

As a principal, he said he wouldn’t want to do that to someone else’s child.

North Belmont’s first step is to inform parents when their child misbehaves.

The school focuses on rewards-based programs that encourage good behavior. Alternate methods like putting a student in another classroom, using the in-school suspension room, referrals to guidance counselors and working on self-esteem issues are used in place of paddling.

Weekly prize drawings and monthly parties are used as incentives. Detentions, in-school suspensions and out-of-school suspensions punish bad behavior.

No parents have asked Germain to paddle their child, though he did have one parent spank a child in the the bathroom. Germain informed the parent that spanking wasn’t allowed in the school.

North Carolina is one of 19 states that allow corporal punishment, according to Action for Children North Carolina.

Schools weren’t required to report corporal punishment until this school year, said Tom Vitaglione, senior fellow with Action for Children North Carolina.

Legislators recently passed a law that required schools to give parents the choice to allow or forbid corporal punishment.

“I think in the last three years about 20 school districts have banned corporal punishment,” Vitaglione said. “There are many that allow it but really haven’t used it in years.”

Lincoln County is one of those counties that still allows corporal punishment but hasn’t used it, Vitaglione said.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools eliminated corporal punishment in 1991.

Cleveland County got rid of the practice in 2009.

Research in the last two decades has shown that corporal punishment doesn’t help with behavior or attendance and could cause problems when it comes to confidence, attitudes about school and relating to teachers, Vitaglione said.

You can reach Amanda Memrick at 704-869-1839.

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