Stop paddling students
Lawmakers should ban corporal punishment statewide
EDITORIAL: The Charlotte Observer, January 4, 2007

It's time to retire the paddle in North Carolina. N.C. lawmakers should follow Union County's lead Tuesday and ban corporal punishment statewide.

In 2007, it is ridiculous to even be having a debate over whether educators should be allowed to hit students as punishment. But in a few counties in North Carolina, and some states -- primarily in the South -- this antiquated and largely ineffective discipline tool is still around.

In Union County, school board members have spent an inordinate amount of time haggling over it. Tuesday's 6-3 vote to ban it was welcome. But it came only after school board members, parents and educators had jostled over the issue for years. Previous boards couldn't reach a consensus, so the superintendent had established an agreement with principals not to use the punishment. With new school board members and a new superintendent the issue was bound to come up again, and it did with Tuesday's vote.

But this matter should not be left up to the politics of individual counties -- from school board election to election, superintendent to superintendent. The state should settle the matter. Lawmakers should say "no" to corporal punishment.

Current N.C. law has specific guidelines on using corporal punishment if counties choose it. It can not be administered in the classroom when other students are present. Only principals, teachers and certain others can administer it. Students must be informed beforehand what conduct will result in corporal punishment.

But these rules can't mitigate the basic problems. Research shows paddling can and often does result in injuries to students. Data also show it is disproportionately used on poor children, minorities, students with disabilities and boys. And educators attest that as a deterrent to bad behavior, paddling doesn't work. The same children are punished over and over. Schools using it often have poorer academic achievement, more truancy, more vandalism and higher dropout rates.

As important, corporal punishment sends exactly the wrong message to students -- that violence is an acceptable response to conflict.

Industrialized countries worldwide have prohibited corporal punishment in public schools for more than a century. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools banned it more than a decade ago. It's time for arguments over it in other school systems in this state to cease. North Carolina should ban corporal punishment statewide.

E-mails to Peggy Dean* that speak for many

January 3, 2007


We've never met, but I've read about your efforts and heard you speak at the meeting Tuesday night.

I wanted to thank you. We just recently moved to the area, but the ban on corporal punishment makes me feel a bit better about our decision. Your hard work made this all possible.

With gratitude,
P. M.
Waxhaw, NC

January 5, 2007


I am so proud of you! More than you will ever know. Your determination is to be comended and you did it girl!

I am sorry I missed the meeting. I would have loved to have seen the vote in person.

I have longed for this for a long time and even though I do not have children in Union County Schools any longer, my grandchildren may one day move back home. Thank you so much. You are a hero in my eyes.

Lucy D.

Union County, NC

* Peggy Dean, RN is a member of the Board of Directors of PTAVE; member of the Safety, Health and Education Committees of the North Carolina Covenant for Children; founder of the Coalition to Ban Corporal Punishment in Union County Schools. Ms. Dean is a critical care nurse and a mandated reporter in the state of North Carolina.

Anna sends a message

The star of the Union County Board of Education meeting, January 2, 2007, was 6-year-old Anna Majni, shown here holding a school "paddle," with her mother, Jamie.

Anna and her mother have approved the use of these photos.

Anna demonstrated to the Union County educators the true meaning of corporal punishment: an adult weighing many times Anna's 39 lbs., using a board that is almost as large as Anna as a weapon with which to beat a child. They voted wisely.



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