Title IX complaint alleges gender-based discrimination in TN paddling schools

Civil Rights Group Files Grievance Against School System, by Jennifer Clendenion, Decatur County Chronicle, October 14, 2009

The Decatur County School Board met at the new Learning Center in Parsons Thursday. The group toured the newly renovated facility at the old junior high property.

Director of School Dr. Michael Price informed the board about a grievance filed with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) by the Tennesseans for Non-Violent Student Discipline.

According to Dr. Price, the group requested copies of discipline referral forms about four months ago. The group filed similar requests with school systems across the state. The school system determined it was not legally required to provide them with the information.

The group then filed a grievance claiming that the school system may be discriminating against students in regard to corporal punishment based on the students sex.

One of the groups goals, listed on their website at www.geocities.com/forkidsake/, is "to have the incidence of corporal punishment reported by all school systems for public information."

"It doesn't say they have evidence that we're doing this," Dr. Price remarked. "They have no proof. They don't have any students to say that this is happening. I've got to prove that it's not happening."

"That's completely backwards from what this whole society in this country is based on," Dr. Price continued.

He said he will collect records from the past two years as proof against the claim. The records will include all discipline referrals, not just paddling incidents. At the high school alone, Dr. Price said there may be 10 to 20 discipline referrals in a single day.

"It's absolutely asinine," he stated, "but I have no choice in what I'm going to have to do." He surmised that every school system in the state that continues to use corporal punishment has likely received similar grievances. . .

Tom Johnson's response to the Decatur County Chronicle:

Concerning your article of 10/14/09 entitled "Civil Rights Group Files Grievance Against School System," I would like to provide some clarification.

As a member of the group filing the grievance, Tennesseans for Non-Violent School Discipline, I should first say that we are not a "civil rights group" as such, even though we have invoked Title IX with respect to the issue which is our focus, school corporal punishment.

Secondly, Dr. Price is incorrect in speculating that we filed this grievance against every paddling district in Tennessee. This complaint only included those districts whose policy we found to contain this key clause:

"In determining the use and degree of corporal punishment, consideration will be given to the age, sex, size, physical and emotional condition of the child."

The inclusion of "sex" (i.e., gender) as a factor in the decision to paddle a student, or in how severe the paddling shall be, is the basis of the gender discrimination charge we have made against Decatur County Schools, along with 68 other districts. While Dr. Price asserts that there is no proof of such discrimination, by having this provision in their written policy, these districts effectively profess to discriminate based on sex. Assuming that school principals adhere to district policy, the punishment meted out for any given misconduct will vary depending on whether the student in question is a boy or a girl.

Tom Johnson
Tennesseans for Non-Violent School Discipline


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