ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County is joining nine other school systems in the region that ban corporal punishment.
On Thursday, the Board of Education was presented with two options. The first was a revised version of the current policy which allows corporal punishment (CP), but now states that written parental consent would be required for CP to be administered to special education students.
The second option was a Tennessee School Boards Association-recommended policy that states, “Corporal punishment shall not be used as a disciplinary measure in any (Hawkins County) school. The director of schools shall be responsible for developing and implementing in-service training programs for its teachers and staff in the use of alternative positive measures of discipline.”
The BOE voted 5-0 in favor of adopting the second policy and banning CP.
Principals and faculty surveyed
Prior to the vote Thursday, the board heard a report from Assistant Director Beth Holt, who had been asked last month to conduct a survey of principals and faculty to learn which policy they preferred.
“Pretty much every principal that I talked to said, ‘It (CP) is not happening at my school, but that doesn’t mean I want the policy changed,’ ” Holt told the board. “ ‘We can still have the policy that permits it, but my school isn’t going to do it.’ No principal that I spoke to who sent that information back out ever indicated that was a form of punishment they wanted to use. The reasons for that were mainly legal. Principals say they feel it puts their teachers at risk for legal punishment.”
The pros and cons of CP
Holt noted that aside from possible legal liability, there was also concern expressed by principals about the emotional toll CP takes, not only on the child, but on the teacher or principal administering the paddling.
They also felt it presents teachers as negative role models for children and that there were more effective ways of changing behaviors.
There’s also concern about the possibility of an unintended physical consequence to the child, Holt added, and some principals say they’re not in favor of anyone paddling a child aside from a parent.
However, there were some respondents who said they felt CP would be a deterrent to bad behavior and that some parents actually want school staff to have that authority to discipline their children.
“They felt like there were some students who would benefit from this type of punishment, but then again, I never heard anybody say, ‘I’m going to do it,’ ” Holt said. “A lot of teachers say, ‘I’m not going to do it, but the teachers should be able to.’ And the principals are saying, ‘I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.’ ”
Districts that do and don’t allow CP
Nine nearby school districts that don’t allow corporal punishment include: Bristol City, Carter County, Greeneville City, Hamblen County, Johnson City, Kingsport City, Rogersville City, Sullivan County and Unicoi County.
Six that allow corporal punishment include: Claiborne County, Cocke County, Greene County, Hancock County, Newport City and Washington County.
Students express their opinions
Board Chairman Bob Larkins asked the BOE’s student representatives for their opinion.
Cherokee High senior LeeAnna Blackburn said, “I think banning it is a better idea so there’s no question about what can and can’t happen.”
Volunteer High senior Evan Mays added, “I think as long as we have the policy there, not only does that hang over our heads, but so does the threat of lawsuits, mishaps during corporal punishment, and at the very least it’s a waste of money to print the policy if no one is interested in using it.”
Larkins noted that based on his own research, CP is marginal at best, and most school systems nationwide say it’s ineffective.
“I can’t disagree with that myself on a personal basis,” Larkins said. “I would want to take personal responsibility for my children to discipline them. Yet at the same time, I don’t see a lot of interest in exercising corporal punishment, so I can’t see why we would keep it in the policy if we’re never going to exercise that.”