Hawkins BOE gives final approval to corporal punishment ban

Jeff Bobo • Dec 17, 2018 at 5:00 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County Board of Education gave its second and final approval Thursday to ban corporal punishment within the school system.

However, the majority of the BOE’s discussion on the issue Thursday was spent debating whether a corporal punishment policy is needed at all.

Board member Tecky Hicks, who sparked the debate, said he doesn’t think so.

“We don’t need it,” Hicks said. “If we vote to do away with corporal punishment, we don’t need a policy. State law says if there is no policy, the director of schools can do anything they want to.”

BOE Chairman Bob Larkins expressed concern about potential legal liability if a teacher subsequently spanked a child after the policy was deleted.

County Attorney Jim Phillips said the BOE should consult its liability insurance provider before eliminating the policy.

“You want to make sure that our insurance would still cover any action the teacher took in that regard,” Phillips said. “If the (insurance provider’s) lawyer said it would be covered, than the board would presumably allow her to do it without any policy on it. But you want to make sure it is.”

Board member Holly Helton noted that the policy eliminates any question about where the BOE stands on the issue. As of the BOE’s vote last week, Dec. 13 there is no corporal punishment in Hawkins County.

She noted that if you eliminate the policy and defer to state law, the state allows corporal punishment. 

Helton also said she likes the language in the corporal punishment policy which 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 board agreed not to take action on eliminating the policy until it has been advised by its liability insurance provider, Tennessee Risk Management, how that move would affect the school system’s coverage.

Nine nearby school districts don’t allow corporal punishment: Bristol City, Carter County, Greeneville City, Hamblen County, Johnson City, Kingsport City, Rogersville City, Sullivan County and Unicoi County.

Six nearby districts that allow corporal punishment are: Claiborne County, Cocke County, Greene County, Hancock County, Newport City and Washington County.

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