In a passionate discussion, Giles County School Board members debated the use of corporal punishment in schools during the board’s January work session.
The discussion led the board to seek more input from teachers and administrators, which is expected at the school board’s February work session, which is scheduled for Feb. 18.
Several issues surrounding the corporal punishment policy were discussed, including whether corporal punishment should be allowed at all, which offenses it should apply to, the wording of the policy itself, and how it might theoretically be administered to students enrolled in virtual learning.
School Board Chairman Knox Vanderpool began by saying that he believes corporal punishment should not be permitted in the schools, especially for the most minor misbehaviors, citing the potential for it to cause more harm than good.
“I would not remove the corporal punishment in my life that I received in my life from my [family members].” Vanderpool said. “But I would remove those times that someone else did.”
While Vanderpool mentioned a parent’s right to use corporal punishment in the home, he emphasized, “I do not want anyone else putting their hands on my child.”
Board Member Richie Brewer said he believes there is still a place for corporal punishment in schools today.
“Those youngsters that I had in Ag, I see them now, and a lot of them will say, ‘Do you remember that paddling you gave me?’ And I’ll say, ‘Well, no. But you do. Apparently I must have done a good enough job that you remembered what the consequences were of what you were doing,’” Brewer said. “Just throwing it out the door, just because it’s the 21st century, maybe that’s [what’s] wrong with this country right now. Maybe people don’t know what the consequences are to their sins,” Brewer added. “If that’s old school, I apologi- well, I don’t apologize.”
Board member Jim Stewart said he believes just the option of corporal punishment in schools can be a deterrent for students, even if it’s not used.
Director of Schools Dr. Vickie Beard said that might not always be the case because many parents opt not to allow schools to administer corporal punishment to their children.
Board member Mary McCloud told a story of how just the option of corporal punishment can be detrimental to students. She told of her two nieces, whom she was raising after they left a difficult home environment.
“When we first got them, corporal punishment was new to them. The school that they came from did not use corporal punishment. And it concerned them, not just for their own actions, but for seeing their classmates go through corporal punishment and be put right back in a traumatic situation,” McCloud said, noting that witnessing their classmates receive corporal punishment was a trauma trigger, and caused them to shut down in the classroom, disrupting their learning.
“They would really worry about it in class. That took away from their education. That took away from their ability to concentrate,” McCloud said.
According to the Giles County Board of Education Policy Manual, Level I offenses include “minor misbehavior on the part of the student which impedes orderly classroom guidelines or interferes with the orderly operation of the school but which can usually be handled by an individual staff member,” such as tardiness, classroom disturbances, and dress code violations.
Higher level misbehaviors include the use of drugs, fighting, property damage, theft and bullying, with disciplinary actions including detention, suspension and/or expulsion.
“Level III is fighting and drugs. We have pretty severe consequences for fighting, when students put their hands on one another, but [under the policy] it’s okay for an adult to put their hands on a child,” Vanderpool said in his plea to update the policy. “I think a lot of discipline issues can be handled more professionally with a whole different set of initiatives other than an adult putting their hands on a child. I don’t agree with it. I never have.”
Board member Jim Parker weighed in, saying, “I support corporal punishment. It is useful in certain situations.”
Stewart and board member Katie Journey said they would like more information before any decision to change policy is made.
“In my opinion it would be something I would like the administrators and teachers to report their thoughts and feelings,” Journey said of the Code of Conduct and Corporal Punishment Policies. “They’re the ones that are acting on this, they are the ones that are using it every day. They can tell us if it’s working or if it’s broke.”
Beard said statistics of corporal punishment use had recently been compiled and could be shared with the board. She said there are very few instances of it being used, and some schools do not utilize it at all. She added that very few surrounding school districts still allow corporal punishment.
A committee, headed by CTE Director Amy Roberts, has been working on updating the Code of Conduct to include policies for virtual students, which is what prompted the discussion.
“Are we going to someone’s house and give them corporal punishment if the teacher deems that necessary because they used their chromebook to circumvent our firewall to look at something they shouldn’t have?” mused Vanderpool.
The committee, as well as administrators, will be asked to discuss the use of corporal punishment in Giles County Schools and report back at the next School Board work session set for 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, at the Central Office.