Men can paddle girls under revised Springtown school policy

Posted Monday, Sep. 24, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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Do you care if it's a man or a woman who spanks your daughter?

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School board members voted Monday night to change school district policy to allow opposite gender employees to administer corporal punishment to students, but only with written permission from parents.

Also during the meeting, which included emotional addresses from some parents, the board made it policy that a same-gender school official must be on hand to witness, and parents can only request one paddling per semester.

The vote came after two female students were spanked recently by a male assistant principal at Springtown High School. The paddlings violated a school district policy adopted a year ago that required corporal punishment to be administered by school officials who are the same gender as the students being disciplined.

Superintendent Michael Kelley asked the board to consider changing the policy because not all of the schools have enough females to perform the task. He acknowledged, however, the two recent paddlings were contrary to the policy in place at that time, and for that, he apologized to the girls and their families.

"I take it very seriously every time we use corporal punishment," Kelley said.

One mother, however, was not satisfied with the revisions.

Cathi Watt said she approved the paddling of her daughter, but said that bruises were raised by excessive force. Anna Jorgensen also complained that her daughter was bruised.

"I gave consent for my daughter to get a swat, but I didn't give consent for him to bruise my daughter," Watt said. "I don't think a female will raise a bruise because she doesn't have the strength of a male.

"I think this sends a message to boys that it's OK to hit a girl and it's OK to bruise a girl. That's not right."

Statewide, most major districts don't allow corporal punishment, but some still use the old-school approach to discipline.

Jimmy Dunne, president of the Houston-based People Opposed to Paddling Students, estimates that 75 percent of the school districts in Texas still allow corporal punishment.

In an email sent to the Star-Telegram, Dunne describes paddling in schools as "legalized child abuse and must be abolished in Texas schools just as it has been in 31 states."

"Hitting schoolchildren with boards would be a felony assault charge if done anywhere except at the school," Dunne said. "Hitting schoolchildren is no more acceptable than hitting your wife or your mother."

Locally, most of the big districts, including Arlington, Keller, Mansfield and Fort Worth, don't allow corporal punishment. Other smaller districts, such as Azle, Alvarado, Joshua and Springtown, do.

And while others, like Eagle Mountain-Saginaw, allow spanking, "It is rarely used in our district," according to spokeswoman Kristin Courtney.

For years, efforts have been made to ban corporal punishment.

In 2011, state Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston, introduced legislation to ban corporal punishment -- her fourth effort to pass an anti-paddling law -- but it never made it out of committee.

Bill Miller

817-390-7684

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