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Men can paddle girls under revised Springtown school policy

09/25/2012 12:03 AM

09/25/2012 9:27 AM

SPRINGTOWN -- The school board changed district policy Monday night to allow opposite-sex 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 witness the punishment and that parents can request only one paddling per semester.

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

Superintendent Michael Kelley asked the board to consider changing the policy because not all schools have enough female administrators to perform the task. He acknowledged, however, that 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.

He noted, however, that such discipline will never be conducted without a written request from parents.

"I don't believe I want the responsibility to make that decision on my own," Kelley said.

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

Cathi Watt said she approved the paddling of her daughter but charged that bruises were caused 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 e-mail to the Star-Telegram, Dunne described 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. Some smaller districts do, including Azle, Alvarado, Joshua and Springtown.

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

Bill Miller, 817-390-7684

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