Paddling, as a form of discipline will no longer be allowed in Wilson County Schools effective next school year after the School Board voted to abolish it Monday night.
The vote to omit the corporal punishment option from the system's Code of Conduct was 5-2 with Chair Larry Tomlinson and board member Bill Robinson casting "no" votes.
Dr. Donna Wright said this form of punishment has not been used in 15 years, but still was in the code.
The language in the School System's current Code of Conduct related to corporal punishment (which is allowed in the Tennessee Code Annotated (T.C.A.) has 10 protocols. The code states that a student be given a choice of corporal punishment or another disciplinary measure the principal or teacher deems appropriate. The "paddling" should be done in the presence of another member of the staff and by "striking the student with an open hand or wooden paddle across the buttocks and in no other manner." The number of "licks" inflicted cannot exceed three. It also states the paddling must be done in a "humane" manner.
Wright said the Student Code of Conduct is reviewed annually prior to the new school year and in going through the corporal punishment section she asked the board to take out the procedures and to simply take the district stance to one line, she said.
"I prefaced to say that we had not had an incident where corporal punishment had been used since I had been here and it might be something to discuss."
There was a workshop last Thursday and more discussion Monday at the Board meeting.
It was revealed Wilson County was just one of a few systems which still have paddling in the Code of Conduct, with Metro and the rest without corporal punishment available.
Other available forms of discipline include in-school and out-of-school suspension, expulsion, or MAP (Modified Academic Program), disciplinary hearings, and more.
Board member Wayne McNeese voted to abolish corporal punishment with some reservations.
"If we abolish it, and we did, now the kids might go to out of school suspension or MAP," he said. "Now parents will have to miss work to take the child to MAP, or stay at home with the child and it puts a burden on them. And, I'm not sure about the effectiveness of in-school suspension. It's hard to get rid of it, but I think it's the lesser of two evils."
McNeese said he was "old school."
"I believe in the old adage, 'spare the rod, spoil the child,' but the schools are not in the position to spare the rod. In today's litigious society, it concerns me."
And, McNeese said if he were a teacher or principal, he would not want to be the one to administer a paddling. He also said if corporal punishment had not been used in years, why keep it in the Code of Conduct.
Wright said she was not a proponent of corporal punishment and "never has been."
"I was a classroom teacher for many years and never had to resort to paddling students to correct behavior," she said. "I was pleased it passed to take it out."
In reference to out of school suspension that most students prefer, Wright said, "We are working hard to change behaviors in students where we do not rely on removing them from school, which does not solve the initial problem of bad behavior or bad decision making."
She's more for in-school suspension as a disciplinary measure.
"Where students are held accountable for their work and making sure there is someone in ISS that can assist the student in their work," she said. "Too many times we have used ISS as a place to 'hold' students and not allow them to stay caught up or have someone in the classroom who tutor or provide assistance. Kids would much rather go home as opposed to being assigned to ISS."
Tomlinson voted to keep corporal punishment in the Code of Conduct, but said he understands if it had not been used it "doesn't need to be in there."
However, he said he has reservations because he believes there has got to be "some consequences."
"Corporal punishment has never been a problem in Wilson County schools because we have good kids and parents. Yes, there are some hiccups."
Tomlinson said why he voted not to take paddling out as an option is because, in part, he's worried about out of school suspensions with students not in the classroom.
"They'd rather be home and it is our job to make sure they get the best education we can."
He wants now to revisit the issue and find alternatives rather than sending students home.
Board member Larry Joe Inman voted to abolish corporal punishment, however, he's had to use it before "in the dinosaur times." Inman was a coach and teacher at Mt. Juliet High in the 1970s.
"Today's society is much more different than back in the old days," he said. "There could be legal liabilities. There are other ways to punish and correct students. We weren't using it anyway. We need to give other alternatives to hold students accountable."
He said in the 1970s the thought of a paddling deterred students from misbehavior at times.
"Today is totally different," he said.
Wright said the system is committed to disciplining students, if warranted.
"And we'll find ways to do that, as appropriate," she told the Board Monday night. "At one time a paddling may have worked, but we live in a different time. What one parent might find perfectly acceptable, another parent might consider inhumane. We don't want to find ourselves at the center of a lawsuit, and frankly, we don't know what's going on at home that may be causing some of these students to misbehave or act inappropriately."