Corporal punishment still used in Florida

Dec 1, 2013 by

I bet the boy didn’t smart mouth the teacher again!

Paddling in schools has been declining for years across the country and across Florida. But in north Florida it maintains a fast foothold in 20 public school districts and in uncounted private schools.

In 1988, one of the last years all Florida school districts allowed in-school spanking, 84,495 kids were physically punished in public schools. Just 20 years later, in 2008, only 4,869 students were struck in 30 of Florida’s 67 school districts.

That number has fallen even more, to 2,996 kids in 2012, according to recent Florida Department of Education figures. Most of those paddlings were at schools in north Florida.

No one knows how many more kids got swats in private schools. They don’t have to report it.

But sometimes corporal punishment seems to go too far, even to parents who believe that sparing the rod spoils the child.

Orri Jones is one of those parents. She thought she was doing the right thing when in October she gave permission for the principal at Joshua Christian Academy to paddle her fourth-grade son for yelling at a teacher. Last year when the principal paddled him, Jones said, the mild swats bruised her son’s pride, not his backside.

This time it was different.

Without Jones’ knowledge, a male staffer hit her son twice with a wooden paddle. The boy cried later, complaining he was too sore to sit. Two days later, because he was still in pain, Jones took him to Memorial Hospital, where an emergency-room doctor noted a 6-inch-long, 3-inch-wide bruise on his butt shaped like a paddle.

Jones called police. Jacksonville Officer Lee A. Hendricks wrote in his report, “The injury appeared to be excessive for ‘punishment.’ ”

No charges were filed. The school’s principal, Alice Roberts, denies the school practices corporal punishment and says Jones’ story is only “half true.” She wouldn’t say more.

Meanwhile, Jones feels guilt and anger, saying she didn’t know that by picking a school that paddles she was putting her child in danger.

“You would have had to hit him with a lot of force to bring contusions on his bottom,” Jones said. “There’s got to be other ways to discipline kids.”

Schools and educators have found many non-physical ways to discipline kids. Corporal punishment is no longer the norm in most of the nation’s schools.

“It’s considered a deplorable practice,” said Linda Johnson, head of the Hendricks Day School, a private school that does not condone physical punishment.

Over the last three decades, dozens of child psychology and medical groups warned that spanking caused hidden physical and emotional damage to kids. During that same time period, the number and breadth of civil lawsuits against schools mushroomed.

Now 31 states ban all corporal punishment in public schools. Two states, New Jersey and Iowa, also ban it in private schools.

That leaves Florida, Georgia and 17 other states that allow corporal punishment in schools. Florida considers it a local school board matter, though districts have to report to the state instances of corporal punishment and other forms of discipline.

The most recent U.S. civil rights figures from 2006 show 223,190 U.S. students were legally hit in public schools, prompting about 20,000 to seek emergency medical treatment, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It is disturbing and very embarrassing . that we still hit our students with wooden boards that are considered weapons by TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and in many statehouses,” said Deborah Sendek, program director at the Center for Effective Discipline.

The center on its website links spanking to lower ACT scores, noting that in 2010, three-quarters of the 30 non-paddling states had higher-than-average ACT scores and nearly two-thirds of these states had above-average rates of improvement in scores over 18 years.

via Corporal punishment still used in Florida – SFGate.

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