Board puts end to corporal punishment
The Bryant School Board during a regular meeting Thursday voted to end corporal punishment as a type of discipline for students.
The change was discussed during a larger discussion about several policy changes.
Prior to the change, corporal punishment was only used at the elementary-school level.
Board members were given two options – completely remove corporal punishment from the district’s policies or allow corporal punishment but exclude students who are “intellectually disabled, non-ambulatory, nonverbal, or autistic,” according to the proposed options.
Before voting, board members expressed concerns about both options and said they were torn in making a decision. Many of them told of their personal experiences of being paddled in school.
“I feel like if this is taken off the table, yes it’s probably going to change the way things are done within schools but hopefully it focuses more on changing hearts and minds,” said Board Member Scott Hart. “I got plenty paddlings in my life, but I don’t
think teachers had all the tools they have now.”
Board Member Dr. Tyler Nelson expressed concerns about “tying the hands” of principals.
“I hate to take away an option of a principal… They probably know what is best for their group of kids,” Nelson said.
The change was proposed because of a recent change to the district’s liability insurance policy.
“That’s how it first got brought to our attention,” Superintendent Dr. Karen Walters said. “That is an exclusion in our liability policy.”
She also informed the board that if the district or a principal is sued by a parent because of corporal punishment and then the principal who administered the punishment is later completely exonerated, the district or principal would be reimbursed up to $100,000.
“This is not us saying we are against corporal punishment,” Walters said. “In today’s world, I hate for our principal to take the risk.”
Board Member Dr. Scott Walsh agreed.
“Sometimes you’re only going to reach a second grader by threatening them with a whooping, so I get that, but I also know the society we live in,” Walsh said.
Board Member Danny Chism told the board he was against the change.
“I’m a bit concerned that it seems we’re letting an insurance company dictate our school district policy. We’ve had no input from parents about the potential change,” he said. “That’s (paddling) really all I needed… It got my attention. It got me refocused and it really made me think about my actions in the classroom.”
Chism and Ben Lewellen voted against removing the punishment option.
During the 2018-19 school year, there were
218 reported incidents of corporal at Bryant elementary schools and in the 2017-18 school year there were 255 incidents, Walters said.
When comparing Bryant to other districts across the state, Bryant had the most reported incidents, Jeremy Lasiter, director of human resources and legal affairs, said.
Cabot School District was the closest to the Bryant School District’s number with 65 incidents of corporal punishment reported.
Most large districts only had a few reported incidents, if any.
“Most districts our size are going against corporal punishment,” Lasiter said.
With this change, Walters said the district is looking into other discipline options.
While discussing changes to the student handbooks later in the meeting, the board approved a change to add in-school suspension at the elementary school level.
More information about the board meeting will be included in an upcoming edition of The Saline Courier.
All meetings of the board are open to the public and attendance is encouraged.