Board puts end to cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment

The Saline Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By Sarah Perry [email protected]­ton­

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.

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