Sunday, May 17, 2009

TX: TISD OKs corporal punishment

Students with discipline issues in the Temple school district may want to rethink their actions, as the district approved new student discipline guidelines for corporal punishment, which could include spanking or paddling.

The updated policy will go into place during the 2009-10 school year, and will be included in the district’s student code of conduct. It will encompass all district students. Temple school board members unanimously approved it during Monday night’s board meeting.

“We had a corporal punishment policy a few years ago, that we rarely used,” said John Hancock, TISD director of student services, estimating that it was four to five years ago when the district had the policy.

“Parents and other patrons have asked us as a district why we didn’t have any type of corporal punishment policy,” said Hancock, about why the district decided to update its policy.

Some residents believe it could be a solution to better handling discipline issues, he said.

According to the policy, students should be told why the corporal punishment would be administered, and it may only be administered with the consent of a principal or designee. Hancock said the designee in most cases would probably be an assistant principal.

The principal must also approve the instrument used for the punishment, and the action itself must be conducted in the presence of a professional TISD employee, and out of view of other students.

Hancock said male teachers would not be allowed to carry out punishment on female students.

The district will allow parents to request that their children not be administered the punishment, although they will face other discipline measures consistent with the offense.

The policy also states there must be records kept of any corporal punishment, including the names of the person administering the punishment, the witness, and the date and time. Hancock said when the district had the similar policy in the past, there were very few records of punishment taking place.

“Typically (in the past) at our elementary schools, the punishment was carried out with a small paddle,” said Hancock, who went on to say that students with personalized discipline plans might not receive the punishment.

There is an exception contained within the policy that says coaches, physical education teachers and teachers supervising recess may use reasonable physical exercises or activities as a measure to enforce class or team rules within their activities, and that this is not considered a form of corporal punishment.

Within the TISD’s student discipline policy, employees may discipline students at different levels, depending on the seriousness of their offense, their age, the frequency of the misconduct, the student’s attitude and the effect of the misconduct on the school environment.

TISD parents shopping at the Temple Mall on Wednesday said they were not happy about the policy.

“It’s not the school’s job to spank my kids,” said Rolanda Smith, who has three children attending schools in the district. “Whose job is it to decide when the kid is acting up to the point that they deserve a spanking? That’s my job as a parent.

“They could do other things - with the older students they could give them detention, and they could pull the younger kids out of class and keep them in the office,” Ms. Smith said.

Sandi Vasquez also said she didn’t like the policy changes.

“That’s dumb,” Ms. Vasquez said. “I don’t want someone who has no relationship with my kids spanking them.”

Texas Association of School Boards spokeswoman Barbara Williams said the organization offers legal advice to school boards on items that could include discipline and corporal punishment.

Ms. Williams said districts have the option to take the language provided to them by TASB, or use their own language when deciding policies.

Hancock said the district discussed the legalities of the punishment with TASB, as well as its own legal counsel. He said in the past there were legislative issues that arose that caused the district to drop the policy to avoid conflicts.

According to TASB, there are 92 public school districts in Texas that prohibit corporal punishment and 470 that allow for it - there are also hundreds of districts with their own unique policies.

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