Friday, October 2, 2009

AZ: New Push to Stop Corporal Punishment in Schools Sparks Debate

October 2, 2009 Yuma, AZ -- There's a new push to eliminate corporal punishment in Arizona schools, but one local school is standing behind it's use of paddling.

"A lot of our parents bring their students here because they support strong discipline," says Mario Ybarra, Chief School Official at Harvest Preparatory Academy in Yuma. Ybarra says the K-12 private school uses paddling as a last resort.

"Just the simple fact that we have corporal punishment as a policy is a deterrent to keep students from breaking the school code of conduct."

This summer a nine-member task force unanimously recommended a statewide ban on corporal punishment. One concern is the risk of injury to the student.

Ybarra says administrative staff perform the punishments according to strict guidelines.

"The parents are present, law enforcement and other people may be present just to make sure there is full compliance and no abuse takes place whatsoever."

The question then is whether corporal punishment actually works. Yuma County Schools Superintendent Tom Tyree says 'no.'

"If the idea is to change behavior or improve behavior then corporal punishment, and that's what it is punishment as opposed to a consequence, it didn't change behavior very much," says Tyree. He says he should know. In the early 1980s, Tyree worked as a vice principal responsible for administering corporal punishment.

"I just determined personally that I didn't think it was a good way to instill discipline."

For now corporal punishment remains on the books. According to Ybarra, his school has used paddling only once in the past two years. He says staff only resort to paddling after a months-long review including various forms of counseling.

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