Monday, November 9, 2009

MS: 3 on Your Side Investigation - Corporal punishment

By Cheryl Lasseter - bio | email

Posted: Nov 05, 2009 6:18 PM ESTUpdated: Nov 06, 2009 3:22 AM EST

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Earlier this year, an 11-year-old student in Greenwood, Mississippi sued the LeFlore County School District after suffering deep bruising, and possible kidney damage, from a severe paddling at school.

Corporal punishment happens every day in our state. In fact, during the 2007 school year, Mississippi doled out 38,151 school spankings. We're number two in the country, just behind Texas, which charted more than 49,000.

Mississippi's American Civil Liberties Union opposes corporal punishment because there's no scientific data proving it works. State ACLU President Nsombi Lambright reminds parents they can sign a waiver prohibiting a school from paddling their child. But parents still need to be careful.

"We get calls from parents who have signed the waiver and their kids still get beaten inside these schools. They ask us to provide legal representation for them," Lambright says. "But it's difficult because in these communities, the Department of Human Services will not investigate these cases, nor will the local police department. We also get those calls where... the child has been hurt so badly they attempted to stop the paddling, put their hand behind them, their wrist was fractured. A few years ago we got a call about a student hit in the head with a paddle," she says.

Were you paddled in your school days? How did it make you feel? 26-year-old Alanna Windham attended Enterprise School, a K-12 school in Lincoln County. She was paddled for a minor infraction when she was a high school senior.

"It hurt, it stung but that stopped me from misbehaving," she says. "I told my dad, he told me I deserved it, so if that's the punishment they chose, that's the punishment they chose."

A supporter of corporal punishment in schools, Windham plans to allow her daughter Laura to be spanked at school if the punishment fits the deed.

But some school districts believe spanking is not essential. Jackson Public Schools set the rod aside in the early 1990's. Soon, they will roll out a program called PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Support). It's an entire change of the school climate.

PBIS has already been used for six years at Poindexter Elementary. Appropriate behavior is taught in the classroom, everything from sitting quietly to walking in a line.

School counselor Leona Bishop says bad behavior is dealt with through a series of five steps. Referral to the principal's office is the 5th step.

"For students who are constantly referred, 2-3 referrals, they're moved to a tier 3," Bishop says. "We try to provide counseling, mentoring."

Rewards for good behavior are heaped on through fun programs and celebration days. Students are constantly recognized with their pictures on a wall in the auditorium.

"The first year we implemented it, we suspended 22. Since then, we've suspended three students each consecutive year," Bishop says.

PBIS will first be rolled out in Jackson middle schools. The program should be in all Jackson schools by July 2013.

No comments: