Saturday, November 21, 2009

TN: Spanking guidelines modified

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bedford County Board of Education revised its corporal punishment policy Thursday night due to statewide concerns that corporal punishment is not equally applied to male and female students.

The change is being made by multiple school systems in response to complaints about the practice from the American Civil Liberties Union, said School Superintendent Ed Gray.

Many systems in Tennessee, including Bedford County, use model school system policies supplied by the Tennessee School Boards Association. Not every school system uses corporal punishment, but those who do, and who are using the model TSBA policy, have been using this guideline:

"6. In determining the use and degree of corporal punishment, consideration will be given to the age, sex, size, physical and emotional condition of the child."

Gray said that there have been complaints by ACLU at the state level that corporal punishment is not equally applied to boys and girls, which would be a violation of Title IX educational requirements. For this reason, the state sent out a memo to local school systems using corporal punishment asking them to strike guideline 6 entirely from their policies.

The memo says that the state has negotiated with the U.S. Department of Education to make the change, and if all of the affected school systems remove the item by Jan. 15, 2010, the federal Department of Education will close its complaint against the state.

The remaining provisions, which are still in effect, include requiring that corporal punishment be administered "only after less stringent measures have failed, or if the conduct of a student is of such nature that corporal punishment is the only reasonable form of punishment under the circumstances." Corporal punishment must be administered in the presence of a second professional employee, using an instrument approved by the school's principal. The punishment must be "reasonable" and "in proportion to the gravity of the offense, the apparent motive and disposition of the offender, and the influence of the offender's example and conduct on others."

In other discussion Thursday night:

* Board members welcomed their newest colleague, Chad Graham, who was appointed last week by Bedford County Board of Commissioners to fill the unexpired term of the late Jerry Naron. Graham is director of Bedford County Emergency Medical Services.

* County finance director Robert Daniel said the school system's finances are tight, but not in crisis, due to the economic slowdown and its effect on tax revenues.

"It is manageable at this time, but if it continues on this trend it may not be manageable," said Daniel.

Gray said the real crisis point for the school system may be the 2011-2012 fiscal year, when some of the stimulus funding being received by the state will run out and the state is likely to cut some of its assistance for local school systems.

"2011-2012 may be our worst nightmare," said Gray, especially if the next governor is not as dedicated to preserving Basic Education Program funding as Gov. Phil Bredesen has been.

The board passed a routine budget amendment accounting for various grant funds and adjusting the revenue figures slightly to comply with the state's maintenance of effort requirements

* The board approved bids for school buses, vehicle parts, batteries, oil and lubricants and roofing repair.

Three 66-passenger school buses will be replaced at Liberty School, at a cost of $70,709 each, and a new 90-passenger bus will be added to the county's fleet at a cost of $80,704. Two special education buses will be purchased with federal stimulus funds at a cost of $83,121 each. The special education buses are as expensive as much larger school buses because of the special equipment they include, such as wheelchair lifts and seat belts.

* School board members reported on various seminars and breakout sessions from the recent Tennessee School Boards Association convention.

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