The Daily Sentinel
Saturday, November 14, 2009
A San Augustine woman said she is concerned about the paddling of her 7-year-old son at his elementary school that left him with bruises on his buttocks and tailbone so severe she had to take him to the local emergency room.
Lynita Lamar told The Daily Sentinel that on Friday, Nov. 6, the principal of the San Augustine Elementary School paddled her second grader three times for having a calculator in his possession that another child had allegedly taken the previous day from the high school campus. Lamar alleges that the paddle used is one inch thick, wrapped in surgical tape and has electric lights on it that are plugged into a wall socket and meant to "intimidate children."
Lamar said she was not notified by school officials that her son had received corporal punishment, and she only discovered the paddle marks when she gave the boy his nightly bath. In previous years, Lamar said the school sent home letters allowing parents to opt out of the practice of corporal punishment. But this year, the school district did not send those letters home, she said.
Now she said she wants the school's policy reversed.
"If he had done something wrong, I think they should have contacted me, and we could have gone from there," Lamar said. "But I don't believe they have the right to whip your child so extremely that it leaves bruises on him for a week and bruises his tailbone, too.
"Now I just want to do whatever I can to change the law," she said, adding that she wanted the school board to implement a 'no-hands-on' policy, especially for the younger students. "I don't believe any 6, 7 or 8-year-old should be coming home black and blue like that."
Lamar said she will take her fight to the governor's office if she has too, and she is looking into contacting advocacy groups that oppose corporal punishment and might provide her with legal counsel to assist her in obtaining reimbursement for her hospital bill.
According to the Texas Education Agency, which does not track corporal punishment statistics, during the last legislative session, two bills that would have mandated parent consent on corporal punishment never passed. So as it stands, current state law allows for teachers and principals to issue corporal punishment as they see fit, as long as it does not cause death. And employees of public school districts are immune from prosecution for corporal punishment as long as it is not deemed "excessive" or results in bodily injury, which is exactly what Lamar says happened in her son's case.
Photographs of her son Lamar said were taken the day after the paddling show numerous black, blue and purple bruises across the child's buttocks. After taking the boy to the emergency room the next day, doctors prescribed regular Tylenol for the pain, which she said prevented the boy from resting on his backside all weekend, and a heating pad to reduce the swelling.
San Augustine ISD Superintendant Walter Key said that it was never the intention of the principal to cause any injury to the child. He said that in this case, corporal punishment was appropriate for the student's infraction, which he said he could not elaborate on because of privacy issues.
"Spanking is never meant to harm or cause injury to a child," Key said. "That's not what spanking is for, nor is any other punishment.
"The bruising I saw in the photos — I certainly didn't see the child before the bruising — but it appears the paddling did cause the bruising, but that's not what it was for," he said.
Key added that without knowing the child's medical history, it was impossible to say whether or not the same paddling would have caused similar injuries to another child.
"Some children can call fall, and they're going to bruise badly, and there's some that won't bruise whatsoever," he said.
Addressing one of Lamar's main concerns that the elementary school no longer gave parents the option of exempting their child from corporal punishment, Key said that policy was recently revised by the school board.
"The district allows for corporal punishment if that is the best form of punishment that fits the nature of the offense," Key said. "In years past, the elementary campus allowed the parents to give permission, or not, for corporal punishment. The school board found out about that and made it very clear that to the elementary school and all campuses, that was not allowable ... that if corporal punishment was the best punishment that fit the offense, than that's what had to happen."
Lamar said while she does not totally object to the idea of corporal punishment being used in schools, she is adamant that parents have the right to know whether or not their child is being physically punished and the right to not allow it to be used on their child if they wish.
"I just want the law to say that they can't be beating on my baby," she said. "I'm scared because I don't know if it will happen again. They're telling me it can without me even knowing about it. That's why I want this changed."
Texas is one of 20 states that still allow corporal punishment in schools and has historically utilized the disciplinary technique more than any other state partly due to the state's large student population.