Brittney Raby – Staff Writer
Last year, four districts in North Carolina employed corporal punishment as a disciplinary option for students 147 different times. Robeson County used it 88 times, Graham County used it 47 times, Macon County used it 11 times, and Swain County used it one time. Halfway through the school year last year, the Swain County Board of Education voted to do away with corporal punishment, something Macon County may do in the coming months.
During the March meeting of the Macon County Board of Education, board members decided to put the district’s corporal punishment policy on the agenda for further discussion during an April 13 work session.
“I think we need to look at it and see what is best to protect our teachers, administrators and our students,” said board member Fred Goldsmith. “Its a much different time today than it used to be.”
The board of education has a work session scheduled with board attorney John Henning Jr. on April 13 to do a sweeping review of board policies in order to update policies and get in line with state changes and mandates. The school system’s corporal punishment policy will be further reviewed and possibility eliminated at that time.
As it stands, parents of Macon County students can choose to opt out of corporal punishment as a disciplinary option for their child. The district’s existing policy clearly defines who can administer corporal punishment and the process in which it is administered. According to the policy, only a teacher, principal, or assistant principal can administer corporal punishment and must be in the presence of another teacher, principal, teacher, or assistant principal. Each instance of corporal punishment must be recorded and parents must be notified appropriately.
While corporal punishment was utilized 11 times during the 2014-15 school year, the disciplinary practice was employed 27 times the prior year. Of those incidents, 24 occurred at South Macon Elementary and three occurred at Iotla Valley.
North Carolina stands as one of 19 states in the country, mostly southern and western states, that permits the action. While 31 states have now banned corporal punishment, the states that still allow it include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.
While the North Carolina State Board of Education allows paddling, only three districts in the state employ the practice, including Macon County. The North Carolina Department of Instruction reported that of the 147 times corporal punishment was used last school year, 32 times it was used on females and 115 on males. A break down of race and ethnicity reports that American Indians received corporal punishment 80 times, followed by 50 white students, nine multiracial, seven African Americans, and one Asian.
While Macon County and Robeson County limit corporal punishment to elementary schools, Graham County only employs the option on the high school level and offers the practice as an option for students to choose over suspension or missing class time. Disruptive behavior accounts for the majority of the reasons given for the punishment in the state, with 82 instances. Leaving school is next with 16 instances, followed by cell phone use at 12 and insubordination at 10. Other reasons for use include aggressive behavior, inappropriate language, and disrespect of staff.