By EMERY P. DALESIO
Published: Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 4:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 4:53 p.m.
The number of children being paddled in North Carolina public schools is falling fast as fewer districts use physical pain to enforce discipline, a report released Thursday said.
Some State Board of Education members want the Legislature to stop the dozen or so of the state's 115 districts that still practice corporal punishment. The state board will decide next month whether to ask for a statewide ban on a practice that fell by 55 percent in the 2011-2012 school year.
"It's my personal opinion that corporal punishment, physical punishment, does not belong in our schools," said board member John Tate III of Charlotte.
School workers can use force to restrain students or intervene in a dangerous situation, but allowing adult authorities to hurt a child isn't an effective discipline tool, Tate said.
A handful of states allow corporal punishment, but its use is falling fast in North Carolina. Local school boards can decide whether to permit paddling.
The number of cases of corporal punishment fell to 404 statewide during the school year that ended in May, down from 891 cases in the 2010-2011 academic year. That was the first time all uses of corporal punishment were required to be reported. Before recording all schoolhouse paddling was required, 1,160 cases of corporal punishment were reported statewide during the 2009-10 academic year.
The new figures show that two out of every three times paddling was used in North Carolina schools, it happened in Robeson County. The school district retained its statewide leadership in use of corporal punishment with 267 cases, down from 296 the previous year.
Only a dozen of the state's 115 school districts had employees swatting students, and only nine districts did it more than once.
Columbus County schools, No. 3 on the 2011-12 statewide tally with 36 cases, suspended paddling last spring within days of seeing the district ranked second statewide with 193 cases the previous year. Burke County schools did away with corporal punishment in May after recording one paddling during the completed academic year. Supporters of the practice warned that doing away with corporal punishment will lead students to believe there are no consequences for misdeeds, and that principals and teachers should retain the option of using force.
State law defines corporal punishment as intentionally inflicting physical pain to discipline a student. A law that took effect last year allowed a parent or guardian who objected to paddling to block administrators in districts that employ corporal punishment from administering it on their child. That opt-out option was available in the 2010-11 school year for the parents of disabled students.