Avalanche-Journal, March 3, 1998

Teacher sues Lamesa schools to halt paddling
By John Wise

A Lamesa kindergarten teacher has filed a lawsuit against Lamesa schools on behalf of her seventh-grade daughter to prevent Lamesa Middle School officials from administering corporal punishment.

The suit, filed Wednesday in 106th District Court, had not been served on Lamesa school officials Monday, pending a round of administrative hearings.

In her suit, Sydney Silipo claims Principal Mike Jones and his staff have no right to paddle her daughter, who by the suit's admission was involved in a fight with another seventh-grade girl on Feb. 20.

The suit states Silipo withheld her daughter from school because middle school administrators said her daughter would be paddled upon returning.

Silipo on Monday said she believes in alternatives to paddling.

"I do feel like you should have the parents' permission before you do it," Silipo said Monday. "Most kids - if you talk to them - that scares them to death. It's kind of nerve-racking."

Lamesa schools Supt. Ken McCraw, who is named as a defendant in the suit, said the district does have a corporal punishment policy.

Paddling is generally considered a last resort, he said, but fighting cases almost always draw a paddling, or "swats," as they are called.

But Silipo said her daughter is a first-time offender, and was merely defending herself during the incident.

The suit states that Silipo's daughter, who runs track, was attacked by another member of the school's track team after school on Feb. 20.

"The rest of the story does not support that," McCraw said. The principal said an assistant principal told him that both girls were mutually responsible for the fight because some words were exchanged beforehand.

"We just don't tolerate fighting," he said.

Silipo's suit was filed prematurely, he said, because there had been no decision made on her daughter's punishment at the time it was filed. He also said the mother made no attempts to prevent the paddling through administrative channels.

"She went straight to the courts," McCraw said.

Silipo's attorney, J. Edwin Price of Lubbock, said he filed the suit because he felt administrators otherwise wouldn't have agreed to hold off on paddling Silipo's daughter.

"They agreed not to paddle her while the administrative process was going on, and I feel like (filing the suit) was our only recourse and the only way to get that done," Price said.

The administrative hearings are held in three levels.

First, Silipo and her daughter must meet with the principal, then with McCraw, and then with the Board of Trustees. All three are named as defendants in the suit.

Each office has seven days to respond to a hearing request, McGraw said. The first hearing had not yet been held, he added.

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