Principal guilty of battery in paddling, fined $250
By Betsy White, Staff writer The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, September 6, 1991
In what is apparently the first criminal conviction of a Georgia educator for administering corporal punishment, retired Atlanta Principal Alfred Scott pleaded no contest Thursday to simple battery charges.
Using a pingpong paddle, Mr. Scott struck Rayshawn Grant, then 11, on his bare behind in February 1990, leaving dark raised bruises the size of grapefruits on both buttocks, hospital records and police photographs show.
Prosecution of such cases is rare in Georgia because state law permits educators to paddle pupils as long as the paddling is "not excessive or unduly severe" - and the Georgia Court of Appeals has held that pain and bruises are not indicators of undue excess, but rather an expected result of paddlings.
Officials at the Professional Practices Commission, the Department of Human Resources, law firms that specialize in school law and an anti- corporal punishment group said they could not recall any convictions in corporal punishment cases.
Fulton County Solicitor James L. Webb said the severity of Rayshawn' s injuries made the difference.
"Just because he's a principal and just because the law permits paddling . . . has nothing to do with whether the paddling is over and beyond what is reasonable," Mr. Webb said. "This appeared to be unreasonable."
Mr. Scott was fined $250 on the charge, a misdemeanor.
Assistant Fulton County Solicitor Fay McCormack said she agreed to the no contest plea rather than force Mr. Scott to go to trial because she feared a jury might be dominated by people who favor severe paddlings when children misbehave.
Corporal punishment has been outlawed in Atlanta schools since 1959 - something prosecutors said they did not know.
The paddling took place after Mr. Scott learned that three of his pupils at Minnie Howell Elementary School had been hitting other students. According to court records, he took the three boys into the restroom, put a trash can against the door to prevent anyone from entering and forced them to drop their pants and submit to a paddling.
Mr. Scott was "at his wit's end" because the three boys were uncontrollable and he hit them "in a moment of utter exasperation, " said Atlanta school board attorney Warren Fortson, who represented Mr. Scott. Mr. Scott, then 63, opted to retire shortly thereafter, Mr. Fortson said.
Staff writer Bernadette Burden contributed to this article.
Copyright 1991, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, All rights reserved.