The Birmingham News, July 17, 1998

Corporal punishment on books, rarely used
By Benjamin Niolet, News Staff Writer

Although Birmingham schools banned corporal punishment this week, several neighboring systems still allow spanking, but officials say it is rarely used.

On Tuesday, the Birmingham Board of Education approved Superintendent Johnny Brown's recommendation that corporal punishment no longer be used in Birmingham schools.

However, seven of 10 school systems in Jefferson and Shelby County have policies that allow corporal punishment. Officials from most of the seven schools said spanking is rarely used or is used only as a last resort.

Andy Rowell, superintendent of the Midfield School System, said spanking can be an effective way to control behavior.

''For some children, one form of discipline is more effective than others,'' Rowell said. ''It works for some children, and for others it doesn't.''

Parents of Midfield students can request that their child be spared the rod, Rowell said. However, some parents encourage teachers to spank their children.

''We have had some parents over the years that indicated that spanking was the only punishment that worked on their kids,'' Rowell said.

The following systems have a policy that allows spanking, said officials from the schools: Bessemer, Midfield, Mountain Brook, Tarrant, Vestavia Hills, Jefferson County and Shelby County.

Fairfield, Homewood and Hoover do not allow spanking.

''It's our philosophy in Hoover that it's not an effective deterrent to change behavior,'' said Carol Barber, principal of Simmons Middle School.

Mrs. Barber said corporal punishment teaches kids violent behavior, despite efforts to sway kids from aggression.

''You can say one thing, but you're doing something else,'' she said.

Spanking in Jefferson County schools occurs mostly in elementary schools, said Rick Lazenby, director of student services for the Jefferson County School System.

Administrators have to file a written notice with the school board before students are spanked, Lazenby said. Spankings are given with a small paddle in front of a witness.

Lazenby said the use of corporal punishment has been diminishing.

''I have seen a movement away from it over the last few years,'' Lazenby said.

1998 The Birmingham News

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