Sun Herald, January 24, 2000

Department estimates 2,500 pupils beaten per day in US schools
By The Associated Press

JACKSON - A new study suggests more students are being paddled in Mississippi than anywhere else in the nation.

The U.S. Department of Education study shows 12.4 percent of Mississippi's public school children were paddled during the 1997 school year. That places the state at the top of a national ranking for use of corporal punishment.

Arkansas was ranked second for paddling an estimated 10.8 percent of students followed by Alabama with 6.3 percent.

The 1997 statistics are the most recent available, the study says.

''Paddling has maintained strength in these states,'' said Nadine Block, director of the Center for Effective Discipline, which operates the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools in Columbus, Ohio. ''We believe that discipline begins in the mind, not the behinds.''

The National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools assisted in the Department of Education's biannual corporal punishment ranking that surveys 25 percent of school districts in each state and then computes statewide projections based on survey results.

Estimates show that nationally, 2,500 students receive corporal punishment a day and that black children, who make up 17 percent of the U.S. student population, received 39 percent of spankings.

State law allows corporal punishment in public school. However, the state Department of Education has no guidelines on paddling and leaves the decision up to the districts.

Judging from the fact that Brookhaven High doesn't paddle students, junior Brandon Van Hall said that the 12.4 percent estimate seems high.

But when he conjures up memories from his days at Brookhaven Elementary, it's understandable, he said.

''About every five minutes, you would hear a kid getting paddled,'' he said. ''I'm not exaggerating. I mean, it was constant.''

The use of in-school paddling has been an oft-debated discipline form nationally and in Mississippi for decades. Twenty-seven states have banned corporal punishment.

The Jackson school district, the state's largest with 32,000 pupils, banned corporal punishment in 1991. Peggy Crowell, executive director of student services, said offenses rose slightly in the months after spankings were first banned but then returned to normal.

Tim Martin, principal at Clinton's Lovett Elementary, said he paddled about 15 of the estimated 420 sixth-graders in his school last year. He came to Lovett after having worked at a Jackson district school.

''In the Deep South, and in the Bible Belt, that is still looked upon as a form of discipline that is used not only in the schools, but also in the homes,'' Martin said. ''Many parents believe that's what's wrong with public schools that corporal punishment has been taken out.

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