The Macon Telegraph, May 8, 2000

Lawsuit: Hancock board chairman hurt student he paddled
By Rob Peecher

SPARTA - A lawyer representing a student suing the Hancock County school system and its board chairman, individually and in his official capacity, over a student's paddling dropped the case Wednesday against the system and the chairman in his official role.

The suit remains against Hancock County Board of Education chairman Ernest Carswell individually for paddling a middle school student in February 1999.

"Not only did he act in violation of state law, but he also acted in violation of school board policy," said attorney Teresa Mann, who represents the student.

State law requires either a teacher or a principal to administer corporal punishment. And Hancock County school system's policy requires principals and teachers to have prior consent from parents to paddle a student, Mann told the court.

Carswell is neither a teacher nor a principal and did not have parental consent, she said.

But Amy Snell, representing the school system and Carswell, argued that board of education members may be entitled to the same consideration as teachers and principals.

"It's a slippery slope for your honor to start deciding that chairmen of school boards are somehow separate from the inner workings of a school system," Snell said.

The suit was filed in October 1999, claiming that the school system is liable for Carswell's negligent actions, that Carswell was negligent in failing to follow state and local guidelines on corporal punishment, and that Carswell intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the student.

"As a direct and proximate result of Defendant Carswell's negligence, and in addition to his physical injury, (the student) suffered from fright, shock, and mental anxiety," the suit claims.

The student is seeking unspecified punitive damages, compensatory damages and damages for pain and suffering.

Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge John Lee Parrott postponed his ruling on dismissing the suit against Carswell pending supplemental briefs to Wednesday's hearing.

To contact Rob Peecher, call 706-485-3987 or e-mail

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