"Excessive' spanking gets Dawkins probation
By JAYNE HUSTEAD Press Journal Staff Writer (Vero Beach) Press Journal, April 10, 2001

Corporal punishment goes out and the dean stays at St. Peter's Academy, a charter school in Gifford.

Dale Dawkins, the school's dean, was arrested Jan 24 after he paddled an 8-year-old boy who was disrupting class and wouldn't sit down, according to testimony Monday in County Court.

Dawkins, 1535 E. 56th Square, is a minister and former wide receiver for the New York Jets pro-football team. He was in County Judge Joe Wild's court to plead no contest to a charge of misdemeanor battery.

Both Wild and Assistant State Attorney Ed Taylor said they don't disagree with corporal punishment but pictures taken of the bruises on the boy's buttocks indicate "there was something excessive there," Wild said.

Taylor asked Wild to require the 24-year-old Dawkins to complete an anger-management course as part of his punishment so that "when he does discipline (children) he doesn't lose control."

Taylor said the boy's family agreed with the plea agreement.

Dawkins told Wild he was aware of what he did and stood by it. "I don't like to spank ... It doesn't suit me." he said, adding he has had to administer a lot of corporal punishment since becoming head of the 3-year-old school for kindergarten through grade four.

The students "know I'm there to help them, not hurt them. I love them all, and they love me," he said.

However, as a result of the legal action taken against Dawkins, the school's board of governors has eliminated the corporal punishment policy, said Dawkin's Vero Beach attorney Norman Green.

Instead, more emphasis will be put on detention, time-out and counseling, said board member Reuben Lane. All four current board members came to court to support Dawkins. Three new members will join the board this month for a total of seven, Lane said.

Corporal punishment also is listed as a potential consequence of breaking the student code of conduct at Vero Beach public elementary schools, according to a list from the school superintendent's office.

Dawkins, who excelled in football at Vero Beach High School and the University of Miami in the 1980s, played with the Jets from 1990 to 1995 before returning to the area.

"I'm aware of the good things you've done in this community since you came back and you deserve credit for that," Wild told him. "If you have corporal punishment, though, you have to watch the limit. This is a situation where it's easy to exceed the limit," he said.

Wild sentenced Dawkins to six-months probation and ordered him to attend and complete a 10-week anger management class. Wild said the probation can be terminated after three months if the class is completed and the court costs and fees are paid.

The State Attorney's Office originally charged Dawkins with felony child abuse, but dropped the charge in March to simple battery because there was no evidence of malicious intent, Assistant State Attorney Ed Taylor said.

Dawkins could have received up to a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

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