Judge says spanking okay in suit against Magazine principal
By John T. Anderson, Southwest Times Record
Paris Express, August 31, 2001

A paddle swat now and again does not violate a student's constitutional rights, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Robert Dawson made his ruling in the case of a 12-year-old Magazine student whose parents sued Leona K. Cleveland, the school's elementary principal, after she paddled their child.

"The amount of punishment, two or three licks, is not unreasonable in view of the need to maintain discipline in the classroom," Dawson stated in his opinion, signed Wednesday, Aug. 22.

Scotty and Mary Fox sued Cleveland last year in U.S. District Court in Fort Smith, claiming "intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment." The Foxes sought undetermined compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys' fees and costs associated with the case..

Their son was one of several students sent to the principal's office for acting up. When time came for him to step up and receive his licks, he moved his leg, resulting in a bruise to his leg. Cleveland, admitted that one of the swats did land on the boy's thigh or hip.

The Foxes disputed how many of the swats landed on their son's thigh as opposed to his buttocks. The Foxes also claim the boy was not allowed to eat lunch after the paddling.

In his order of dismissal, Dawson stated, "(The Foxes) must demonstrate that (Cleveland's) conduct is shocking to the conscience and amounts to a severe invasion of the student's personal security and autonomy. ...We find that the defendant administered the corporal punishment in good faith to maintain discipline within the school. There is no evidence that the defendant acted with any malicious or sadistic intent to cause harm to (the child)."

The boy is still enrolled at the school, according to Superintendent James Issac, who heard of the ruling Friday.

Dawson, in his ruling, did not go so far as to broadly endorse the practice.

"Whether corporal punishment is a good or bad idea is not for this court to determine," Dawson wrote. "Many schools have no form of corporal punishment and discipline at those schools apparently is not a problem. Some schools, like Magazine, do not choose to 'spare the rod,' and that is a local decision as long as the punishment is not excessive or unreasonable. While this court is sympathetic to the concern of parents who do not wish for their children to be subjected to any corporal punishment in school, it is permitted by law and has been one accepted form of discipline in this country for many years."

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