(Pennsylvania) School spankings: an outdated option?
By SUSAN BALDRIGE and AMY LEEKING, New Era Staff Writers
Lancaster New Era, May 16, 2002,

Attention principals. You can throw that old wooden paddle on the scrap pile for good, even if you're only using it to decorate your office.

You won't be needing it.

On Wednesday, the state Board of Education voted to outlaw the use of corporal punishment, otherwise known as spanking, at public schools in Pennsylvania.

This morning, local superintendents and principals applauded the decision to do away with spanking --even those from schools that still have a policy allowing it.

"The one thing we don't need is an angry adult hitting a child," said Solanco Superintendent Jon Rednak. "It (spanking) doesn't solve problems, it creates problems."

Although the ruling still needs to be approved officially by the Council of Education, it will put Pennsylvania in line with the majority of states across the country. More than half the states prohibit corporal punishment outright, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Of the 23 states that allow it, in 10 of those states, most of the individual school districts have banned it.

In Lancaster County, it looks as if spanking in schools already has gone the way of the dunce cap. Only about half the public schools still have the policy, and none that were contacted currently use it.

Technically, Solanco still allows for corporal punishment, but Rednak said it would be a matter of just taking it off the books.

"It's not been used in any way in the past three or four years for students who violate school policy," Rednak said.

Hempfield and Columbia school districts are two that have policies allowing corporal punishment. However, neither use it as a form of discipline.

"Violence just begets violence," said Columbia's Superintendent Kenneth Klawitter. "We haven't used it for years.

"There are better ways to discipline students," Klawitter said. "As educators we should be more enlightened."

The Cocalico School District allows corporal punishment in select cases, but district officials prefer alternative methods of punishment.

The board of education's decision to scrap paddling "wouldn't really be a factor for us," said Superintendent William Worley, who said he doesn't recall the use of corporal punishment in the district "in the past several years."

Robert Frick, Superintendent of the Lampeter-Strasburg School District said the policy is still around but it's not used there either.

"The general belief most educators have is that you're not proving anything except that you're bigger and stronger than the child," said Frick. "I don't know of any corporal punishment used in this district in the last ten years.

"With the amount of litigation that occurs nowadays, even if you take out the whole concept of damaging the psyche of the child, it would make you hesitant to use it," added Frick, who teaches courses on school law.

Pequea Valley School District also no longer uses corporal punishment, although it has in the past.

"We didn't feel it was right," said Superintendent Ann Keim. "There's just a controversy for a big person using physical force on a little person. It taught more about bullying than anything. A halfway intelligent person can reason with a child."

Instead, the district focuses on using punishment appropriate to the deed. Their discipline code is closely tied to the district's character education program, which makes all students accountable for their actions.
Just the other day, Keim recalled, a middle school student used his foot to push mulch out of a flower bed.

"We gave him a rake and made him clean it up," Keim said.

Many school officials say there are more effective ways to discipline than hitting. They'll give the students detention or suspension. Or send them to alternative schools, such as the Washington Educational Center in Ephrata, that focus on children with discipline problems.

Prosecution by local police and community service are also discipline methods schools use nowadays, said administrators.

"I think that it's just a change in our culture," Worley said.

"It's a different time now than it used to be," agreed Frick. "When I started in education 36 years ago, parents expected it to happen."

Worley added, "Parents also seem to be more educated in how to deal with children, using timeouts. The upbringing of children is different."

Eastern Lancaster County School District's corporal punishment policy is designed to protect teachers who may use force when quelling a disturbance or protecting themselves or other faculty and students, said Superintendent Larry Burkhart.

"It's intended to protect teachers or principals when they find themselves in that situation," Burkhart said. So when students fight in hallways, staff members are able to forceable separate the youths.

But Burkhart believes Elanco staff would be protected even if the state bans corporal punishment.

"There are enough other protections now for professionals. If the state passes this legislation, the policies will have to adjust to that," Burkhart said.

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