Jessie Jacox investigated over paddling
By Tajuana Cheshier, The Jackson (Tennessee) Sun

April 30, 2003

Jackson police are investigating District 3 City Councilman and alternative school Principal Jessie Jacox on allegations that he used too much force when he paddled a child.

The alleged incident was reported to police during the weekend by a 13-year-old male student and his foster parents, Mary and Eldridge Russell. The student claims he was injured when Jacox paddled him Friday.

According to police reports, the student claims Jacox used a paddle about 2 inches thick to paddle him 10 times on the buttocks.

The boy was taken by his foster parents to the emergency room, where a physician encouraged the family to report the incident to police.

"I don't think this man should be in position to be over children," Eldridge Russell said. "I'm not against paddling in schools - a couple of licks is good for child, but this was assault."

JPD Lt. Rick Holt took photographs of the boy's bruises, which he described as "deep purple bruises about 3 inches wide and long across his buttocks."

The student claims in police reports that he was paddled for talking in the cafeteria.

In a phone interview Tuesday night, 55-year-old Jacox said that's not the whole story.

"I had two witnesses in the room when the student was paddled," Jacox said. "I was abiding by the law, which is for one certified teacher to be in the room when a student is paddled."

The investigation into the student's allegations is continuing and Jacox has not been charged, police said.

Nothing out of the ordinary took place during the paddling, which is always performed in a separate room from other students, Jacox said.

"We never paddle in front of other students. It's always done privately," Jacox said.

The student had only been at the school for two days before he was paddled, Jacox said. He was transferred to the alternative school, and he had been kicked out of Haywood County and Memphis City Schools previously.

"He walked around calling the other students racial names," Jacox said. "And I had warned him all day on Thursday to stop. He didn't know the students, and the students didn't know him; he just came in picking on them."

When the student did not adhere to Jacox's warnings by the next day, Jacox said he paddled him.

"He told me that he was going to sue me because I couldn't paddle him," Jacox said.

But Russell said Jacox's allegations didn't sound like the child he knows.

"He's only been in our home a short time, but he's very nice and has very good manners," Russell said. "He never talks back, and it's always 'Yes, sir' and 'No, sir.' "

Jackson-Madison County Schools Superintendant Roy Weaver declined to comment about the incident. Paddling is a legal option for school districts in the state of Tennessee, although several states have elected to remove the punishment, said Kathleen Lyons, a spokeswoman for the National Education Association.

"Parents and students sign an agreement. When students come to the school, they know our students get paddled," Jacox said.

Jacox said paddling occurs in his school when students do not adhere to the rules.

"I don't expect to get charged because I did nothing wrong," said Jacox, who claims he's never been accused of using too much force with his students.

"Of course students are going to complain about getting paddled, but I look for students to follow instructions and act right," he said.

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