IPS School Board to weigh ending its paddling policy
By Kim L. Hooper kim.hooper@indystar.com
Indiana Star, April 26, 2004

A long-standing policy that allows paddling as a form of corporal punishment in Indianapolis Public Schools is under scrutiny by district officials.

The School Board soon will begin a process of deciding whether to eliminate the district's policy that permits students to be spanked with wooden paddles.

Tonight, the seven-member board is expected to approve a resolution leading to an update -- and possibly elimination -- of a rule that permits student spankings.

Superintendent Duncan Pat Pritchett is pushing for a change, saying paddling is not the most effective or appropriate method of disciplining children who fail to follow school rules for conduct and behavior.

Several board members have similar positions and call paddling an "antiquated" way to correct misbehavior. Schools should no longer be in the business of meting out physical discipline, they add.

"Personally, I think the time has come to ban it. School is not the place to hit children anymore," said Board President Marianna Zaphiriou on Monday.

Pritchett has told teachers he prefers they not use the paddle, even though Indiana is one of 22 states that allow it.

The practice of paddling has been on the state's books for at least 30 years, and a 1995 revision authorized teachers and school staffers to "take any action that is reasonably necessary" to prevent interference with educational missions.

Efforts to ban corporal punishment have been introduced but never passed the General Assembly. Most schools that use physical discipline say it's a last resort -- and is done with parents' permission.

IPS could join other area districts like Lawrence Township Schools in Marion County and Shelbyville Central Schools in Shelby County to ban paddling altogether.

Proponents say the practice gives schools a key tool to show children there are consequences for disruptive behavior.

But the practice can lead to problems.

Child protection officials have cleared two School 48 teachers, involved last month in the paddling of six third-grade boys, of abuse allegations. The teachers remain suspended with pay, however, pending the outcome of a separate IPS investigation.

That incident sparked renewed debate into the practice.

"Corporal punishment was accepted by most parents 25 to 30 years ago. Most of our parents really don't support it anymore," Pritchett said.

In 1999-2000 -- the most recent year for which data is available -- more than 2,000 Indiana students felt the sting of paddling under a corporal punishment policy that gives educators the same disciplinary rights as parents.

IPS policy allows a wooden paddle to be used in spankings -- provided it's flat and no longer than a half-inch thick, 4 inches wide and 18 inches long -- or the open palm of the hand. That rule was last updated in 1985.

School Board member Michael D. Brown advocates giving teachers the option to paddle.

Still, there is growing sentiment within the district to eliminate spankings for good. School Board members have heard from different groups representing school psychologists, social workers and behavior specialists in support of a ban.

Now they want to hear from parents, teachers and students.

A public meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. May 24 where the focus will be on paddling.

The meeting will be held at IPS headquarters, 120 E. Walnut St.

Board Secretary Clarke C. Campbell said he has "serious reservations" about the use of corporal punishment, but added: "I want to hear what the people have to say before I vote."

Call Star reporter Kim L. Hooper at (317) 444-6494.

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