IPS Board set to prohibit paddling
By Kim L. Hooper, kim.hooper@indystar.com
Indiana Star, May 25, 2004

Members will vote tonight on corporal punishment ban; several parents voice support for disciplinary measure.

Jeff Charles, who traveled from Roseville, Mich., to attend Monday's School Board meeting, says spanking teaches children it's all right to use violence to resolve problems. -- Adriane Jaeckle / The Star

Most parents who spoke at an Indianapolis Public School Board meeting Monday night said they backed spanking students and urged the district to continue to allow paddling.

But six of the seven board members said it's time for a change.

And with opposition that solid, the controversial disciplinary policy is likely to be struck from the books at tonight's board meeting, where Resolution No. 7503 should pass by majority vote. The resolution -- an update to the district's decades-old corporal punishment policy -- will prohibit the use of wooden paddles to spank children and repeal a 1985 rule.

"Corporal punishment is a lazy way to deal with behavior," said board member Kelly E. Bentley. "We have a responsibility to take more time with our kids."

But of the eight parents who spoke at Monday's meeting, just three spoke in favor of eliminating the policy. Overall, 15 people showed up for the meeting at IPS' central office Downtown; many of them were social workers in elementary schools in the district.

Parents Nikki and Adrian Jagow have children attending School 48, where two teachers drew attention after paddling six third-grade boys in March.

Those fifth-grade teachers, Ulysses Coleman and Rachelle Phifer, were suspended for five weeks pending the outcome of investigations by child protection workers and an internal IPS probe. Both were cleared of any wrongdoing and have since returned to their jobs.

Their absence from the classroom left a void for children when the district had to replace them with substitutes or unlicensed teachers.

"I think that's a greater problem than corporal punishment," Nikki Jagow told the board.

Phifer also attended the meeting and explained why she supports student spankings over other forms of discipline, such as expulsions or suspensions.

"I don't believe in suspensions because I can't teach them at home," said the 10-year veteran, who was joined by a small group of supporters.

Detractors assigned a multitude of ills to paddling, saying states that allow spanking have lower student achievement than those that prohibit the practice. Indiana is among 22 states that allow paddling, and the practice has been on the books in IPS for more than 30 years.

Dennis Palmore said he was paddled when he was a child in school and still carries the emotional scars.

"All it did for me is make me hate the people who hit me. . . . It's not right. . . . I had Columbine feelings for a long time," said Palmore, who is the guardian of his deceased sister's children, who attend School 69. "The little children don't get to say how they feel."

Cynthia D. Jackson collected essays from students on the issue and read them to the board. One child wrote that parents might sue schools if their children are spanked. Another wrote that some kids will hit back if they're struck.

"I think it's important that you hear their voices," Jackson said.

Jeff Charles traveled from Roseville, Mich., to attend Monday's meeting. Charles has an anti-paddling Internet site and is devoted to ending the practice. He brought a wooden paddle that he used in a demonstration as he tried to explain how spanking teaches children it's all right to use violence to resolve problems.

"The highest prison states are paddling states," he said.

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

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