Brownwood Independent School District (Texas) to reinstate corporal punishment Brownwood Independent School District (Texas) to reinstate corporal punishment
By Candace Cooksey
Brownwood Bulletin, August 3, 2004

Against the recommendation of the Brownwood ISD superintendent, Dr. Sue Jones, school board trustees voted six-to-one in favor of adding a corporal punishment clause to the district's code of conduct.

The 2004 - 2005 Brownwood Independent School District code of conduct will incorporate corporal punishment as a measure of discipline for Level 2 or Level 3 offenses. Jones said prior to the board's vote that the BISD policy of discipline should be a process of changing a student's behavior. Corporal punishment was removed from the school's discipline policy in 1996.

"The emphasis of discipline needs to be on building character," Jones said, adding that corporal punishment is not allowed in any other public institution in society except schools -- not in prisons, not in churches, not in detention centers.

Students learn by example, Jones said, and setting an example of hitting a child would not be the recommendation she would make.

"I think what we all agree on is that we must have well-behaved children," Jones said. "What this disagreement is about is how to make those children behave."

Apparently all grade levels are included in the code of conduct. There is not a breakdown of certain punishments for certain offenses at particular grade levels.

The code of conduct lists 25 Level 2 offenses, including the following: cheating or copying another's work; throwing objects that can cause bodily injury or property damage; failing to comply with directives given by school personnel; causing or participating in classroom/hallway disturbances; possessing or using matches or a lighter or fireworks of any kind; possessing a paging device or cell phone; possessing mace or pepper spray; bullying that includes intimidation by name-calling, using ethnic or racial slurs or derogatory statements that could disrupt the school program or incite violence; and violating the district's policy on taking prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs at school.

Level 3 offenses include: fighting; hazing; membership or participation or solicitation of another student to join a gang or secret society; defacing or damaging school property; possessing razors, box cutters, chains or any other object used in a way to threaten or inflict bodily injury to another person; possessing air or BB guns or "look-alike" guns; engaging in inappropriate verbal, physical or sexual contact directed toward another student or BISD employee or engaging in exchanges that threaten the safety of another student, employee or school property.

The progression of disciplinary measures already in place include: parental conferences; withdrawal of privileges or participation in extracurricular activities; in and/or out of school suspensions; before or after school detention hall; referral to outside agencies; restitution; and confiscation of property.

Three citizens addressed the board on the subject of corporal punishment. Dr. James Gandy, a retired veterinarian, told the board he had come to the meeting to voice his opinion "strongly in favor" of corporal punishment.

Gandy said that years ago, when he was a young boy he'd waded into a creek with his new tennis shoes on, and gotten a whipping for ruining his new shoes. He'd never waded in the creek again, he said.

"Somebody has to set the limits that probably haven't been set for these kids at home," Gandy said.

He explained to the board that in nature, a mother chimpanzee will slap or hit her young offspring when it gets out of line.

"If we don't want our classroom disturbed when we've got a qualified teacher up there teaching a class, then someone needs to slap the little apes that are getting out of line," Gandy said.

Eddie Gomez, a Brownwood High School alumnus and the father of a daughter who is a student at BHS, said he came to the meeting Monday to try and get clarification on what the board was going to do.

"I had spats or licks when I was in school," Gomez said. "Some of the people sitting in this room gave them to me. My parents had licks or spats for speaking Spanish in school. Now you have to have two years of Spanish before you can graduate.

"I've got some mixed emotions about this. I really want to find out what this is about," Gomez said. "I want to make sure this is what is best for our children."

Amy Crist, a newly-hired counselor at Northwest Elementary, said she had witnessed another child have his hand slapped with a ruler for getting a math problem wrong when she was in elementary school. Now as an adult she remembers the fear and humiliation that form of punishment caused for the entire class.

Since becoming a teacher, Crist said she had worked at schools that allowed corporal punishment.

"As a teacher, I have seen corporal punishment used as a retaliation," Crist said. "That is not what we are about as educators."

Though Jones recommended against reinstating the corporal punishment clause into the code of conduct, she did have a prepared guideline for the punishment if it was incorporated.

The seven-step guidelines state that only principals and assistant principals may administer the punishment and that the punishment will only be administered in the principal or assistant principal's office in front of a witness who is a professional, certified employee of the BISD and of the same gender as the student being punished. The campus principal makes the decision whether or not corporal punishment is used on that campus and written parental permission is required before corporal punishment is administered.

Corporal punishment can only be administered after less stringent disciplinary measures have failed to produce desired results. The punishment cannot be administered in front of other students. A disciplinary record shall be maintained and must include the name of the student, the type of misconduct, any previous disciplinary actions, the name of the person administering the punishment, the number of spats administered, the names of the witnesses present and the date and time of the punishment.

Following a very brief discussion, Michael Cloy moved to accept the corporal punishment addition to the code of conduct as written. Tim Wilson moved to second the motion. The vote was called and Cloy, Wilson, Sandra Garcia, Michael Coppic, John Nickols and Roderick Jones voted in favor. Bradshaw cast his vote against the addition of corporal punishment

See related: Dr. Teresa Whitehurst's letter to the Brownwood Independent School District
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