A Groveton couple has requested that the Texas Education Agency investigate a Sept. 29 incident in which their 9-year-old son received a paddling for continuously refusing to turn in his homework.
The two "pops" by the high school principal were hard enough to leave red welts on the boy's behind that lasted four days, said his mother, Shelley Hall of Groveton.
"What scares me is that this is not the first time that something like this has happened," Hall said in a telephone interview. "About a year ago, an 11-year-old got three pops that were hard enough that he had welts. He also had blood in his underwear.
"It's very upsetting to have to fear for your kids when they go to school. I shouldn't have to worry about them."
As result of what happened to her son, Hall is now home-schooling her three school-age children. She said although she enjoys teaching her kids, she regrets that they are unable to go to school with their friends.
Hall said they have been in contact with TEA officials, who said the state agency has 60 days to decide whether they will investigate the incident.
Monday night, the Groveton school board took no action after Hall and her husband, Chris Sr., appeared to make a formal complaint to the panel about the incident. After the meeting, Superintendent Joe Driskell declined to comment on the matter, citing "personnel matters" that were discussed in closed session.
Driskell was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.
In a letter written to Groveton ISD officials on Sept. 30, the Halls requested that the district's corporal punishment policy be revised so it is only used in instances of physical confrontations, obvious aggression toward teachers or disruptions in the classroom setting.
"I can't comment on the specifics of what happened because it's a personnel issue," said Mickey Gilbert, the Groveton Elementary principal. "Corporal punishment is one of our tools of discipline. We followed school policy."
Gilbert said as part of Groveton ISD policy, the parents are supposed to be notified if their child receives a paddling. He said witnesses are required to be present any time corporal punishment is used. Whether or not paddlings are appropriate depends on the situation, Gilbert said.
"We're not trying to be bad folks," he said. "We're trying to do the best we can to take care of our kids."
Hall said her son, Christopher Jr., has ADHD, and that she and her husband had been trying to mainstream him with other students his age. She said because he had had problems with turning in his homework at the district he'd attended prior to coming to Groveton, she requested that his teacher send a note with Chris Jr. detailing his homework assignments.
In their letter, Hall said she was unable to get a homework note from her son's teacher two days in a row.
On Sept. 29, Christopher Jr. was sent to the office during the tutorials period because he failed to do his homework, Hall said. Because Gilbert was not there, high school principal Cliff Lasiter stepped in for him. Christopher Jr. asked to be given after-school detention, but the principal paddled him, Hall said.
The boy also received five demerits, a poor grade and had to miss recess that day, Hall said. She said in the six weeks they had been in school, he got to go to recess about six times.
Hall said on the day that Christopher Jr. was paddled he complained about his rear end hurting. Hall told her husband to check it out later that evening, and they found "two, huge welts on his buttocks." Along with her e-mail, she sent a picture taken the following Sunday that showed that he still had visible red marks.
The next day, the Halls went to the school to complain.
"Finally, around 9:30 a.m., we found Mr. Lasiter back at the high school," the letter stated. "He said, he did nothing wrong and that sometimes there are bruises."
Hall said they took the Groveton ISD officials a letter saying they were revoking the school's authority to use corporal punishment on their children. Lasiter told them the school district's policy would not allow them to do that.
Sometime after the paddling incident, Hall stood in front of a Groveton store in an effort to get people to sign a petition to get the school district to revise its corporal punishment policy. Although she only got 56 signatures, many people expressed support, and said they were hesitant to sign it because they feared reprisals from Groveton ISD officials.
"The job of any school employee, whether it is elected, volunteer or paid, is to have a love for children," the Halls' letter stated. "We have four children, and three of them need to be in school.
"Are we supposed to to make them go to school and be afraid of the adults that surround them or should we keep them at home and be afraid of going to jail?"
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