UNION COUNTY, NC - Corporal punishment might be a thing of the past in Union County. A memo sent to principals in the Union County Public Schools system from Superintendent Jerry Thomas on Wednesday said he has informed the Union County Board of Education that corporal punishment will not be used until a final decision has been made on the issue by the board.
In the memo, Thomas said he went through a process of gathering information from a wide base of sources that included meetings with high school students, faculty and administrators and school site-based teams. Thomas also said in the memo that information from the public received at board meetings and through e-mails factored into his decision. Thomas said his recommendation to end the practice of corporal punishment, or paddling, was not based on how the school system has handled the matter.
"I have the utmost confidence that our school-based personnel exercise good judgment when corporal punishment is considered," he wrote. "Nevertheless, my recommendation to the Policy Committee and the Board of Education is to eliminate corporal punishment as a discipline measure in Union County Public Schools."
The practice is not employed at the middle or high school levels, Thomas said, and elementary principals agreed it was a form of punishment that could be replaced.
"No one agrees that it's a good form of discipline," Thomas said about a meeting with administrators and site-based teams. "I also had a concern that some of our very fine administrators could be unjustly criticized if they used corporal punishment."
A representative group of administrators will be put together, Thomas said, to look at new alternative forms of punishment.
Parent Peggy Dean, who led the public campaign against corporal punishment said she was guarded in her excitement over the superintendent's recommendation.
"My gut reaction is I want to know why," she said. "I believe it's simply because the school system is not in compliance with the law."
Dean has pointed out general statutes to the board stating under what conditions or offenses corporal punishment is to be administered. The school system's policy does not indicate under what grounds a student can receive corporal punishment, and the UCPS policy does not define what it considers to be corporal punishment. The policy does require administrators to log all actions of corporal punishment, indicating the student, the offense, previous disciplinary actions, who administered the punishment and what type it was, and who witnessed it.
Dean said she not only wants corporal punishment banned in UCPS, but she wants it abolished across the state.
"The use of corporal punishment in the county is a symptom of what's wrong," Dean said. "It is a punitive system that dis-empowers parents, and parents who challenge that get nowhere."
"I want a safe, orderly, caring environment that is better for learning than kids being harassed and abused by adults," she said. "Educators need to take the high road and decide violence in any form is a tool that will not be used."
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