More than half of all paddling of students in Union County schools was done at just one school last year.
Out of 457 reported cases of corporal punishment during the 2003-2004 school year, 232 were at East Union Middle School. And only a handful of other schools accounted for the rest. Twenty-five schools did not discipline students by paddling. The Union County Public Schools Code of Student Conduct allows the use of corporal punishment, but records obtained by The Enquirer-Journal showed the practice in use in just nine of the system's 34 schools during the 2003-04 school year.
Of those, East Union led the pack, followed by Western Union Elementary with 99 uses of corporal punishment, and Walter Bickett Elementary with 62 paddlings. Parkwood Middle only recorded one use of corporal punishment and Marshville Elementary and East Elementary only applied the practice twice.
Sixty-two times corporal punishment was administered to an exceptional child. That doesn't always mean someone with a serious mental or physical handicap, said Luan Ingram, public information officer for UCPS. She said a student who undergoes speech therapy can be classified as exceptional.
Ingram said corporal punishment is considered system-wide as paddling a student. The records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the school system indicate that students receive anywhere from one to three "licks", or blows, of the paddle. The records also indicate the grade level, race, and gender of the student and give a brief code of what the offense was.
Most students got the wooden "board of education" for aggressive behavior against a fellow student (76 times) or for willful non-compliance (71 times). Students also received corporal punishment for showing disrespect to a teacher (42 times) and being disruptive to a class (55 times).
The report does not indicate who administered the corporal punishment, who witnessed the administration of the punishment, what disciplinary action was taken previously against the student, or how many of the 457 occurrences were students who were repeat offenders.
In some cases, corporal punishment is given on the same day as the offense, and in others, it is administered up to seven days after the offense.
"Surprised," was the word Ingram used to describe the results of the records. Ingram said the central offices of the school system doesn't track or call for information on corporal punishment. The system has not received any complaints about any specific incidents of corporal punishment over the years, she said.
The numbers show, on average, males received corporal punishment 82.6 percent of the time, and African-American and white students were nearly even in the percentage receiving corporal punishment-- 47.6 percent for African-Americans and 46.1 percent for whites.
Most the schools that used corporal punishment in the 2003-2004 school year also had a higher percentage of minority students than the county average, with the exceptions of Hemby Bridge and Unionville Elementary. That doesn't mean that all schools with higher than average minority enrollment used corporal punishment. Wingate Elementary and Monroe Middle did not use paddling as a form of punishment.
The numbers could change drastically during the 2004-2005 year, as the principals at East Union Middle and Western Union Elementary both retired at the end of the 2003-2004 school year. Lewis Barlow, the new principal at East Union said he does not use corporal punishment in his school. On Feb. 4, Superintendent Jerry Thomas instructed all school administrators to halt the practice of corporal punishment until the Board of Education decides to keep the policy or abandon it.
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