Kim Colquitt has a 7-year-old daughter who attends Quapaw Elementary School. And she has a definite opinion on spanking in schools.
"I just feel like that is something that should be taken care of at home," she said.
Vicki Waltrip, administrative secretary to the Pittsburg superintendent of schools, displays a paddle that was once used on misbehaved students. Pittsburg is one of the local school districts that no longer uses corporal punishment.
With written consent from parents at the start of every school year, the district allows corporal punishment if administrators think it's necessary. Colquitt said she won't consent to allow her child to be spanked. But other parents have. In fact, there were 27 incidents of spankings in Quapaw schools last year.
Colquitt said she rarely spanks her daughter, with time outs being her preferred discipline choice. She said she thinks the school district should ban corporal punishment because spanking should be the parents' job.
Some school officials disagree.
At least once a day, on average, a student is spanked in one of Webb City's schools.
In Northeast Oklahoma, Commerce and Miami teachers and administrators rely on the paddle on occasion.
Other districts, including Joplin, have the option on the books but school officials there say they haven't relied on spanking for some time.
In Pittsburg, Kan., no students are swatted. It isn't allowed. Nor is it allowed in Galena, Kan.
Nadine Block is the executive director of The Center for Effective Discipline, an organization that seeks to abolish corporal punishment in schools. A bill in the Missouri legislature this year - sponsored by Rep. Barbara Fraser, D-St. Louis - would ban corporal punishment in Missouri schools.
Block said there are several reasons she's against spanking students.
"Many times it makes (students) hate school," Block said.
It can cause some children to be revengeful and angry, and it can lead to lawsuits against school districts and educators. She said paddling also can lead to injury.
Earlier this month, the principal of Quapaw Elementary School was investigated by the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department for allegedly leaving bruises on a 6-year-old's buttocks after a spanking. Ottawa County District Attorney Eddie Wyant chose not to press charges against the principal, since the guardian of the kindergarten student had consented to the spanking.
Dennis Earp, superintendent at Quapaw schools, said the paddling that caused the investigation was the first time he's heard a complaint about corporal punishment in the nine years he's been with the Quapaw school district. He said each discipline incident is handled on an individual basis, depending on the child's actions and the parents' concerns.
"Every situation is a little bit different," Earp said.
He said Quapaw schools don't use swatting often, but in some cases it seems to help, and he said he thinks it's good that the district has the option to paddle.
"If it was totally bad, none of us would have it," Earp said.
"I think that corporal punishment and spanking in the schools is completely appropriate," said Michael Banes, a Carthage resident. "I think that there should be an established policy and established boundaries, and I think that if everyone is on the same page, then I think certainly we can spank children in the schools when those boundaries are set."
Most area school districts allow for the practice under certain guidelines, such as making sure other forms of punishment have been tried. When it is used, depending on the district, it is done by the choice of either the parent or the student, or both, and usually inflicted with a wooden paddle.
Stephen Gollhofer, principal at Webb City High School, said at the high school both the students and the parents have to choose swats before they are administered. He said students will choose three swats instead of a three-hour detention or suspension, so they can get their discipline over with quickly.
"If we see that it's not doing something to correct behavior, then we do something else," Gollhofer said. "We're not giving swats just to give swats."
The Webb City school district reported 279 incidents of corporal punishment last year.
Practice and policy
McDonald County High School Principal Steve Buckingham said administrators give no more than three swats and the punishment is always given at least a day after the offense.
"It's always preceded by a letter home in which the parents are given their options," Buckingham said. "It's never applied in anger and always given with the parents' consent."
Paula Bliesath is an English teacher at Commerce (Okla.) High School. She said she also had some students choose swats over detention. The Commerce school district reported administering 52 paddlings last year. She said she believes in paddling because teachers and administrators can get a student's attention right away with a couple of swats.
"I don't think suspending them is punishment," Bliesath said. "Suspension is just a day out of school. That's what they want."
Commerce policy allows for corporal punishment from grades K-12, but parents can choose not to let their child be spanked.
Doug Domer, assistant superintendent of Joplin schools, said corporal punishment is allowed in Joplin schools, but it is rarely used. Domer oversees discipline at the schools and said no student has been spanked this year or last year.
Ken Jones, superintendent of Columbus Unified School District, said spanking is only used as a last resort. He said swatting occurs "very infrequently" and only after educators have exhausted all other disciplinary options.
"I don't recall the last time we utilized corporal punishment," Jones said.
No place in school
Spanking is banned in Pittsburg, Kan., schools.
Mike Phiopot, Pittsburg High School principal, said he thinks there are ways to change behavior other than corporal punishment.
"I don't believe it has any place in public schools," Phiopot said. "I've never had reason enough to hit a kid or paddle a kid to solve an issue."
When it comes to discipline at the high school, Phiopot either deprives students of privileges or takes away personal time with detention.
Cindy Machado, principal at Wilson Elementary in Miami, Okla., said she's had parents request their child be spanked after they cause trouble. However, Machado said she prefers to have the parents come to the school and paddle their own children if they wish.
"I raised three boys, and I don't have any trouble swatting my own kids," Machado said. "But, I don't want to be swatting somebody else's kids."
See Spanking in schools: a debate resolved, By Jordan Riak, April 24, 2005
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