LAKELAND — By a vote of 3-2, the Lanier County Board of Education adopted a policy designed to maintain proper control and discipline Monday.
Chairman Philip Connell, Heath Wolford, and Bob Rice voted in favor of reinstating the use of corporal punishment in the Lanier County School System. Board members Erlish Locklear and Randy Sirmans voted against it.
“Since no student has the right to interfere in any way with his fellow classmates’ right to learn, it is expected that each student will observe a code of personal conduct which will in no way interfere with the educational opportunities of his classmates,” the policy, which becomes effective with the 2005-06 school year, states. “The principal and faculty will enforce rules that are necessary for the efficient operation of the school.”
It was Wolford who called for the reinstatement of corporal punishment in the Lanier County School System. Connell said the school system previously operated under a similar policy, which was ended about 19 years ago.
“Why it was taken out, I don’t know,” he said. “What I do know is that we have parents who want it back.”
As required by Official Code of Georgia Annotated Section 20-2-731, the Lanier County School System’s proposed policy mandates that the corporal punishment shall not be excessive or unduly severe or used as a first line of punishment for misbehavior unless the pupil was informed beforehand. Georgia law also states that corporal punishment must be administered in the presence of a principal, assistant principal or designee and that the individual who administered the corporal punishment must provide the child’s parent, upon request, a written explanation of the reasons for the punishment and the name of the official present.
According to the policy, “Corporal punishment shall not be administered to a child whose parents or legal guardian ... submit a statement to the principal of the school requesting that the use of corporal punishment not be used on their child or a statement from a medical doctor licensed in Georgia stating that corporal punishment is detrimental to the child’s mental or emotional stability within 10 days of enrollment.”
Lanier County School System Superintendent Eloise Sorrell said she does not personally agree with the use of corporal punishment as a form of discipline. She said a child’s misbehavior should be viewed as an opportunity to teach him or her an acceptable alternative.
“It’s better to teach students how to think about the choices they make relating to their behavior,” she said. “Teaching students to think through their actions and stressing responsible behavior is very effective.”
Connell said corporal punishment is a solution to discipline problems with children throughout the United States. He said it’s something many parents use in their own homes — and even when called to the school for conference — to control their child’s behavior.
“About 80 percent of Lanier County’s parents have asked that corporal punishment be reinstated,” he said. “The board’s actions are in direct response to their request.”
Connell said the use of corporal punishment will prevent students from missing classroom instruction time. He said it will provide an opportunity for the matter to be addressed quickly, as opposed to sending the student to in-school suspension or time-out.
“We need students in their classrooms as much as possible,” he added. “That’s the whole issue. We are not doing these children any justice by removing them from the classrooms.”
To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call (229) 244-3400, ext. 255.
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