An open letter to the Desoto County parent and school board community
By Peggy Dean
[Mississippi] Desoto County Tribune, August 24, 2006

In Section 43-21-105 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, child abuse is clearly defined and parents are clearly told what they are not allowed to do when utilizing corporal punishment.

"It is important to know that although parents, guardians and custodians are legally allowed to utilize corporal punishment, they are not allowed to cause bruises, marks, or other injuries to children when utilizing corporal punishment. Any evidence of such will constitute abuse by the Mississippi Department of Human Services."

The Desoto County Board of Education has spoken loud and clear. Despite the fact that one of its teachers picked up a wooden paddle and struck multiple students, and the fact that the resulting bruises on some students met the criteria for child abuse, the district calls their corporal punishment policy "good and fair for all concerned", and tells the public that they "shouldn't expect any changes in the policy". This, after more than six months of dragging its heels and pretending to form a committee to research the topic of corporal punishment. This, despite the fact that the District has been generously provided with factual data about the dangers of this outdated, ineffective discipline technique.

Parents, now that you know that the Desoto County Board of Education is content with teachers hitting children and bruising them, I would say that anyone who consents to the use of corporal punishment is giving permission for another adult to abuse his or her child. That is neglect and abuse.

The sad thing about all of this is that a parent could be investigated for failing to protect his or her child, but the teachers who are allowed to abuse children only answer to the District. A District who indeed is turning a blind eye to child abuse, and is not accountable to anyone. Teachers are also mandated reporters of abuse, and are required by law to report parents who leave marks on children. This is crazy and unfair to all involved. How can any teacher in the system know what to do with an abused child who comes to them for help, when the district applauds actions that cause abuse?

I have one question for the Desoto County Board of Education and the so called "committee" that has not met to discuss corporal punishment. How is your corporal punishment policy "good and fair for all concerned " when it allows teachers to hit children and leave bruises that constitute child abuse as defined by the Mississippi Department of Human Services? It is more than apparent that you will continue to allow the educated sector to paddle students. At least have the courage to take a stance against one of your own when a child is bruised and injured. You are not above the law.

The community needs to wake up and stop this district from abusing children. They certainly have no intention of stopping themselves.

Peggy Dean, Member Board of Directors, PTAVE
Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education,
Waxhaw, NC 28173

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