Student paddling protested
By Venita Jenkins, Staff writer, Fayetteville Observer, August 13, 2008
and Public testimony the school board didn't want to hear

LUMBERTON — A national organization criticized the Robeson County School Board on Tuesday night for not banning corporal punishment in public schools after numerous requests.

A representative from the national organization, The Hitting Stops Here!, also accused school officials of ignoring them.

“Why are you avoiding this issue?” asked Paula Flowe, the director of The Hitting Stops Here! “Why do you want to hit kids?”
PHOTO: Venita Jenkins Paula Flowe, Director of The Hitting Stops Here! addresses the Robeson County School Board on Tuesday night.

Flowe and four other speakers — including two children — addressed the board about the issue during the public comment session of the meeting. The group called on the board to form a committee to look at alternative ways to discipline children and end paddling in schools.

Flowe told the board the group is planning a boycott in order to be heard.

“We have enough parents that are behind us,” she said. “We don’t want to have a boycott but we will.”

During her presentation to the board, Flowe picked up a poster with an image of a child’s bruised buttocks. She said the fact that children are injured to such a degree without legal recourse is a major problem.

“Some of you might say I was whipped and I turned out all right,” she said. “I don’t know how right you are if you continue to allow children to be beaten and there is no law that protects them. There is not one person in here who would bend over, grab their ankles and posture their behinds so someone can paddle them.
Paula Flowe: "The only people who are paid to paddle someone’s behind are porn stars, prostitutes and teachers."

“The only people who are paid to paddle someone’s behind are porn stars, prostitutes and teachers.”

A case involving a Rowland Middle School student caught the organization’s attention. In September 2005, Tina Jones claimed a teacher used excessive force after her son, who was 12 at the time, got in trouble at school. The seventh-grader had bruises on his buttocks.

Jones filed a complaint with the school board, and it issued a moratorium on the use of corporal punishment a month later so officials could review the school system’s policy and determine whether its use should continue. The ban was lifted a few weeks later.

The Robeson County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the case and determined that the teacher did not intentionally harm the child and that the parent gave permission to use corporal punishment.

The group held demonstrations earlier this year calling on school officials to end corporal punishment in public schools. The group protested at several schools in March against corporal punishment. Organizers said at that time they wanted Robeson County to be the starting point of a statewide ban on corporal punishment. Once the board agreed to end corporal punishment, the group would go to another county to protest.

North Carolina is one of 21 states that allows corporal punishment in its public schools. It is left to the discretion of each individual school system whether to receive permission from parents or guardians.

In May, Flowe requested that the board form a committee consisting of individuals for and against corporal punishment, teachers and parents. That committee will discuss the pros and cons of the use of paddling in school and will obtain feedback from the community.

School officials met with Flowe and other parents on two occasions said Superintendent Johnny Hunt after the meeting. He said he would be willing to meet with the group again.

“In a public meeting, they bring up specific situations that I can not discuss,” he said. “I told them that, and I told them that I am here to listen. I will be willing to listen. I have already met with them for four hours, but I will meet with them again.”

Schools use corporal punishment as a last resort, he said, and most schools have a form that is sent home to parents to sign off if they want corporal punishment to be administered or not.

Board chairman Robert Deese said the group would best serve children if they lobby the General Assembly to ban corporal punishment.

“Not only the Robeson County children would benefit but the whole state would benefit if they could get it through the General Assembly,” Deese said. “What we do is follow the law. And the law says we have a choice and we offer choice. The parents have the choice whether their child is spanked. It is not forced on the parents.”

The group and the national organization, Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education, have started a petition asking legislators to pass a bill banning corporal punishment. A bill failed in the General Assembly in May 2007.

Flowe told the board several parents have collected about 1,000 signatures calling for the ban of corporal punishment and for the schools to use positive discipline methods.

Renee Stackhouse, a Robeson County resident and parent, said she supports a ban on corporal punishment.

“We strongly believe if corporal punishment is banned from our schools, our children would be better served by an administrative staff of teachers and administrators that do not have to resort to violence and abuse to achieve the goal of teaching our children,” she said.

Staff writer Venita Jenkins can be reached at or (910) 738-9158.

Public testimony the school board didn't want to hear

Student's statement   Teachers should not be able to hit students. We go to school to learn to respect our friends and elders so we can get along in society. If our teacher hits us how will we learn these things? We don’t like to be beaten. We could learn by having someone talk to us just like you would want. When you hit us kids, you make us build up resentment and that makes us want to act out irrationally by doing vandalism and disrespecting others. And mostly you want to beat up on black boys like me which oftentimes leads us to jail because you make us feel worthless from such hideous treatment. When you use violence to teach us, we learn then to beat our kids. When’s the violence ever going to end?

Parent's statement #1   Hitting children is violence, no matter where it occurs, what it is called or how it is justified. Children learn violence mainly by example, especially from people they depend upon, and so it should come as no surprise that many abused children becoming violent delinquents and criminals and, eventually, abusers of their own children.

This cycle of violence must be stopped and schools have a major responsibility to help. When school personnel are allowed to hit kids, they are teaching violence and perpetuating the cycle of violence. Children who witness or experience physical punishment are mainly receiving the message that it’s OK to hit when you’re frustrated and you don’t know what else to do.

School personnel, especially teachers, have psychologically powerful relationships with children. Like parents, teachers’ acceptance or rejection greatly influence how children feel about themselves, and how they behave. Children who feel accepted operate with a sense of self-worth and usually in very positive ways; children who feel rejected often act in disruptive, disrespectful and violent ways. They have learned to feel and behave that way because the important adults in their lives have taught them to do so.

When schools resort to corporal punishment, they are imposing discipline with degradation rather than dignity. And not only are they perpetuating violence, but they are also actually engaging in behavior that they are otherwise legally required to report to the authorities: When a child comes to school displaying bruises, school personnel must report this to the appropriate child-protective agency. However, physical punishment of students by their teachers makes those very same bruises. What kind of message are schools sending to children, and to the general public, when they act as if the laws against child abuse apply to others but not to them?

The school is the only institution in our society in which such punishment is still allowed, despite the complete lack of evidence that it does anything to enhance learning. The time to ban paddling is now. There’s no excuse for further delay.

Parent's statement #2   You may have heard of Dr. Alvin Poussaint. He is a Professor Psychiatry at Harvard University and the Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston. He is known to many Americans for his work on the Cosby Show. In 2002, Dr. Poussaint, and several other well-known African American leaders, called on the Memphis City School Board to ban corporal punishment. I'd like to read to you part of what he told the Board. It applies equally here in North Carolina. He said, “In 2003-04, 13,804 students were paddled almost 30,000 times in the Memphis City Schools. They were overwhelmingly African American students and overwhelmingly males. This is outrageous and must stop. African American students are being hit at 2-5 times the rate of other children. Corporal punishment does not prevent misbehavior. The same kids are hit over and over. The more children are hit, the more likely they are to be aggressive and violent. It is a factor in creating violence in our communities. Members of the School Board have an opportunity to correct an injustice and to teach children that the way to solve problems does not involve violence by adults,” Prominent African American leaders who have joined Dr. Poussaint in asking all school boards and all state legislatures to ban school corporal punishment immediately include the following: Julian Bond, Chairman of the Board of NAACP Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO of NAACP Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr., Founder and President of PUSH/EXCEL Marc Morial , President, CEO of the Urban League and Dr. Winston Price, President of the National Medical Association. Professor Poussaint was unable to attend this meeting tonight and deliver the nohitting message. But we're here -- we, the parents. And we have exactly the same message: STOP THE HITTING! STOP IT NOW!

Parent's statement #3  I think it's time that our district set clear standards for the treatment of schoolchildren. Those standards should be based on the best, modern teaching practices which clearly do not include smacking a child with a wooden weapon.

Yes, I said, "weapon." I like honest language, so I call it what it is: a weapon. If you think I'm exaggerating, just try carrying one in your hand while you are boarding a plane. You'll have a lot of explaining to do. Weapons have no place in schools, and competent, trained educators don't need them. There is not one teachers' college anywhere in this state that teaches the right way to hit children. They don't teach it because there is no right way.

The only thing children learn from mistreatment is to wait until it's their turn to dish it out. That's the kind of early training that makes our streets dangerous and keeps our prisons and domestic violence shelters full to capacity. I send my children to school to be exposed to better models and learn better ways. Thank you for listening.

Parent's statement #4   Most people have at least a vague understanding of the meaning of the term "spanking fetish," but most people don't have any idea of what causes the problem. Since we are talking about corporal punishment in school -- specifically smacking students' buttocks -- the following quote from professor David Bakan, who taught in the Department of Psychology at York University, will be interesting to you. This is what he said in 1971 in his book, "Slaughter of the Innocents":

“...The buttocks are the locus for the induction of pain in a child. We are familiar with the argument that it is a safe ‘locus’ for spanking. However, the anal region is also the major erotic region at precisely the time the child is likely to be beaten there. Thus it is aptly chosen to achieve the result of deranged sexuality in adulthood...”

If you are skeptical about Dr. Bakan's theory, here's a test you can do. Type the word "spanking" in a Google search on your computer and see what you get. But be sure you do this after the kids have gone to bed. You wouldn't want them accidentally seeing what's on the computer screen. That stuff is definitely not good for children. But I'll tell you something that's even worse: sending them to a school where they are exposed to the real thing.

In closing, I'd like to invite the Board to put corporal punishment to a vote tonight. Do the right thing; stop it now. You know enough about it already. But if you feel you need more time, call a moratorium on the practice and set a date for a public meeting ASAP to discuss and resolve the issue. I'll be there, along with many others. We want the paddles gone from our schools. Gone for good!

Parent's statement #5   A few days ago, I was working with a group of local parents. We had gathered to discuss our campaign against paddling. Something amazing came out of that meeting. Every person in the room had a story to tell -- an ugly story about paddling. It was either something that had happened to them, or something they had witnessed, or something that happened to their child. The impression I got from the those parents is that memories associated with corporal punishment are like a poison that people can never get out of their system. That's not what school should be all about.

I believe that school should be the source of rich, positive experiences. It should be a place that welcomes children and make them feel safe and wanted. Teachers should model the kind of behavior they expect because when children are treated well, they behave better and learn better. The old adage, "You get what you give," was never more true than in the teaching profession.

Is anybody surprised that schools that do the most paddling also have the highest drop out rates? I know I wouldn't hang around a place where I could be beaten. Neither would you.

I've said enough. You know exactly what I am talking about, and you know exactly what to do about it.

Parent's statement #6   These are my concerns: Young people learn enough about violence without having more lessons in it at school. Children are especially vulnerable to emotional and physical harm. Children are also fragile. When the adult-to-child connection breaks, behavior can go off-track. (People don’t think well when they are hurting.) It is important to know that children need the most love, patience and attention when they act the least deserving of it.

As a white male, I experience being saturated in a culture of cruelty – a racist culture. I believe it is necessary to acknowledge this fact and then join together as brothers and sisters to interrupt all hurtful behaviors.

Violence begets violence. What goes around comes around. I believe we are all victims of racism and bigotry and must do all that is in our power not to perpetuate that oppression. All people have a fundamental right to be free of the threat of coercion including torture, pain, and violence at home and at school. If we were to purposely design a culture with the goal of producing violent people, we would create it exactly like the culture in which we grow up.

There are not bad children – only children whose behavior has gone off track because they have lost connections with others and they can’t think clearly. The belief that children are bad has done more harm than any other belief invented by humanity. It is one of the main reasons the world is in such a mess. I believe we adults are the ones who might need a “time out” to learn alternatives to the addiction of threatening and hitting so we can build closer relationships with our children.

I believe racism has contributed to this situation:

  1. Hitting and violence unfairly targets the poor, minorities, low achieving students, particularly boys, and is associated with higher rates of vandalism.
  2. Black children and male children are much more likely to be hit at home and in school, and the corporal punishment of boys tends to be more severe.
  3. Corporal Punishment is linked with other negative outcomes including increased rates of aggression, delinquency, profound emotional distress issues, and problems in relationships.
  4. People become violent when they have been traumatized, have unmet needs, and have not had opportunities to heal from these experiences in a loving environment.
  5. Violence and abuse, including emotional abuse, can cause permanent learning difficulties.
Ending corporal punishment at school sends a strong message to the rest of the community that violence is not acceptable, and that we must build children up, not tear them down.
NOTICE: If you are a parent of a schoolchild attending school in a paddling district, or if you are a concerned citizen wishing to express your disapproval of corporal punishment, feel free to use any of the above statements in any way that helps. Take them whole or cut and paste your favorite parts to create something new. No attribution needed.


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