CORPORAL PUNISHMENT -- Union schools prohibit paddling; Narrowly passed, formal ban follows 2 years of heated debate
By Emily S. Achenbaum,, Charlotte Observer, January 3, 2007

MONROE - The Union County Board of Education voted Tuesday night to ban corporal punishment in the district's schools.

In a 6-3 vote for a ban, the nine-member board barely achieved the supermajority vote needed to change the current policy allowing the punishment.

The vote appears to end an issue that brought heated debates and uncomfortable attention to Union for two years. However, the board still has to put its ban in writing, and the wording wasn't discussed Tuesday night.

In 2004, Union was one of the few districts in the Charlotte region still using paddling as a punishment. Up to then, corporal punishment had never been challenged by Union parents, many of whom welcomed it as a discipline choice, school officials said.

But then some parents relatively new to the school system said they were stunned to see the punishment in student handbooks.

Those parents, led by mother Peggy Dean, called the punishment abusive, saying it teaches children that hitting is acceptable. The parents' activism prompted the school board to examine its policy. But the board couldn't agree on whether to get rid of the policy or revise it.

While the punishment remained an option in student handbooks, use of the punishment stopped in 2004. Then-Superintendent Jerry Thomas told the board he'd entered an agreement with the county's principals not to use the punishment. Current Superintendent Ed Davis, hired in 2005, has continued that agreement.

For nearly two years, the issue stayed untouched. Then last week, board Chairman Dean Arp said he would bring the policy before the board for discussion. Arp said he hoped the board -- with three new members joining after November's election -- would now be able to come to a consensus. Arp favors corporal punishment if parents approve it for their individual child.

Davis urged the board to act quickly, telling them that bigger issues, such as crowding and school construction, faced the district.

"Let's be careful not to let this be a major distraction," Davis said. In 2004 and early 2005, the board members spent months discussing corporal punishment. Davis said he supported the ban.

Voting against the ban were Arp, John Crowder and Richard Weiner. Voting for the ban were board vice-chair John Collins, Sharon Gallagher, Carolyn Lowder, Kimberly Morrison-Hansley, John Parker and Kim Rogers.

The board's policy committee will now draft and submit proposed wording of the ban. The entire board, in a future meeting, will then vote on that wording.

Across the Nation
Twenty-eight states have banned corporal punishment. Both Carolinas allow it. In states where it's permitted, school districts can decide at the local level whether to use it. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools banned corporal punishment more than a decade ago.

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