NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Tennessee is fourth in the nation for use of corporal punishment and spanking is still allowed in more than 100 school districts across the state. For the first time in Cumberland County's history a school board member is questioning the policy and even trying to end spanking in a system that embraces it.
For parents in Cumberland County if a specific form is not filled out and turned in, school officials automatically assume their child can be spanked in school.
"It is much more convenient for the school system to say we are going to paddle the child unless you ask us not to," said Toni Roberts with the Tennesseans for Non-Violent Discipline.
It's a slight change for parents who want to opt out of corporal punishment. School Board Member Charles Tollett says it may just the beginning of something bigger.
"I think the bigger issue is whether we are going to have corporal punishment at all in public schools," he said.
Tolett is doing something no board member in Cumberland County has ever done before: Question the system's paddling policy.
"We have out a lot emphasis into anti bullying and anti-violence making school a kinder gentler place. I think our persuasion would be enhanced if we practiced some of this stuff that we talk about," said Tolett.
Tollett cited the school system's own policy, to create a "safe, secure and welcoming environment"
Advocates say getting paddled by the principal is a huge contradiction.
"Paddling if nothing else is violent it creates a negative atmosphere in the school children are afraid and fearful of their teachers in the school," sid Tolett.
Administrators say it's a last resort, but records show the paddle was pulled out 451 times last year in Cumberland County even more than the year before
According to these disciplinary records many of the students being paddled are the same ones just getting it multiple times throughout the year in fact we found one student paddled different times for not completing his class work
"If this is such a wonderful measure the more use of it we make the less we would need it in the future that would be a measure if something's effective wouldn't it," asked Tolett.
Tollett knows it's going to be an uphill battle in a southern, rural community where paddling is praised as discipline.
Wednesday, May 22 2013 12:04 AM EDT2013-05-22 04:04:23 GMT
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