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Area schools retain policies for corporal punishment

Only Hall County still paddles, but with parents' permission

POSTED: December 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.

If you think that the days of children being paddled at school disappeared with saddle shoes and poodle skirts, you may be surprised to learn that many areas school systems still have policies allowing corporal punishment, though most don't enforce the policy.

Several surrounding schools systems, including the Hall County and Jackson County systems, have policies that allow the use of corporal punishment as an acceptable form of punishment for students.

However, the form of corporal punishment that is used in at least one of those school systems doesn't fall under the traditional definition of physical punishment.

"We don't allow physical hitting of any kind in our schools, and that includes paddling," said Shannon Adams, the Jackson County School System superintendent.

Although the school system has a policy outlining the use of corporal punishment, it did not have any instances of the practice being used last school year. In July 2004, the Jackson County School System updated its policy on corporal punishment at the suggestion of its legal representation, Adams said.

"At the advice of our attorney, we left the policy in our manual and gave direction about how corporal punishment can be used," he said. "We don't allow hitting, but in our school system corporal punishment can be some type of physical punishment, like running laps around the football field."

At the end of each school year, every school system in Georgia is required to compile an annual disciplinary report and submit it to the state Department of Education. In the report, schools are required to document the number of times each type of punishment was used within the school system.

The various types of punishment include corporal punishment, in-school suspension, expulsion and assignment to an alternative school.

Of the four local systems that have policies allowing the use of corporal punishment -- Jackson County, Hall County, Dawson County and White County -- Hall County was the only system to have any reported uses of the practice.

According to the state's annual disciplinary report, there were seven uses of corporal punishment in the Hall County school system last school year.

While Jackson County uses alternate forms of corporal punishment, Hall County sticks to a more traditional approach.

"The only corporal punishment we use is paddling," said Gary Stewart, Hall County school system's executive director of administrative services. "It's not a policy, but it is our policy to call parents to get permission before a child is paddled."

Although corporal punishment is allowed in school systems, all local policies state that the practice is not to be used as the first line of punishment.

"We very rarely use corporal punishment, but sometimes parents have requested that we try that method first," Stewart said.

Even though corporal punishment was used seven times last year in Hall County, other forms of punishment were used much more often. For example, in-school suspension was used more than 6,000 times during the 2007-2008 school year.

In Jackson County, where corporal punishment was not used at all last year, there were nearly 2,000 instances when in-school suspension was used. In Dawson County, in-school suspension was used 200 times, while the practice was used 19 times in the White County School System.

Although parents have the right to object to their child being paddled, students can also refuse the punishment, Stewart says.

"If a student refuses, that ends it right there," he said.

Georgia laws outline when and how corporal punishment may be used in schools.

"The corporal punishment shall not be excessive or unduly severe," reads Georgia code 20-2-731.

"Corporal punishment must be administered in the presence of a principal or assistant principal or (their designee). Corporal punishment shall never be used as a first line of punishment for misbehavior unless the pupil was informed beforehand that specific misbehavior could occasion its use."



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