08/10/10 — Board eyes changes in spanking policy, sex ed

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Board eyes changes in spanking policy, sex ed

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 10, 2010 1:46 PM

The Board of Education passed a spate of policies Monday night, but not before two sparked a debate -- over abolishing corporal punishment and new comprehensive sex education instruction.

Board member John P. Grantham said he might be the only one, but he was "totally opposed" to removal of corporal punishment. The current policy gave schools and principals the authority to administer it, especially on occasions when parents have signed off on it.

"I don't think we should take that option away," he said. "Some kids, it's effective more than (any other way to get their attention). If you have their parents sign a waiver that it's OK to administer, I think it's an option that should be left up to the parents and schools rather than up to us."

Policy 4300B, "Corporal Punishment/Reasonable Force for Grades K-8," spelled out how "reasonable force shall not include striking with the fists or heel of the hand, kicking, slapping or any other extreme measures" but "following a conscious effort to provide alternatives," methods of corporal punishment were allowed.

"I would like to express why I'm for it. When I was growing up, my parents spanked me," said board member Dave Thomas, who said he had also used the disciplinary measure on occasion with his own children. "But I don't think that's a teacher or an administrator's responsibility. I think that the parents at home ought to have that responsibility ... not school personnel."

Board member Thelma Smith said she didn't feel there had been much widespread use of corporal punishment locally, except in rare instances. Wayne County, she cited, is one of 26, out of 115 school systems, that still has the policy.

"I believe the principals were given an opportunity to say how they felt about it," she said. "I don't think it's a practice that's really embraced by that many people. I certainly would like that taken out. Let parents spank their own children."

Board member Eddie Radford also favored removing the policy.

"Years ago, punishment in school was used quite a bit but (that's changed) -- lawsuits, things we see on TV, we have to be very careful," he said. "Administrators or teachers take a large burden on themselves. I think it's the parents' responsibility."

"I will just say that certainly I respect the opinion of individual board members but it's something that's used in a limited way at the school level," Superinten-dent Dr. Steven Taylor said. "I think given that and how it's being used across the state school system, it's appropriate to remove it."

Grantham was the dissenting vote against removing the policy.

The other policy not passed during session -- removed and slated to be re-introduced at the September meeting -- dealt with the state-mandated comprehensive health education program.

Part of the debate was over wordage that appeared to have been deleted from the original policy.

Grantham questioned why a portion of Policy 3540 about program instruction referencing "the benefits of sexual abstinence until marriage" was being removed.

"Let me make mention that this is a policy that's been handed down to us by the legislation," board Chairman Rick Pridgen said. "It was actually on the news yesterday, so it's been handed down in this form to all school systems."

Allison Pridgen, director of student support services, explained that the comprehensive health education program, recommended by the state school boards' association, was mandated for all school systems in the state to follow. As the law reads, she said, parents have the option to choose their child receive "abstinence only" curriculum or the comprehensive education.

"I think the public should know parents have a choice," Thomas said. "You can still have the basic abstinence until marriage or you can choose this (comprehensive) one."

While the verbiage may have been removed from one reference in the policy, Mrs. Pridgen pointed out, it was included in a second reference.

"The question is, do we have the authority to pull this since it's been passed down to us?" Pridgen said.

The board opted to pull the policy and study the matter further, bringing it back for a vote at the next meeting.