Robeson County sits atop another list, but whether it’s a good or bad thing depends on the eye of the beholder.
According to the Associated Press, Robeson County led the state in the number of instances of students being disciplined with a paddle during the 2009-2010 school year, which was the first time that school systems were required to provide information on corporal punishment to the state. During that school year, 290 times county educators decided not to spare the rod; in the state, corporal punishment was used 1,160 times, meaning this county accounted for exactly 25 percent of the spankings.
That might be surprising, but is less so when other factors are considered, primarily that fewer than 20 school systems out of the state’s 115 allow corporal punishment, and the number of schools in our county, 42, dwarfs most counties.
The AP story was about a bill that was approved in the Senate this week in a 50-0 vote that would forbid spanking in schools without the prior consent of the parents or guardian of the offending student. North Carolina is one of only 19 states that allow corporal punishment, and the Senate bill would provide for some consistency throughout the state’s school systems that still use paddling to maintain discipline.
Since Robeson County leads the state in the use of corporal punishment, some might be surprised that the policy of the Public Schools of Robeson County is what the Senate bill seeks. Locally, parents or guardians at the beginning of the year sign a slip of paper that allows for a child to be paddled, or forbids that from happening. The local policy — as well as current state law — says the child cannot be spanked in the presence of other students, the punishment must be done by a teacher or principal, and there has to be a witness.
We prefer a Senate bill that simply outlaws corporal punishment as a discipline tool in our schools — and for a simple reason that doesn’t explore the mixed message that is sent with what is a violent act. In today’s litigious society, paddling simply isn’t worth the risk. That’s a lesson the Public Schools of Robeson County has already been taught.
We understand that teachers today face challenges unlike those of generations past when it comes to discipline, and don’t deny the short-term utility of paddling toward restoring order. But there will always be a better alternative to the risk of paddling a student — sending the child home through suspension or expulsion, depending on the severity of the offense.
The option of paddling is one educators would be better off without.