LUMBERTON — Parents have a right to require school personnel to physically punish their children, a parent told the Public Schools of Robeson County Board of Education this past week.
“Allow me the choice,” said Landon Moore, a parent of two children at Prospect School. “It is my parental right to choose how my children are disciplined.”
Opponents of corporal punishment, some of whom are also parents at Prospect School, were in the audience during Tuesday’s meeting. They plan to continue their push to end the outdated practice, according to Jessica Lowery Clark, one of the leaders of a group called Advocates for a Better Education that is working to ban corporal punishment.
The war of words over corporal punishment continued without resolution at the school board’s monthly meeting. Robeson County is one of two school districts in North Carolina to carry on the tradition of paddling students, and Prospect is the only local school to employ the policy as a matter of routine.
The school board had been promised a decision before the start of the school year, but it was not on Tuesday’ agenda. Comments from Moore apparently jarred the school board’s memory.
Board member Charles Bullard was the first to speak up, and he spoke loud and clear.
“This is crazy,” Bullard said. “The best school in the county is doing it.
“People from outside are sticking their noses in where it does not belong,” he said. “Leave it alone.”
Bullard had vocal support from board member Dwayne Smith.
“If I cannot be in charge of disciplining my child, then what?” Smith said. “Think hard and heavy before taking away the rights of parents.”
School board member Brenda Fairley-Ferebee, who has pushed to end corporal punishment, seemed astonished by the logic. There is no such right to require someone else to hit your child, she said.
“We’re not talking about taking away parents’ rights,” Fairley-Ferebee said. “It’s about what we do to discipline children.”
School board member Steve Martin said he agreed with Bullard and offered to make a motion. Only five of the required eight votes needed to put the matter on the agenda materialized.
But it appears a decision will be forthcoming at the Aug. 14 meeting — or sooner. Board Chairman Mike Smith said he is not sure which way the vote will go.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a decision,” Smith said. “It may be a five-five vote.
“We promised to have a decision before school started. We may take it up at our retreat (on Aug. 4).”
In the meantime, Clark and Beth Jacobs Hunt and their anti-paddling group will continue to lobby the board to end corporal punishment.
“We’ve been asking for a decision, and we have not gotten a response,” Clark said. “We plan to continue to reach out to board members and answer any questions they may have.
“I am not sure how many (board members) will return our calls. We will be at the meeting on Aug. 14.”