Policy change a good route on corporal punishment ban

Those who are working to ban the use of corporal punishment in the Public Schools of Robeson County were confident going into Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Education, believing they had identified six out of the 11 members who would raise their hand to end this sanctioned use of violence in our schools.

But members of Advocates for a Better Education, a group leading this effort, might have erred in showing their hand in advance as it enabled those who support the use of corporal punishment to rally a defense. School board members, in what might be seen as a cowardly move but we believe was prudent, decided against a vote, and instead opted to address the issue as the system works toward a comprehensive update of all its policies, which has not been done in too long.

Meanwhile, and this is the hard part, the option to spank a child remains in all of our schools.

Most schools in Robeson County don’t exercise that option, meaning a child’s zip code could be a determining factor. Pause and consider how ridiculous that is.

Although most don’t want to believe it could happen, it is a fact that some of our children who suffer disabilities have suffered this abuse — and that is what it is. We wonder what any educator would believe could be gained by inflicting pain on a child unable to understand what is happening. Can we not at least agree that this is unforgivable?

We understand that corporal punishment is ingrained in our culture, but we cannot understand why any parent would give permission to an educator to strike his or her child. It is more confusing why any educator, given today’s litigious society, would want to administer that punishment.

Robeson County is one of only two schools in the state that continue to allow corporal punishment, but it is done sparingly in Graham County, giving us this dubious distinction: About 90 percent of the paddlings in the schools in this state are administered in Robeson County, and close to all of those paddled are minority children, the overwhelming majority of them being American Indian.

It is a horrible look.

We could somewhat understand the defense of corporal punishment if there were a shred of evidence that its use results in positive outcomes. No study has found that, and in fact the evidence is growing that when children are subjected to such violence, they are more likely to use violence themselves as an adult.

Perhaps it is a factor, even if small, in the violence in our county that ranks us No. 1 in the state.

The Advocates for a Better Education immediately called on Raleigh to pass legislation banning corporal punishment in the state. Rep. Charles Graham, a former educator who opposes its use, stands ready to take that baton but was clear he would prefer the local school board to make the call.

Sadly, corporal punishment — and not things that matter, such as low-performing schools, school buildings that are falling apart, and classes without books and adequate supplies — is what energizes too many in this county, and a vote in the wrong direction might be costly on Election Day. But what is leadership about if not leading?

Most likely Superintendent Shanita Wooten will provide the full board a new set of policies that no longer provides for the use of corporal punishment for an up-or-down vote.

Let’s get that done without undue delay.