Schools make close call to end paddling, bigger things await

And then there was one.

With the split decision on Tuesday night by the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County to ban the use of corporal punishment in the schools as a last-resort form of discipline, Graham inherits the distinction, we believe dubious, of being the only county in North Carolina where an educator can legally spank a misbehaving student.

The school board, after months of debate, voted 6-5 to eliminate the use of corporal punishment, with Chairman Mike Smith casting a courageous tie-breaking vote.

The vote came after about six parents with children at Prospect Elementary School spoke passionately in favor of its use, arguing it’s a parent’s choice, it’s an effective form of punishment, and, interestingly, it’s used infrequently. The decline in its use, however, is a stronger argument in favor of its elimination as it is clear that the overwhelming number of local educators don’t use it, perhaps believing it’s ineffective, worried about potential liability or both.

Anyone who believes a parent’s signature is an effective prophylactic against a lawsuit should the worst happen is naive when it comes to today’s legal system. Even if the use of corporal punishment were effective, and we don’t think it is when compared with other forms of discipline, the risks greatly outweigh any benefits.

But back to the Prospect parents. While we disagree with their position, we were impressed not only by their appearance, but how they articulated their positions. Their love of their children was evident, as well as for Prospect Elementary School, which enjoys tremendous community support, helping to explain why its students achieve.

We have argued against corporal punishment based on a myriad of reasons, including the terrible optic that a high percentage of students who are spanked in North Carolina are American Indian — more precisely, Lumbee. While it is a good example of a misleading statistic, Google churns it up easily, and it does nothing to advance this county’s slow slog into the 21st century.’

Said simpler, it’s a bad look.

So what has been lost?

Given it’s infrequent use, not much, at least by that metric.

And no, no one has taken away a parent’s right to discipline their child with the use of a paddle. That can still be done at home.

One board member worried that the board was taking away one form of discipline without providing another, as if the list of other forms of discipline were short. It isn’t; there are plenty of others without the potential of physical harm.

The implication is, that without the use of corporal punishment somehow schools will become lawless, and run by the students, not the educators. So are we to believe that is the case in all our county schools except Prospect Elementary, the only one using corporal punishment? And all the schools in North Carolina except those in Robeson and Graham? And the vast majority of schools across this country, where corporal punishment is either not an option or is not used?

Tuesday’s vote presumably ends a conversation that didn’t begin in April, but resurfaced at that time. Spanking has been a topic for the school board for years, and promised to remain so as long as the rod was not spared.

We hope that this frees up time for the board to talk about other matters, such as building new schools, providing textbooks to children, improving academic performance, and lowering the embarrassing number of low-performing schools. The board as well as administrators and teachers would benefit mightily in those pursuits if more parents would enlist with the same passion as those Prospect parents did on Tuesday as they stood tall for something they strongly believe in.