Corporal punishment still relevant in AR schools

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Kansas lawmakers voted down a bill Friday that would have allowed teachers to paddle students up to ten times.

Kansas and Arkansas are among 19 states that still allow corporal punishment at school. Polices vary from district to district.

According to the latest U.S. Department of Education numbers, the Paragould School District paddled more than 250 students in 2009, but that number is down this school year.

Paragould High School principal Scott Gauntt said he has paddled less than ten students this year.

"We typically don't use corporal punishment very much," Gauntt said.
But if the district would resort to it, Principal Gauntt said the administrators stick to the strict paddling policy. 
"We bring them [the students] in, make sure they understand why they're here, what they've done wrong. we make sure they have nothing wrong with their person, their body or their bottom, no pumps or bruises that are already there," Gauntt said.
The district also notifies the student's parents and always has a witness present, typically another administrator. 
"We never give more than three swats," Gauntt said.
Principal Gauntt said the reason for a paddling depends on each student and offense.  
"It's hard to say, 'This will get you a paddling and this won't,' because it really doesn't work that way," Gauntt said. "If I have a 280-pound offensive lineman come in here, paddling's not really going to affect him a whole lot. You take away his lunch and his time to hang out with his friends, that's going to be a much bigger deterrent for him."
The district's typical discipline hierarchy starts with detention, then paddling, then in-school suspension, and then out-of-school suspension. 
"If it comes down to giving that kid a punishment or sending him home for three days, sometimes we'll just give a paddling because we want our kids in school," Gauntt said.
But most of the time, Principal Gauntt finds detention or I.S.S. to be the most effective.
"If you take away a student's social time, that gets them, that kills them," Gauntt said. "So we want to do what has the most meaning. We don't want to bring them in here and paddle them just because we can paddle."
Principal Gauntt also uses corporal punishment at home.
"My son is a fourth grader and my daughter is a third grader, and when they step out of line a little bit, then we'll swat their behinds," Gauntt said.
However, another Paragould dad would prefer if corporal punishment stayed at home.  
"I want it to be left up to me how my kids get punished," father Tim Mathis said.
Mathis said he would rather the punishment be more taxing socially, than physically. 
"My kids are involved in extracurricular activities, like soccer and mixed martial arts, so I would take that away," Mathis said.
According to district handbooks, most schools in northeast Arkansas abide by corporal punishment polices similar to Paragould's.
To view the most recent corporal punishment numbers by state and school district, visit the U.S. Department of Education website. To view corporal punishment statistics by state and race, visit the Center for Effective Discipline website
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