Duval County leads state in school paddling

Published: Tuesday, January 13, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 12, 2004 at 11:33 p.m.
JACKSONVILLE - Corporal punishment still exists in two-thirds of Florida's school systems, even though it has been abandoned by most of the larger districts, state records show.
There were 11,000 spanking incidents in the state last year, down from 184,000 in the 1981-1982 school year. Most of the larger school systems - including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties - haven't used corporal punishment in the past five years.
Deputy Superintendent Sandy Hollinger said the practice of corporal punishment was banned in Alachua County in the early 1980s. "It is not allowed. It's not an option at all," she said.
Duval County leads the state in the number of spankings, with more than 15,000 issued in the last 10 years, according to Florida Department of Education records obtained by The Florida Times-Union for an article published Monday.
"I think it's a punishment that swings either very positive or very negative," Duval County School Board member Vicki Drake said. "There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of middle ground."
The Duval County Parent Teacher Association goes along with the national PTA position in opposing corporal punishment.
"What does it teach children? That I'm bigger than you, therefore I can hit you? There are other methods you can use with children," said Reta Russell-Houghton, president of the Duval County PTA.
Clay County Superintendent David Owens said that while he considers corporal punishment an effective disciplinary tool, he is concerned about possible litigation.
"We're living in a sue-happy society these days," Owens said. "It's not something I recommend because of the possible lawsuits involved."
Still, corporal punishment is an option open to any Clay County school administrator as a final resort without having to notify parents, he said. Last year, there were 134 spankings in Clay County, according to state records.
But Jim Welu, St. Johns County director of student services and testing, said spanking is obsolete and was used years ago because the only other discipline option schools had was out-of-school suspensions.
In St. Johns, students are punished with in-school suspensions or by having to pick up trash or clean graffiti in the schools, he said.
"Teachers today have more options to encourage positive change rather than spank them," Welu said.

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