Dr. Dan Strickland, Superintendent of Columbus County Schools - called our newsroom this afternoon with an update on this story.
He emphasized that any parent can opt out of having their child paddled by writing a letter and having it on file with the school system. Also, if a student is paddled, he said the teacher - and either the principal or a witness - is on-hand while it's being administered.
He also said the school system has other types of intervention for misbehavior - and that paddling is only a last resort. He says principals also practice what's called Positive Behavior Support, which rewards students for good behavior.
And he told us that CCS have one of the lowest drop-out rates in SE North Carolina. Columbus County Schools has 6,800 students total - approximately 5,000 are in the elementary program.
FROM THE SUN NEWS, MYRTLE BEACH - http://www.thesunnews.com/2010/03/11/1361895/report-details-school-spank...
ASH, N.C. -- Students in Columbus County, N.C., schools are nearly as likely to be hit by school personnel as any in North Carolina, according to a report from Action for Children North Carolina.
The school system is one of 26 in the state that uses corporal punishment as a way to control student behavior and ranked fifth highest among them in the number of times it was used in the 2008-09 school year, the report said.
School systems in Horry County and Brunswick County, N.C., which border Columbus to the south and east, respectively, have banned corporal punishment. Georgetown County schools allow corporal punishment, but only with advance parental permission, which Columbus County does not require.
"It's rarely if ever used," said Georgetown school board Chairman Jim Dumm.
Corporal punishment was used in Columbus County schools 87 times last school year, the report said. Burke County schools in western North Carolina topped the Action for Children list, using corporal punishment 325 times. McDowell County ranked fourth, just above Columbus, with 93 instances of corporal punishment in the school year. Macon County, with 70 instances of corporal punishment, ranked sixth.
Columbus schools Superintendent Dan Strickland, board Chairman Monte Herring and Vice Chairman Junior Dew did not return calls seeking comment. Board member Norris Ebron declined to talk about the policy or whether he thought it was a good one.
"When it's a policy we have," Ebron said, "we need to follow the policy."
He said he is not inclined to change it unless parents tell him they want it changed. He said no parents have complained to him about the policy.
While prior parental approval is not required for Columbus schools staff to paddle students, the policy says that other ways of controlling behavior should be tried first. School principals, assistant principals, teachers and substitute teachers may use corporal punishment on students, and parents must be notified afterward, according to a copy of the school system's policies online. The person who administered the corporal punishment must submit a written explanation of why, if parents request it.
Randy Dozier, superintendent of Georgetown County schools, said only two of the district's elementary schools use corporal punishment. He agreed with Dumm that its use is very rare, if at all.
"They have other alternatives," he said.
Horry County schools outlawed corporal punishment in 2004, said Teal Britton, school district spokeswoman.
"I don't think there was a lot of spanking going on before that," she said.
Les Tubb, interim superintendent of Brunswick County schools, said he can't recall exactly when corporal punishment was banned, but he believes it was in the mid 1990s. He said he spanked a student once, 25 years ago when he was a teacher in Cumberland County schools. It made him feel so bad that he decided not to do it again, even if it was allowed.
Brunswick County schools now focus on rewarding students for good behavior, Tubb said. For those who stray, there are controls such as moving a misbehaving student to a different classroom, one-period suspensions, full-day in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, parent conferences and having parents come to take their children home from school.
He said corporal punishment can actually reinforce bad behavior such as fighting.
"I believe our positive behavior support system is the way to go," Tubb said.
Shirley Babson, a Brunswick County school board member, said corporal punishment can have other potentially negative aspects besides reinforcing bad behavior.
"It's probably because it can get excessive that it's not allowed," she said. "In this day and time, I don't think parents would allow it either."
Dumm, the director of Tara Hall Boys Home, where corporal punishment was banned 10 years ago, said he knows there are times that non-parents in charge of children wish they could spank them.
"Sometimes," he said, "it's good to have something you can hang over their heads."
Contact STEVE JONES at 910-754-9855.