Corporal Punishment in Arkansas

Corporal Punishment in Arkansas

Two civil rights groups are on the attack this week saying corporal punishment teaches kids aggression and not discipline. The most recent data from the Department of Education says Arkansas has the second highest percentage of public school paddlings in the country. So, should it stay or go?
Two civil rights groups are on the attack this week saying corporal punishment teaches kids aggression and not discipline. The most recent data from the Department of Education says Arkansas has the second highest percentage of public school paddlings in the country. So, should it stay or go?

The report from the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch says schools in 21 states still spank.

Here in Arkansas it's up to each school district whether or not to allow it. And even in those cases, parents can put a stop to it if they want. But most parents said it worked for them when they were in school, and they think it's fine for their kids too.

"I had my fair share of corporal punishment at the school," said David Sorrell.

Sorrell is catching his teenage son's football practice, a son he thinks can benefit from a paddling on occasion.

"It taught me not to do certain things, that there are consequences and those consequences can be painful," Sorrell said.

He says letting kids run wild results in chaos but he doesn't think it's appropriate for every kid. The Cabot School District agrees.

Just because corporal punishment is still around doesn't necessarily make it the best way to discipline a child. In fact, those with the Cabot Public School System say they look at each child individually to see which method works the best, because this one isn't for everybody.

"In today's society we have a lot of kids who come to us with a lot of needs and to take a one size fits all approach is not appropriate," said Superintendent Tony Thurman.

Thurman says some kids respond well, a swat or two and they've learned their lesson. But if you find yourself paddling the same kid over and over again, it's obviously not working.

"15 years in this business and I feel like at this point, if I were back at the building level as a principal I would not use corporal punishment. I see to many other ways of disciplining students that are effective," Thurman said.

Thurman says keeping a kid in from recess or excluding him or her from a fun activity can be just as powerful. But the biggest advantage to paddlings is they're quick and easy. He advises his principals to use discretion when deciding what to do and parents like David Sorrell think they do.

"Trusting them to do the right thing at the right time. That's what's going to maintain control inside the school," Sorrell said.

Dr. Thurman says more and more schools are dropping corporal punishment or backing off these days because it's become a liability. He says even with a parent's permission if a student gets hurt during a paddling, the teacher or principal holding the paddle can be held responsible.
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