Corporal Punishment – Reluctant Repeal

We knew that at some point our board would have to make our minds up on the subject of allowing corporal punishment in schools this year. This was a hard decision as I had to weigh the risk vs. reward to not only our district but to our children and principals. But when you look at the recent history and use of “paddling” you will find even in its approved form, its use was almost non-existent in the old Shelby County schools.

For someone like me who was raised on corporal punishment and have raised my kids with it (albeit very low use), it was a hard sell that we did not need it to be mandatory. Do I think it is effective? I do.. Do I think that it should be used? Yes..

However, without mandating it as punishment, it loses its effectiveness. I believe only 30 cases of its use from last year. As I spoke to principals and teachers in the system, I received the feedback that they would not use it for two reasons:

1) They believe that PBIS (positive behavior intervention) has really improved issues with children by being more proactive.

2) The other reason has to do with threatened litigation against teachers or principals if they use. Regardless if you have an opt-in/out provision, teachers or principals could be held liable for child abuse. You don’t have to go far or turn on the radio to hear an attorney sue over a light bulb falling out of your ceiling.

So the reality for me was that from a discipline viewpoint, I saw value in keeping corporal punishment. But the policy was weak and ineffective. From a risk viewpoint, I saw a potential to drain financial resources out of the district through frivolous lawsuits over paddling. That is not to say that this policy will not come back. We will monitor the metrics and see if the positive intervention is really working.

If not, we will revisit this.. and the next policy will be stronger..


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