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Georgia schools paddled nearly 6,000 students last year. Why?


Retired nurse Terry Baradine is a longtime opponent of corporal punishment in Georgia schools. (So am I.) After requesting the latest statistics for paddlings in Georgia schools last year, Baradine was horrified and wrote a piece calling for an end to corporal punishment. You can read her column below.

You can view the new state Department of Education data here in this Google doc. You will note that not every Georgia district is listed as some, including metro area ones, prohibit corporal punishment. Nineteen states permit corporal punishment, almost all in the southern United States.

According to the state data, as reported by districts:

• 5,849 students were disciplined in school using corporal punishment.

• The total number of incidents of corporal punishment was 9,713 ( Some kids were paddled more than once.)

• Looking only at students with disabilities, corporal punishment was inflicted on 991 students.

• The total number of incidents of corporal punishment among children with disabilities was 1,760.

Among those nearly 6,000 children paddled was a 5-year-old from Jasper County. His mother recorded the April incident on her smartphone, posted it on Facebook and sparked a national furor. The video was seen more than a million times with many viewers questioning the character of Georgia schools.

Despite the disturbing video, Jasper County reported a low incidence of paddling in 2015-2016, 38 students and 61 total incidents. In light of how infrequently paddling appears to be used and the damage to its reputation from the viral video, Jasper ought to ban it.

Paddling is much more common in other districts, according to the DOE data. Laurens County reported paddling 585 students, which means 10 percent of Georgia students subjected to corporal punishment attend this 6,700-student district. I can't imagine any district would want that distinction.

The DOE data also show: Coffee County Schools paddled 304 students; Tattnall reported paddling 230 kids; Appling reported 234; Randolph reported 197 and Wilcox 191.

Research is clear: Paddling is ineffective and opens schools to lawsuits. (Check out what the American Psychological Association and what the American Academy of Pediatrics say.) There are far more effective forms of discipline.

By Terry Baradine

In 1992, my husband and I relocated from Connecticut and settled in Georgia for a new job opportunity. I found it was a great place to raise our children.

But I was shocked and dismayed to find out corporal punishment was allowed and used in Georgia schools. It has long been outlawed in Connecticut and many other states. Still, in 2016, corporal punishment is alive and well in Georgia schools.

I recently did an open records request from the Georgia Department of Education to investigate the numbers. In the 2015-2016 school year, I found nearly 1000 students with disabilities were physically punished. And this is only the data that's reported. Private schools do not have to report their data to the state.

Many districts say corporal punishment is only used with "parent permission." Those districts have it all wrong. Schools are supposed to be using evidence-based practices.  Schools are supposed to be the shining example of a nurturing learning environment. They are supposed to lead with best practices, not follow worst instincts. How is it possible to set an example for best practices when you still paddle students?

School systems need to stop embarrassing their communities, the education profession and the great state of Georgia. Decades of research indicates physical punishment has no place in 21st century schools.

I believe an immediate moratorium is needed to force schools to stop hitting students in our education systems. The DOE and the governor should issue such a moratorium today, not next week, not next year. Our state lawmakers must address this issue and introduce a bill to ban this outdated practice.

I urge everyone to look at the data, because the reported numbers speak the truth. We must do better.


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.