North Carolina may not yet have gone to pot, but it’s certainly rapidly losing its nerve when it comes to firmly discipling its children, if you’re one who espouses the “spare the rod, spoil the child” philosophy. The Onslow County Board of Education, home to the U.S. Army’s Camp Lejeune, will decide tonight whether it will join most of the rest of the state in banning corporal punishment in its public schools.
You thought that was outlawed long ago, didn't you?
Nope, at least not in the Southeast, according to reports issued by advocacy groups over the past decade. In fact, 19 states nationwide - most of them in what is described in a recent FoxNews.com story as the “tradition-bound South,” including North and South Carolina - still allowed principals to paddle or spank students, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Corporal punishment was used on 218,000 students in the 2009-10 school year, the most recent data available.
But the numbers are dropping, and fast. Last year, one local advocacy group, NC Child, found 184 incidents of spanking statewide during the 2012-13 school year. That’s down from 404 cases just the year before.
And even where corporal punishment is still being used, it’s not done in quite the same way, or with the same attitude, as in the old days. Now, some of the school districts that allow spanking allow parents to opt-out before the year even begins - to instruct, that is, school personnel that their children are not to be spanked, under any circumstances. On the other hand, other parents apparently WANT their children to be disciplined in that manner and have given express permission that corporal punishment can be used where principals, school administrators or even teachers deem it necessary and appropriate.
What’s more, there are very specific - and strict - guidelines as to how spanking is to be done. According to Deborah Sandek of the Center for Effective Discipline, which opposes spanking, when it is done, “What we find is, it is on the behind, not [on] the face or anywhere else on the body. It is administered with a wooden or fiberglass paddle.” Usually, another school official is present in the room as a witness. But even with these restrictions, Sandek worries about the message that’s being passed on to the students. “It is teaching violence.”
If Onslow County votes to eliminate corporal punishment, only 11 counties in North Carolina will still allow it, though six of those have no reported instances of paddling in many years. Those counties where it is still legal are mostly congregated in the western, mountainous areas of the state. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system hasn't allowed spanking since 1991.
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