The Robeson County School Board added corporal punishment as a discussion item at its meeting on Tuesday.
There are 115 school districts in North Carolina, and currently, Robeson County and Graham public schools are the only two school districts who have not banned corporal punishment in the classroom.
Parents are required to fill out a form stating they do not want their child physically disciplined by teachers at school.
During the public participation portion of the meeting, six people asked the school board to ban corporal punishment, while one person asked the board to keep the policy.
“We’ve had it for a long time, and I think it needs to stay in the school,” said one parent. “If the teachers don’t have control of the kids, then they don’t have control of the classroom at all.”
Beth Jacobs-Hunt was one of the six parents who asked the board to ban the policy. Jacobs-Hunt said although she signed the form protecting her first-grade son from the practice, she’s been advocating for the ban for more than 10 years.
“I believe that corporal punishment has no place in our schools,” Jacobs-Hunt told News13. “It is not the best practice for disciplining our students, and the fact of the matter is that most of our schools in Robeson County do not use corporal punishment.”
Jacobs-Hunt said she worries about her son’s exposure to the violence.
“There’s not protection in terms of protecting him from his fellow students that are corporally punished, from his experiencing his friends being corporally punished, or from possible a teacher using a paddle to threaten the classroom,” she said.
Some of the speakers referenced their own experience with corporal punishment, and how it has affected them.
“At a young age I received corporal punishment for an effort to share my lunch with others who had always complained how bad the cafeteria food was,” one woman told the school board. “I thought they must be hungry when they came back from lunch, so I left some of my food out for them,” she continued. “But because this effort was rebuffed by some students, I got wax from a paddle on my hand.”
She told the board corporal punishment can be confusing to children, and asked the school board to ban the practice.
There wasn’t an empty seat in the room when the board discussed, and voted, to refer banning corporal punishment to the policy committee.
School board members Loistine DeFreece, and Brenda Fairley-Ferebee, both said they wanted to ban corporal punishment.
At one point, DeFreece motioned to ban corporal punishment, but later withdrew the motion after the school board discussed the policy committee researching corporal punishment within the county.
School Board Chairwoman, Peggy Wilkins-Chavis, said it’s important to discuss the policy before taking immediate action.
“You do not discuss a very important meeting in one night, and then go and vote on it,” Wilkins-Chavis told News13 after the meeting. “We need time to comprehend, and it needs to follow the right channels, and the right channel is to go to the policy committee.”
The chairwoman said the policy committee will look into many factors regarding corporal punishment like how many students received it, why students received it, as well as the student’s gender, and race.
“From my experience, I still think we should have the corporal punishment because we’re taking more and more things away from the parents,” Wilkins-Chavis said.
Jacobs-Hunt said she wants to see a uniform stance on the policy across the state.
“One parent’s rights should not trump another,” Jacobs-Hunt said. “Our school board has a responsibility to have a consistency policy, and it’s not consistent to have two of our schools using corporal punishment, and the rest of our schools implementing more positive behavior support.”
Wilkins-Chavis said the policy committee will review the statistics of corporal punishment in the coming weeks, and will present its findings to the school board at its next meeting on May 8.
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