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Should Arkansas schools still use corporal punishment?

Arkansas is one of 19 states that still practices corporal punishment. Parents continue to give schools permission to spank their children while in school. Parents like Mary Kathryn Triglown and Rachel Scott of Pine Bluff signed off on their children receiving corporal punishment.

"My parents signed off for it and I didn't have a problem signing off for it for my kids," Scott said."When they brought home the handbooks every year, we had to sign something to say it was okay. It would have been okay with me as a parent," Triglown said.

Scott's daughter Ladajah, 16, is currently a junior at Watson Chapel High School. Scott said although her daughter has not received corporal punishment, she welcomes the option if needed.

"I grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois, and there was corporal punishment, and if you disrupt the class they had consequences for it," Scott said.

Triglown's twin daughters Olivia and Kathryn both graduated from Watson Chapel High School and now attend Arkansas Tech University. Triglown said it was embedded in her culture.

"I grew up being spanked as a child, not that much, but I do understand the need for that. I do know that it can get out of hand. I also know when I was back in school there was corporal punishment and we had to have witnesses and so forth," Triglown said.

According to the Arkansas Department of Education, 186 school districts in the state have exercised corporal punishment, totaling more than 70% of districts in the state.

There were 21,477 instances of corporal punishment, 83,396 instances of in-school suspension, and 50,881 instances of out-of-school suspension for the state of Arkansas during the 2013-2014 school year.

Johnny Purvis, a retired professor from University of Central Arkansas, now consults schools on how to effectively use disciplinary measures.

Purvis said in order for any disciplinary practice to be effective, it will take multiple communities to work together.

"It's what I call the trinity. How the community, the home and the school have to work together, they have to. If they don't, youngsters will play the system," Purvis said.

The Watson Chapel School District holds the highest numbers in the state for the 2013-2014 school year, with 1,541 instances of corporal punishment. The majority of the districts range from single digits to two or three hundred.

"I am really surprised that those numbers are that high," Scott said. "I don't know of any of my friends who are in the Watson Chapel School District, I don't know if any of them have experienced that, so I am really surprised with that number being so high."

Guidelines for what students can do to receive corporal punishment vary from district to district. Some are more specific than others.

According to the Watson Chapel handbook, "Corporal punishment shall be administered only for cause, be reasonable, follow warnings that the misbehavior will not be tolerated, and be administered only by a school administrator and only in the presence of a certified employee."

Experts like Purvis say corporal punishment is ineffective if overused."We overuse corporal punishment often. We overuse suspension often, talking about externalin-school and expulsion," Purvis said.

Purvis dedicated his life's work to understanding children and looking into proper disciplinary measures. He outlines those in his book Safe and Successful Schools: A Compendium for the New Millennium.

"I center all of my discipline techniques around something called 'time out response calls'. They've got to give up something. Often times corporal punishment is some youngsters you can paddle them and they will be good for six months, and some will come right back and do it the next day," Purvis said.

Unlike the Watson Chapel School District, the Mountain View School District falls in the middle of the spectrum with 195 cases. Superintendent Rowdy Ross says the district tries to exercises all of their options.

"It could be as simple as a warning, to maybe a D-hall where you have to stay in at lunch, in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions. We do use corporal punishment some also," Ross said. "Sometimes students get a choice. Would you rather serve a day of in-school suspension or get corporal punishment? Then they get to decide."

Parents, educators, and experts agree that every child is different, therefore calling for different decisions.

"It just depends on the student, but lots of times students want to take their swats and get back to class and they don't miss anything else. If they don't have a long discipline record or whatever, they just want to get it over with and go on back to their world," Ross said.

"If they are used to being whipped at home or spanked or whatever, odds are it's not going to work at the school. Because they are use to it," Purvis said.

Scott said both of her children were a prime example that discipline has to be catered to differences."My son had to get spanked all the time by me. My daughter didn't. So it worked well for him where putting her on punishment worked better for her," Scott said.

"If you don't discipline and hold them accountable, they think that you don't love them. It's as if you'd care enough for me to hold me accountable," Purvis said.

"They need uniformity. I think there is a strong need for some type of discipline, some type of structure," Triglown said.

After weighing all the factors, Purvis said the biggest problem for parents like Triglown and Scott might be consistency.

"Our biggest problem in society and our schools dealing with youngsters and adults, we tend to be consistently inconsistent, and with youngsters we have to be consistent," Purvis said.

Channel 7 reached out to the Watson Chapel School District, but they declined to comment.

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