Paddling, banned since 2010, resumes in Fla. county's elementary schools

A Florida county restricted corporal punishment three years ago and instated an alternative discipline program. Despite a decline in out-of-school suspensions, the school board yesterday decided to allow elementary school principals to paddle students misbehaving.

John Nordell/The Christian Science Monitor/File
A Florida school district agreed yesterday to allow its elementary school principals to paddle misbehaving children. In this 2004 file photo, Deborah Lindeman plays with her children Noah (left) and Evan in the playground outside their school. She attended a town meeting to discuss a proposal that encouraged parents to refrain from spanking their children.

Three years after banning paddling, the Marion County school board agreed Tuesday to let elementary school principals resume the practice to punish misbehaving students.

Officials approved the measure, which has been banned since 2010.

According to the Ocala Star-Banner, paddling can only be used in elementary schools, and only if a parent gives a standing written approval once a year. In addition, the principal must receive verbal permission before paddling the child. And a student can be paddled just once a semester.

The newspaper reports that before the practice was banned, Marion County was one of the largest districts in the state that still used corporal punishment.

The motion to bring back paddling was made by board member Carol Ely, a retired principal who believes it is a good option for discipline.

But board members Bobby James and Angie Boynton voiced concerns.

"This is going to open up a whole can of worms," said James. He also suggested corporal punishment could end up being used disproportionately on minority students.

Boynton suggested that the district's in-school suspension program is a better alternative to paddling. The program, called Positive Alternative to School Suspension, gives parents of students recommended for suspension a place to send their children. The PASS program started in 2010, after paddling was banned.

Mark Vianello, the executive director of student services in Marion County, said more behavior specialists were added to schools after paddling was banned.

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