Troublemaking students in and around Memphis, Tenn. are likely breathing a sigh of relief because the newly-merged local school board banned corporal punishment this week.
The Shelby County Board of Education voted 13-2 to forbid the disciplinary option, reports The Commercial Appeal, the main area newspaper.
The ban required a super-majority of 12 votes for passage. A decisive vote was cast by board member David Reaves who had been in the pro-spanking faction previously. He said he changed his mind after speaking to teachers and school officials about the practice.
“Quite frankly, I’m scared to use it,” Reaves said. “You could easily wind up in court. I think it’s in our best interests that we eliminate the paddle.”
Board member Oscar Love expressed similar concerns.
“If parents are at risk” for spanking their own kids, he noted, “why would we want to put our principals…at risk?”
Other board members spoke briefly about their reasons for the ban. One member recalled a child who had suffered a vicious beating by her own parents. Another cited the concerns of health organizations. Still another worried that spankings would be unfairly meted out.
The 13 votes to outlaw spanking became a done deal after board members received assurances that coaches could still make student-athletes run laps.
The big reason the issue came up is because Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools merged into a single unit as of July 1. While Shelby County Schools still had spanking on the disciplinary menu, students in what had been the Memphis City Schools had not faced the threat of a whipping at school since 2004.
According to The Commercial Appeal, supporters of corporal punishment in schools in the area have mainly cited anecdotal indicators to demonstrate the value of a good spanking. They have also referred to a mini-renaissance of corporal punishment in Texas and pockets of some Southern states.
Opponents of corporal punishment have pointed to a bevy of published studies calling the practice frequently counterproductive and occasionally injurious. Studies have also found that black male students are disproportionately the recipients of paddlings.
Overall, there has been a strong trend toward the elimination of the disciplinary measure in the United States since the 1980s.