If your child has to be disciplined at school, should paddling be an option?
It has been in the past, and is still allowed under specific rules in a number of school districts across Florida. Now, an incoming school board member in Marion County is looking to bring it back.
"It's very seldom used, but it's something when it's used, it's effective," says Carol Ely.
Ely served as an elementary school principal for 14 years, up until 2010, when corporal punishment was banned in Marion County. She says paddling was an effective punishment then, and was preferred by most parents over an out-of-school suspension. But she stresses paddling would be used as a last resort for children with chronic behavior problems, and only if their parents give permission.
"I didn't want children to be out of school," Ely says. "And at the elementary level, if they're suspended from school, they're not punished. They could stay home and play video games. Their parents are the ones punished because they have to figure out what to do with their child."
Ely plans to push for the reintroduction of corporal punishment as a discipline option in elementary schools when a committee meets to form the school district's Code of Conduct later this year or early in 2013.
Most school districts in and around the Tampa Bay area ban corporal punishment. Polk County did allow it as an option until 2008, and Hillsborough County permitted it until 2010. Citrus and Hardee counties do still allow it under certain circumstances, and parents must write a letter each year if they want to opt their children out of the punishment.
"Spanking, in general, it has been proven to damage self-esteem and create more aggressive and violent children because children have a difficult time differentiating between mom and dad can hit me but I can't hit other children," says Brenna Hicks, a licensed mental health specialist. "If a child hits me, what do I do? They need to learn how to handle that appropriately, rather than them being hit by someone else to teach them a lesson."
Florida law leaves it to each individual school district to decide whether to allow corporal punishment, and each school's principal must approve before it's used in his or her school. When paddling is administered, at least two adults must be in the room. Neither adult can be the person who recommended the punishment.
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