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Marion County School Board Votes to Reinstate Paddling

Ocala – Just three years after school officials banned paddling, the Marion County School Board agreed to reverse the ban and allow elementary school principals to resume using corporal punishment to punish misbehaving students.

While paddling was added back into the code of conduct, it was not without limitations. The board ruled that paddling can only be used if a parent gives their written permission once a year and the principal must obtain verbal permission from the parent before the paddling takes place.

Under the ruling, paddling will only be used at the elementary school level and it can only be used on a child once a semester. Principals will not be required to use corporal punishment, particularly because the method of discipline is highly controversial and some principals are averse to reinstating paddling. Some principals have expressed fear that parents will sue the school for using corporal punishment to discipline their children. Despite the fact that some teachers may agree that certain children will benefit from paddling, teachers generally listen to their principal's instructions since they value their jobs and don't want to risk losing them because of a lawsuit.

The reinstatement of corporal punishment comes just three years after paddling was banned at the end of the 2009-2010 school year. When the practice of paddling was ended by other local schools, Marion was one of the largest school districts in the state to still use corporal punishment against elementary school students.

In 2010, the former Superintendent of Schools Jim Yancey, who retired last year, urged the school board to eliminate corporal punishment, mainly because of litigious concerns. School board member Carol Ely, a retired principal believes in paddling and voted to add it back in, which was seconded by board member Nancy Stacy. However, Bobby James and Angie Boynton voiced their concerns about using corporal punishment during a time when discipline issues are improving. James also voiced his concerns over putting the district in legal jeopardy. "This is going to open up a whole can of worms," said James, who was also concerned that corporal punishment could be used more on minority students.

George Tomyn, the superintendent of schools wasn't sure how much the district's liability insurance would increase if the board added paddling back to the code of conduct. According to the Executive Director of Student Services Mark Vianello, when paddling was removed three years ago, the district added more behavior specialists to schools to identify the root of the misbehavior. Since paddling was removed in 2009-2010, the actual number of out-of-school suspensions has declined from 23.1% in the 2009-2010 school year to 22% in the 2011-2012 school year.

Corporal punishment is defined as physical punishment that involves the deliberate infliction of pain; it is used as a form of discipline against the wrongdoer to deter unacceptable attitudes or behavior. Corporal punishment is divided into three main categories: parental or domestic punishment, school corporal punishment and judicial corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is a highly controversial subject and the laws vary between countries and within the United States. Using corporal punishment against minors in the domestic setting is lawful in all 50 states, but there is a fine line when corporal punishment becomes excessive and it becomes "domestic violence," which is unlawful.

Corporal punishment in the schools is outlawed in Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and nearly all of Europe; however, it remains lawful in public and private schools in 19 U.S. states including Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas. While corporal punishment in the schools in certain states is still lawful, there is a fine line where principals and teachers are handing down the punishment lawfully and where they are crossing the line and potentially upsetting parents and opening themselves up to potential criminal charges and litigation.

Are you facing criminal charges for assault, battery, or domestic violence in Ocala or anywhere else in Marion County? The laws defining domestic violence and assault can be confusing and ambiguous to the average person; therefore, it's essential that you become completely informed of your rights as well as your potential defenses. With assault or domestic violence cases, it's critical that your side of the story be told loud and clear and that your rights are protected. Contact my firm, Christopher L. Dunham, P.A. to schedule a free case evaluation so I can examine the facts of your case and advise you on the best strategy to move forward.