Corporal punishment option reinstated in FC School Dist.
Corporal punishment will be reinstated in the Forrest City School District for students in kindergarten through 12th grades beginning with the 2012-13 school year. On Monday, members of the board voted 5 to 1 in favor of changing the district’s policy.
Superintendent Dr. Jerry Woods, attending his last regular meeting, presented a draft policy to the board and recommended that it be approved.
A copy of the draft shows that the board “authorizes the use of corporal punishment to be administered in accordance with this policy by the superintendent or his/her designated staff members who are required to have a state issued license as a condition of their employment.” The draft shows that before a student is given corporal punishment, the student will be told why he or she is receiving the punishment and will be able to “refute the charges” against him or her.
“All corporal punishment shall be administered privately, i.e. out of sight and hearing of other students, shall not be excessive, or administered with malice, and shall be administered in the presence of another school administrator or designee who shall be a licensed staff member employed by the district,” the draft shows. There will also be an opt-out form that could be signed by parents or guardians who do not want their child to be administered corporal punishment.
There was some confusion about the term “licensed” in the policy. Incoming Superintendent Joye Hughes explained that the state has moved away from calling teachers “certified,” and now refers to them as licensed. Hughes also said most of the principals in the district said they would want the teachers to administer corporal punishment.
“The teachers would administer the corporal punishment in the office in the presence of the administrator, the assistant principal or the designee in the building,” Hughes said.
Board member Larry Jayroe asked FCSD attorney Brad Beavers how the district is protected against lawsuits.
“There is no protection,” answered Beavers. “This was not just taken out of the district because one day someone decided that it was a bad thing. The discussion at that particular time was that we had had a rash of parents in this district who had filed criminal charges against our personnel who had administered corporal punishment, and/or they filed civil lawsuits against those individuals and the district.”
Beavers said the district can defend itself, but cannot defend employees if they are charged with a crime.
“If they are found guilty, the very next step is they lose their license, or you as a board will be looking at taking their job away from them,” Beavers said.
Nancy Blount, an Arkansas Education Association (AEA) representative, said employees who are charged with a crime that is related to doing their job can be defended by the AEA.
Board member Terry Rogers said there is too much attention paid to potential lawsuits. Rogers suggested the policy only be for kindergarten through sixth grade and suggested having only one person performing corporal punishment.
Board member Sandra Taylor voiced concerns about the liability of the district, and referenced a lawsuit that was brought against the district in the past, but did not state when it happened or who was involved. Taylor also questioned why the draft was not more detailed. Beavers said if the board passed the policy, then it would have to develop a procedure.
On the vote, board members Joey Astin, Jayroe, Rogers, Will Harris and Glenn Shepherd voted to adopt the policy. Taylor voted against it and board member Justin Johnson was absent.
Beavers then addressed last week’s decision by U.S. District Judge Robert Dawson that the 1989 Arkansas Public School Choice Act violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“My opinion on this is that we should not expect anything immediately,” said Beavers. “This is a significant step in this litigation because a decision has been rendered by a U.S. District judge and that is important, but the plaintiffs have already indicated that they will appeal. Their appeal, I’m sure, will be that you can strike one part of the statute.”
Beavers said he is keeping up with the situation for the district and has asked to be “part of the conversation at the state level.”
In other business, the board accepted an updated uniform dress code policy for the 2012-13 school year. The policy changes include blue and white Mustang shirts allowed every day and Mustang gear of any color on Friday; black pants and no belt requirement for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade. On the vote, Shepherd, Astin, Harris, Taylor and Jayroe voted for the policy changes, and Rogers voted against it.
The topic of Johnson’s resignation from the board, or any potential replacement, was not mentioned at Monday’s meeting. While Johnson was not present, he did email a copy of his resignation to the Times-Herald Monday afternoon.
“Please accept my letter of resignation from the Forrest City School Board,” Johnson said in the letter addressed to Astin. “My family and I have moved out of the district. I have very mixed emotions on this day. We have overcome many obstacles with many more ahead. I appreciate the voters of the district for giving me the opportunity to serve. I wish the Forrest City School District nothing but the best in the future.”
Following the meeting, the board held an Arkansas School Board Association strategic planning session. During the session, Horace Smith, ASBA Board Development Director, asked the group to list the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the district. Smith’s session was cut short due to the length of the regular meeting, but Smith said he would return to finish the session.