Memphis, Tenn., bars school paddling

/ Source: The Associated Press

The school board voted narrowly to ban paddling to discipline students, though some education officials and parents worried that more unruly behavior could ensue.

The board agreed to consider alternatives to corporal punishment, among them: classes in behavior and social skills and sanctions such as Saturday school, community service and suspension from sports activities. The paddling ban takes effect immediately, and school officials will also start work on the alternatives.

“The real work begins now,” said Superintendent Carol Johnson, who proposed the alternatives. “The vote is step one, the first tentative step to focusing on an efficient strategy for safe schools and respectful behavior.”

Board member Michael Hooks, who voted against the ban Monday, said he feared the potential for disruption.

“I just foresee it causing situations in the long run where students believe you can no longer be disciplined,” he said. “I hope not.”

The disciplinary alternatives needed to be in place before the ban was imposed, said Charles New, president of the Memphis Education Association, the teachers’ union. The plan also appeared to lack funding, he said.

The vote was initially a 4-4 tie, but the board chairman cast the deciding vote.

According to the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools 2004 study of the nation’s 100 largest school systems, only eight districts still allow paddling following the Memphis board’s decision.

The 118,000-student system is the largest in Tennessee and 18th in the nation.