Boy bruised from paddling

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Decatur County School Board is investigating the use of corporal punishment (paddling) on a child attending Potter Street Elementary School that occurred on Feb. 6.

The 9-year-old student was paddled three times in one day by school administrator Jeanette Grimsley, according to the incident report filed by the child’s mother, Christina White. She told police she became aware of the bruising when her child got home from school and complained of having pain from being paddling.

Superintendent Ralph Jones said the Board of Education is investigating the matter, specifically the legality and policy matters surround the specific incident and the use of corporal punishment.

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The parent did give consent for the child to be paddled, and bruising was apparent from the punishment, according to Jones.

The superintendent expressed the need for professional judgment when corporal punishment is used.

“The main issue is not the paddling, but the number of times the student was paddled. We have great concerns and will be addressing it as a school board,” said Jones. The next meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled Thursday, Feb. 19.

He elaborated saying the currently school board policy pertaining to paddling does not define the number of times a child can be paddled, although there is an underlying point when it is evident that the punishment is no longer beneficial.

“We do not condone paddling excessively,” Jones said. “Like any other policy, it must be used in good judgment.”

The superintendent said the student had prior disciplinary problems and other individual behavioral plan strategies were used prior to the paddling. He also noted that although the BOE does not condone excessive paddling, the possibility of bruising is always apparent when corporal punishment is used.

Jones said upon completion of the investigation, the case will be reviewed in executive session at the Board of Education’s Feb. 19 meeting. He expects a lengthy discussion on corporal punishment and a review of the current policy to see if there is a need for change.

At the request of the child’s mother, the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office is also conducting an investigation into the event. Investigator Brian Donalson has conducted interviews with the child, mother and has scheduled interviews with school officials, said Sheriff Griffin.

Griffin said the investigation is specifically to find out if there was intent to do harm to the child.

Pictures of the bruising that occurred from the paddling were provided to Sheriff’s investigators by the White.