Handling was reassuring

Published 7:16 pm Friday, February 20, 2009

The unfortunate incident at Potter Street Elementary School has gripped our community over the last couple of weeks.

In the short time I have been in Bainbridge, I have not seen an incident generate the interest and comment among the citizens quite like this one.

To recap, the assistant principal at the school, Jeanette Grimsley, had a lapse of bad judgment and paddled a third-grade student too many times, and perhaps too harshly. The photos of the child published on the front page of this newspaper left little doubt that the punishment administered by Grimsley was over the line and unacceptable.

Email newsletter signup

The situation culminated Thursday night at the Decatur County School Board meeting, about two weeks after the paddlings occurred, when Grimsley was officially reprimanded, monetarily penalized and prohibited from using corporal punishment on any other student while under the employ of school system.

I commend the members of the Board, Superintendent Ralph Jones and the central office staff for handling this case swiftly, professionally and responsibly. They were made aware of a wrong-doing, investigated the allegations, confirmed the allegations to be factual and made a decisive ruling.

Put in a very difficult position, the decisions made and announced Thursday night by Dr. Sydney Cochran were fair to everyone involved. The board’s primary concern should be, and is, the safety and well-being of the children that we entrust them with every day. I wouldn’t wish on any child what happened to that little boy on that day, regardless of the circumstances. His safety should be priority No. 1 while at school. Here’s hoping he can get back to a normal life for a third-grade little boy.

On the other side of the coin, do you give up on a good educator because of one instance of indiscretion?

From all accounts, Grimsley is a dedicated teacher and administrator whose 13-year career in Decatur County has been unblemished. I have been at several board meetings over the last few months where Grimsley was present to receive recognition for a job well done. Here’s hoping she can return to work on March 9 and get back to her job teaching our children.

Is corporal punishment wrong?

I believe that answer belongs to each parent and there are valid arguments on each side of the issue. If you have read some of the public comments on thepostsearchlight.com, you would see that people have passionate opinions for and against corporal punishment.

But to prevent this situation from happening to another student down the road, the school leaders have decided to suspend indefinitely the use of corporal punishment. And, as soon as practical, I believe the official policy of the system will be changed to ban the use of paddlings.

The situation is disturbing, but the response by the board and Jones is reassuring. As a father of one county school system student and one that will be a county school system student soon, I feel confident that the care and education that both will receive in Decatur County is second to none.