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Some Robeson County Parents Want To Ban Paddling In Schools

The paddle Robbinsville High School principal David Matheson, and previous principals, have used to discipline students.
Jess Clark

An attempt to ban corporal punishment in Robeson County schools has stalled. The effort was led by parents and child advocates.Robeson County is one of two counties in the state that still allows paddling in schools. But some residents say the practice is harmful for kids.

“The public schools should be a safe environment for children to learn,” said Jessica Lowery Clark, executive director of the Robeson County Partnership for Children, and a parent. “They should not be afraid to go to school. And unfortunately, the children that are being hit are not the children's parents that are standing up to support it.”

Clark and a group of parents tried to rally school board members to ban paddling Tuesday night. After lengthy discussion, a majority of the board voted instead to refer the issue to its policy committee.

About four out of five paddlings in the state occur at one Robeson County elementary school. Clark’s niece is headed to kindergarten there this fall.

“I was asking my niece if she was ready to go to big girl school, and she put her head down, and she got teary-eyed,” Clark recounted. “And I said, 'Why are you not ready to go to school?' And her brother spoke up and said, 'Because she's going to get hit by the lightning paddle.’”

Now that the Robeson County school board has delayed a vote to ban paddling, Clark is hoping the state will intervene.

“Somebody needs to step in on the state level, because we have children that are getting hit in our schools, especially children...that are minority, as well as children with special needs,” she said.

Clark said she and other critics of corporal punishment are exploring ways to advocate for a ban from the State Board of Education or legislature.

Lisa Philip is an occasional contributor to WUNC. Previously, she covered education for the station and covered schools in Howard County, Maryland for the Baltimore Sun newspapers.
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