November 17, 2010 10:00:00 AM
Many of us who saw or read recent news reports about a Jackson high school basketball coach who whipped players with a weightlifting belt were shocked, but few of us should be surprised. Mississippi allows corporal punishment in its schools -- an outdated practice that needs to come to an end.
About half the states in the nation still allow paddling in schools, including every southern state except Virginia. While a few individual districts in Mississippi ban the punishment, it''s still prevalent in the state.
How prevalent? We''re the best in the nation at paddling our kids at school. A 2008 federal study found that more than 38,000 students were paddled in Mississippi during the 2005-06 school year. A whopping 7.5 percent of all students in the state took a board to the backside that year, an astonishingly high rate compared to the rest of the nation. (Arkansas came in second, with a 4.7 percent rate.)
The Jackson school district bans paddling, and the basketball coach in the headlines, Marlon Dorsey, is in hot water. Some students have filed a federal lawsuit against him. The district won''t say what it''s done to him, but he''s no longer coach at Murrah High, at least temporarily.
But we also shouldn''t be surprised that, in this paddle-happy state, some players and parents have rallied around him, calling for him to keep his job.
In the South, we love traditions, and apparently count the practice of whipping schoolchildren among them.
For some kids, a paddling is little more than a badge of honor. Deny them the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, remove them from class or send them home, and it becomes serious punishment.
Paddling isn''t banned in Columbus or Lowndes County schools, though it''s used sparingly. Lowndes requires the parent''s permission. The punishment still remains on the books in the Columbus school district, though it''s been largely been phased out, and parents can request their children not be paddled. (The 2008 study shows that 250 Columbus children and 445 Lowndes County children were paddled during the 2005-06 school year.)
Paddling is a ridiculous punishment. We believe parents shouldn''t strike their own children, though we don''t question their right to do so -- in a way that doesn''t injure the child. But no parent in their right mind should allow a child to be physically struck at a school. And no district in its right mind should allow a teacher or administrator to do it.
Schools are for learning. What does paddling teach? Apparently that it''s OK to physically hit someone in the name of authority. Some may see it as "beating some sense" into a child who won''t follow rules. We see it as physical assault, and a poor lesson to teach a child.
The state should enter the 21st century and outlaw paddling in public schools. At the very least, our local school districts should take a stand, and erase physical punishment from the books.