UPDATE | Parents express mixed views on new paddling policy at local school

Published: Sep. 6, 2018 at 4:52 PM EDT
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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

HEPHZIBAH, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – News 12 reported on an exclusive story about one charter school giving parents the option for using paddling as a corporal punishment in class. Since then, news outlets like the National Geographic, BBC and other national and international news tellers have shared that story.

Parents at GSIC are speaking out about the consent forms sent home earlier this month. Lacie Dickerson says her daughter, Lydia, shocked her with the paper.

"Lydia said, ‘mom I have a paper I need you to sign’, I said ‘well what is it?’ And she said it’s a ‘can they spank me or not form’," Dickerson laughed.

She has two kids at GSIC. Parents got a consent form asking to use corporal punishment on their kids this school year.

"It's 2018 and they are sending that home. It's ridiculous,” parent Justin Cohen fumed. "The whole policy is ridiculous."

It’s a policy that spells out the punishment with a large, wooden paddle. If signed, an administrator could spank them behind closed doors, but no more than three times.

But these two parents have two very different opinions. Cohen's son is a first-grader at the charter school.

Lia Fernandez: "When your son handed you this consent from, what were you thinking?"

Justin Cohen: "For GSIC to go ahead and [say] 'we want to paddle your child because we think it's a good idea…no.”

Cohen says it's not just about checking off yes or no. He says it's almost like a punishment if he marks no, because in that case it means upwards of five days of suspension for his child.

"It's thinly veiled coercion. If you don't sign it, if you don't let us paddle your child, we're going to suspend them for 5 days.”

Dickerson has a different point of view when it comes to Lydia.

"It doesn't bother me. I'm used to it because we came out of Jefferson County, and when they were in elementary school they were paddling there," Dickerson explained to News 12 Wednesday.

Jefferson and Burke Counties are both still enforcing corporal punishment. Dickerson’s child went to a school there before GSIC.

"When they were younger I always checked ‘yes’ when they were in Wrens, but they should call me first."

Lacie says now that her kids are older, in 8th and 9th grade, she says they're too old to be spanked. Because of that, this time she checked “no”.

The principal says they almost have all the consent forms back. Out of the 650 students they have, she says a little over one-third of them show parents saying “yes” to paddling. But the majority of those parents are saying no.

Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018

News 12 First at Five

HEPHZIBAH, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- An area school recently sent home consent forms informing them of a new corporal policy at an area school. The superintendent says they’ve received a little over a hundred forms back, a third of them giving consent to paddle their child.

“In this school, we take discipline very seriously,” said Jody Boulineau, Superintendent of GSIC.

GSIC is going old school with a new policy for this year.

"There was a time where corporal punishment was kind of the norm in school and you didn't have the problems that you have,” the Superintendent said.

You heard that right. Georgia School for Innovation and the Classics, a K through 9 charter school, is bringing back paddling students as a form of discipline.

"It's just one more tool that we have in our disciplinary toolbox that we can use,” Superintendent Boulineau said.

Parents got a "consent to paddle form" asking them if they're ok with administrators hitting their child with a wooden paddle.

"There's no obligation, it's not required. A parent can either give consent for us to use that as a disciplinary measure or they can deny consent," he said.

The form spells it out:  

a student will be taken into an office behind closed doors. The student will place their hands on their knees or piece of furniture and will be struck on the buttocks with a paddle.

The form says no more than three licks should be given. Superintendent Boulineau says the parent response has been across the board.

" I've heard 'great, it's about time, 'we're so glad that this is happening again, they should've never taken it out of schools'. All the way to 'oh my goodness I can't believe you are doing that'."

A controversial policy that hasn't been around for years. If parents opt out of paddling, they have to agree to up to 5 days of suspension.

"I honestly feel like it's something that's not going to be used very often. Sometimes it's just kind of the threat of it being there becomes a deterrent in itself."

This is actually still legal in Georgia and 19 other states but it's rare for a school to have a policy for it.

GSIC is the only school in our area that will start paddling students who are misbehaving this year.

Even if parents agree to it, they are contacted and the school says they will use a three strike policy so the paddling doesn't happen on the first or second offense.