Darlington County School District responds to paddling 'award'

DARLINGTON, SC(WMBF) - You would think paddling in schools is a thing of the past, but 11 school districts in South Carolina still do it.

Darlington is one of them. In fact, an organization called the South Carolina Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment awarded Darlington County Schools with the 'Top Hitter Award' of dishonor.

Executive Director of the SC Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment, Maureen Young said Darlington County is the second highest district in terms of the number of students paddled in the state this past year.

The organization called every school in the district to obtain the number of instances each school had. Young said when she asked the state superintendent for the information, it wasn't collected.

She says there were 79 instances where elementary aged students in Darlington County were paddled.

Lamar Elementary leads with 24 instances and Saint Johns Elementary follows with 22 instances.

A district spokesperson says schools use paddling as a last resort.

Tamra Bramlett grew up in Darlington County and said she was paddled while attending Elementary School and is okay with it.

"Paddling works when write-ups don't help anymore, when school suspensions doesn't help anymore, it really lets the children think about what they had done," said Bramlett.

Darlington resident, Robert Watford said,"it's okay. Teachers aren't going to get out there and whip them and bruise them up... I don't go for that as long as they do it the right way."

A district spokesperson says only elementary schools in the district practice paddling and parents are notified before this action is taken.

There is also a required witness that must be present when a child is paddled.

Mackenzie Grisham just relocated to Darlington County and said she's surprised paddling is still being done anywhere in the United States.

"I definitely think parents should be the only people physically disciplining their children... I mean, physical discipline is on the edge anyway whether it's okay or not," said Grisham.

A spokesperson for the district says schools use other methods of punishment before paddling becomes an option and that those paddled only represent one percent of the student body in the county.

The coalition also released data that 51 of the instances where students were paddled were Black males, 11 were Black females, 15 were White males and 2 were White females.

After the press release about the award was sent out, Darlington County Schools sent out a response to the award:

From Darlington County School District

DARLINGTON, SC – Recently an organization called the "SC Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment" sent out a press release indicating the Darlington County School District (DCSD) is one of three South Carolina school districts to win the "Top Hitter Award". According to the Coalition, DCSD is the second highest district in terms of the number of students paddled during the 2009-10 school year.

Teachers and principals in the Darlington County School District (DCSD) utilize a wide variety of discipline tools to address inappropriate student behavior. The district also employs extensive positive reinforcement methods at every level – kindergarten through high school - to recognize and reward good behavior.

The DCSD policy permits administrators to paddle students under very strict conditions. Following district expectations, students are only paddled with permission and knowledge of the parents or guardians. It is dispensed by school administrators under strict conditions. A witness must be on hand and the punishment is administered in private, away from other students.

In the year reported, principals in Darlington County School District administered corporal punishment 79 times, which involved less than one percent of the entire student population of the district at the time. The punishment is usually a last resort, following numerous other discipline attempts such as silent lunch, no recess, work detail, loss of privileges, principal conferences, discussion with parents, and in-school suspension.

The Coalition's website lists several alternatives to corporal punishment. The Darlington County School District already uses many of the programs they suggest, including character education, student recognition programs, peer mediation, and Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) in DCSD schools every day. In addition, all of the "prevention strategies" provided are part of regular DCSD school operations.

"We do not encourage paddling, but we recognize that some parents feel strongly that paddling is an acceptable method of discipline for their children. Even then, we use it as a last resort. Corporal punishment is one option for a small percentage of students," said Audrey Childers, Public Information Officer. "Instead we put a great deal of emphasis and focus on recognizing the positive behavior and actions of our students. Ultimately, we want all our students to succeed in school."

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