A recent report from child advocacy group NC Child shows a steep decline in the number of students who faced corporal punishment during the 2012-13 school year.
Corporal punishment is defined as the intentional infliction of pain upon the body of a student as a disciplinary measure.
McDowell County Schools is one of six public school systems in North Carolina that still allows use of the disciplinary tool.
Last year, the system used corporal punishment once as a means of discipline. The year before that, the tool had been utilized 29 times.
When asked whether the dramatic decline was a sign that the disciplinary tool was on its way out in McDowell, Interim Superintendent Mark Garrett said it was a positive indicator of the way things are going in schools throughout the county.
“ It is good to see the numbers decreased from 2011-12 to 2012-13,” said Garrett. “The decline in corporal punishment, along with our most recent discipline data, shows that our overall incidents are trending in a positive direction. Less time spent on student conduct issues means more time dedicated to teaching and learning.”
Garrett also stated that administrators are encouraged to seek the most effective way or ways to hold students accountable and that declining corporal punishment numbers followed trends seen across the nation.
“ I think our numbers mirror those nationwide, where you see corporal punishment numbers on the decline,” said Garrett. “In our system, the policy is very specific as to the use of corporal punishment, as well as when the practice is applicable.”
Currently in McDowell County , students can be disciplined using corporal punishment by principals, assistant principals and teachers for certain offenses such as fighting, failing to follow a reasonable request or direction of school authorities, using vulgar language or exhibiting chronic disruptive behavior.
When asked whether the district had polled principals to see what had caused the major decline, Garrett stated that the district had not.
“ I can only speculate the decline is due both to a decrease in discipline incidents and the belief that other methods were deemed more appropriate than corporal punishment,” said Garrett.
NC Child spokesperson Tom Vitaglione stated that his organization was happy there had been such a sharp decline in the use of corporal punishment in McDowell County over the last few years.
He said NC Child hoped that districts still practicing the disciplinary method would adopt certain measures to ensure the safety of their students when the tool is used.
“ A decade ago, McDowell was one of the leaders in the use of corporal punishment,” said Vitaglione. “It seems almost certain that corporal punishment will disappear from North Carolina’s schools soon. We want to make sure that in the interim a student is not seriously injured.”