Darlington schools criticized for paddling policy

The South Carolina Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment named the Darlington County School District the second highest in the state for paddling students during the 2009-10 school year. It earned them the "Top Hitter Award."

Darlington County Schools sent out a press release in response to the "award." It says the schools use a wide variety of discipline tools, including positive reinforcement methods to recognize good behavior.

"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."

The Darlington County School District policy allows administrators to paddle students under strict conditions. Students' parents or guardians must give permission and know of the paddling. A witness must be on hand and the punishment is administered away from other students.

NewsChannel 15 spoke with those in the community about the issue. The school's policy was met with mixed reaction.

Diane Singleton agreed, "There's a certain way you can discipline a child. I think that punishment is needed in the home and also the school."

While mother of two Ashley Shields said, "For me having a four-year-old, no, I don't think that somebody that he really does not know should be paddling him at all. I think that's more of a parents responsibility. Shields added she was paddled in school, but has seen a shift in people's view on corporal punishment. "It's become more of a thing you don't do versus a thing you do."

In the year reported, principals in Darlington County School District administered corporal punishment 79 times, which involved less than one percent of the student population of the district at the time.

The school system says paddling 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.