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Supers: Paddling rarely used

Using 2015-16 data, news source ranks county 2nd highest

Covington County Schools ranked second in Alabama in the number of paddlings administered in Alabama school systems in the 2015-16 school year, according to data compiled by al.com from federal reports.

And while paddling is legal in Alabama when administered correctly, Superintendent Shannon Driver said he doubts the county’s numbers are nearly that high at present.

According to the federal reporting, the Covington County School system recorded 820 paddlings in the 2015-2016 school year.

Driver said, “Like so many other systems in Alabama, it is one part of our disciplinary measures.”

But it’s not the first method of discipline to which administrators turn.

“We have a code of conduct and if a student breaks those rules then they have to face consequences,” Driver said. “We have different methods of discipline for students that break the rules, and corporal punishment is definitely not the first that we go to. We have break detention, in school suspension and out of school suspension so we will use those first to get the idea across.”

Corporal punishment is legal in Alabama. Alabama Code 16-28A-1 specifically gives teachers the authority to “use appropriate means of discipline up to and including corporal punishment as may be prescribed by the local board of education.”

“There is always witnesses, and we do let the parents in on what is going on,” Driver said. “We follow everything by the book.”

“Our administrators always try to be reasonable when paddling,” Driver said. “I trust that they make the right judgment.”

Driver said that in the county system, principals give students an option between receiving a paddling or another punishment.

“Sometimes the students choose to receive the paddling,” Driver said. “They could have the choice between in-school suspension or a paddling and ultimately it would be their decision.”

Driver said he believes that the number of paddlings has decreased significantly since the data used in the ranking was collected.

Both Andalusia City Schools and Opp City Schools allow corporal punishment under certain circumstances, the superintendents said.

Superintendent Michael Smithart said believes it has decreased to almost no use.

“Corporal punishment is a possibility,” Andalusia City Schools Superintendent Ted Watson said. “I mean it is in the handbook, but we never resort to that.”

Watson said that if it gets down to that then they will bring in the parents to do their own paddling.

“In this day and age, there are so many other disciplinary measures that administrators can take than paddling a child.”