Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

Why Florida Schools Can Paddle Students Against Parents’ Wishes

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

Gierrea Bostick, 6, was paddled on his second week of pre-school without the consent of his mom, Tenika Jones. The paddles allegedly left welts on Gierrea’s bottom and Jones has filed a notice to sue the Levy County School District.

State law allows schools in Florida to punish students by spanking them with a paddle, which is often a wooden or plexiglass board.

The administrators at most schools with corporal punishment policies ask parents for permission to paddle their children. Many principals say they will not paddle a kid against the parent’s wishes.

But schools don’t always check the paperwork before they administer the punishment.

And when that happens, Florida statutes protect the principals and teachers from lawsuits.

Florida Law Protects Principals and Teachers

Robert Rush, a civil rights attorney in Gainesville, says state law does not require schools to get parental consent.

“If the school board and the principal specifically authorize corporal punishment, it can be administered lawfully against the parent’s wishes,” Rush said. 

State statutes say a principal or the principals designated representative “shall not be civilly or criminally liable for any action carried out in conformity with the State Board of Education and district school board rules regarding the control, discipline, suspension, and expulsion of students.”

(Check out our map of districts which practice corporal punishment here.)

That means schools cannot be sued for paddling students.

“And part of the reason for that is to do a balancing test so that we’re not disrupting schools unnecessarily with frivolous claims,” Rush said.

The only way a parent can sue is to argue excessive force or cruel and unusual punishment.

In Levy County, Tenika Jones is making that claim.

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

A typical wooden paddle used for school corporal punishment.

Mom Says Paddling Left Welts on Preschooler

Her son Gierrea Bostick was paddled during his second week of preschool at Joyce Bullock Elementary in Williston, Fla.

Gierrea slapped another boy on the school bus. He was five years old.

Gierrea says he was taken off the bus and sent to the principal’s office for a spanking.

“She spank me on my booty,” Gierrea said. “I cried all the way home. It was really hard.”

Jones says the wooden paddle left welts on Gierrea’s bottom.

And she says her son’s welts show that excessive force was used.

“If I would have hit my son how she hit him, I would have been in jail, I would have been on the news, I would have been messed up trying to get my children back, how she hit my son,” Jones said. “She whipped him up and to me that’s child abuse.”

Jones did not sign the waiver the school sent home asking for permission to paddle her son.

She has filed a notice to sue the Levy County School District.

The school’s principal, Jamie Handlin, and the school district would not comment because they’re in pre-litigation.

But the principal has said in the past that the waiver is only a courtesy.

Attorney Rush agrees.

And he says Gierrea’s mom faces an uphill battle.

In a letter to Gierrea’s family, the attorney for the Levy County school district cited criminal child abuse cases that ruled welts and bruises on a child’s bottom are not evidence of excessive force.

Still the attorney offered the family $1,000 to settle the case.

Gierrea’s mom rejected the offer.

She says there needs to be a consequence for the principal’s actions.

“She should be fired,” Jones said. “Put her on suspension or something.”

But attorneys say the most the mom will get is money, or maybe get the school district to change its policy.

It’s been a year since Gierrea was paddled at Joyce Bullock Elementary. And Tenika Jones has demanded no more interaction between the principal and her son.

“This lady is still at this school and ain’t nothing happened,” Jones said. “So I told her, I say ‘ma’am, I don’t want you talking to my child.’”

Jones is forced to keep Gierrea enrolled at Joyce Bullock.

It’s the only public school in their small town for kindergarten through second grade.

Gierrea will have to stay there for two more years.

Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Julie-Ann-Worley/742610771 Julie Ann Worley

    National Protest Against School Corporal Punishment will be held at TN State Capitol in Nashville Thursday, April 5, 2012 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. to Demand Governor Haslam and TN lawmakers Abolish Paddling (Sexual Assault when done to a non-consenting adult)/Pain to Punish Tennessee students K-12, already Illegal in Nashville Schools and Schools in 31 U.S. States.  Search “A Violent Education” for disturbing facts including graphic descriptions of injuries to students, “Teacher Immunity Laws” and No Legal Redress, even the U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear school corporal punishment appeals!  Support Federal Bill H.R. 3027 “The Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act” , languishing in U.S. Congress NOW, at donthitstudents dot com   

    • J Worthington

      Yes! Just imagine if some of those monsters held at Gitmo were paddled for the many, everday attacks against the guards, ex: flinging feces;  oh what an international ruckus against the USA would result. But beat a child or teen, whether by a “well intentioned educator” or a perv, and (almost) NOTHING can be done to protect the kid.  “Great way to go!! ”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RL34EW6JHX6NNIBBKUNPKB6SZY Pizza to go

    I’m willing to bet the kid doesn’t hit anyone else for a long time.

    • http://www.facebook.com/clea.westphal Clea Westphal

      Im willing to bet the kid will grow up to be a beater, or if nothing else end up fighting with piers and others…violence begets violence, straight and simple.

      • Teketime4

        Ha ha, corporal punishment.. such a strong term for such a non truth.. everybody thinks they ought to go around doing whatever they want without repercussions, I’m only 37 and you adults acting. like victimized children… ‘Please don’t hurt me, I know I
        I kicked Tommy in the shins’. Grow up and face your shame, you adults disgust me this is a no wonder our so called great country stands so greatly divided.. everyone wants to play the victim.

      • Marcie J

        Please support this statement! If nothing else, the US is more violent today then when every kid received a spanking for misbehaving. Go back and look at the crime rate and how is rises dramatically as the use of physically punishment declines!

    • Guest

      Perhaps you should actually research the effectiveness of corporal punishment. If you did, perhaps you’d know that kids who are spanked are more prone to acting out violently than those who are disciplined without violence. A little reading can help…

      • Neomorpheous7

        Not true inwas raised in a home where if you did something wrong you got a spanking and trust me you learned very quick right from wrong. If a child acts up tithe extent of needing a spanking then so be it. Look at how you see children catching attitudes and talk back to parents adults and teachers on a daily basis. Their punishment not texting for a day is that truly a punishment? You do something wrong you get spanked and you learn! I am now a family man great career and no violent tendency and I was spanked plenty when I was a child I learned a ton of respect forum elders that children today know nothing of.

        • Insanitea

          This is invariably how this conversation goes.  Every study on the issue I have ever seen (and I’ve seen quite a few) shows that corporal punishment is associated with a slew of negative outcomes – aggressive behaviors, incarceration, dropout rates etc.  The rebuttal is always some variant of “not true inwas … spanked plenty as a child.”  Clearly, spanking doesn’t do anything for your critical thinking skills.

  • unknonw

    This disgusts me.  Nobody and I mean Nobody should have the right to batter someone else’s child.  The only place where an entire population of people are immune from civil and criminal prosecution is the school house.  If parents did what these people do, we’d be under the jail. Parents need to WAKE UP and call their lawmakers, sign petitions, and stand up for what is rights. Parent and hcildren rights.  These people are superseding parental rights.  Non-spanking parents have every right to send their kid to any school in the country without having to fear child beaters

    • JJwuzhere85

      I suggest to those same parents singing petitions, that they teach their children respect. Why is it that people who recieve disiplinary punishment seem to yell the loudest about their rights being violated?

      • Insanitea

        Um, perhaps because their rights are being violated?

        • Marcie J

          What about the people’s rights who the ones who are paddled are violating in a violent manner? The whole problem with the US today is people don’t discipline their children and these kids grow up thinking they can do anything they want with no repercussions! Time for parents to step up and start disciplining so the schools don’t have to. I miss the days when Children were respectful of their teachers and peers, now they are just rude and only care about themselves and what they can get out of everyone!

          • Insanitea

            I can’t believe I have to explain this … imagine it is a dog, instead of a child. Do you beat it until it has welts to teach it not to bite? No. Every dog trainer in the world is going to tell you that the way to go is to be calm, firm and consistent. Only grossly incompetent trainers beat dogs – how much more so for children, who are capable of reason?

  • unknonw

    There is a bill in the United States Congress called the Ending Corporal Puinshment in Schools Act.  – It needs more support and a push from everyone. Please sign the petition http://signon.org/sign/end-corporal-punishment?r_by=1759117

  • unknonw

    Please Support HR 3027 to end this barbaric Practice. This bill has been sitting in congress and needs a big push from everyone. You have to call and write the committee chairpersons and tell them to bring it forward and urge your own U.S. House member to co-sponsor it
     

  • unknonw
    • Davidanstey

       my 13 year old son was paddled recently for fighting at school. But at home and not at his school as it’s a parents responsibility. And I know when I paddle its done right

  • WILLOBIE

    I taught in Florida in the late 1960s and though paddling was a bit arcane even then.  In my high school paddling was always offered as an alternative to detention; detention for a week or a visit the assistant principal for five whacks.  Most chose the whacks.

  • Pangolin

    Corporal punishment is now considered to be a barbaric and regressive practice in the training of dogs and horses. It’s unnecessary and it can lead to neurotic animal behaviors. But it’s OK in Florida to beat children. Get a clue people. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000458718630 Ron Mackey

      In the 2006-2007 school year, an overal 233,190 paddlings were reported across the U.S. Then Corporal Punishment was pretty much banned in all states…. until Columbine happened. Then 22 States re-implimented it. Why? It happened because parents were so negligent in the area of parental guidance and discipline, and state allows teachers and administrators to paddle children in order to maintain classroom discipline. Along with that permission, there are a list of nine regulations that are required in order to administer corporal punishment. And in some of these
      schools, parents have the option of forbidding the use of corporal punishment, but
      very few parents ever do. (Parenting:The Bottom Line, pp.63-65).

    • JJwuzhere85

      Animals do not know any better and respont to positive reinforcment.  In the case of children with no respect of authority what do you suggest be an effective alternative to reach out to children to gain respect?

  • Mersenne

    What course in college did these ‘teachers’ take that teaches them to use corporal punishment? All I know is that if it were my child who was hit by these ‘teachers’ – that, these teachers would have a hard time wiping their @ss with the ‘nubs’ where their hands used to be. Florida ain’t all Disney World… it’s deep-south-Deliverance.

    • J C TOWER

      Right ON!   Pal.  And note:  those who condone or even advocate beating kids, can’t even write a simple sentence  free of gross grammar errors.  I guess they were paddled so often and so hard that their “brains” were scrambled.

  • unknown

    I worked in the Florida schools in the 80′s.  If anyone saw how they paddle the children they would be as Shocked as I was.  Teachers walked the halls with paddles in their hands and some have holes in the paddle for wind resistance.  An 11 year old boy was paddled so badly he needed medical attention.  He was asked to bend over and hold his ankles while the teacher paddled him 4 times.  A second grade girl (very tiny) forgot her homework and was paddled so hard her feet left the ground.
    This is not the Nun hitting you with a ruler,  these are thick paddles.  These children are being hit for everthing. 
    I was hoping this had stopped.  Someone really needs to look at this!!!

  • Teketime4

    I love it, all schools need this policy..

  • Don’t Paddle Hard

    I read this over.. and yes there was paddling when I was in school in south florida.. but most
    schools didn’t use CP on kindergarten or pre K students and were some what reluctent on 1st graders too,. but pre K didn’t exist back then either..
     
    another problem with Public School systems is some County school systems regulate the Size of the Paddle Board to be used.. like dade county “70s ” back then the size 18 x 4 inches and 1/2 inch in thickness was to be used form grades 1 threw 12 . which I can’t see using this near college fraternity sized padding on grades 1 threw 6.. that size regulations should have been interpreted as not to Exceed that size..

    I think the size of the board that was used here is what may have been the cause of this problem.. I’m going to ship them a few board’s similar in the photo posted here.. its size is
    15 x 3 Inches and 3/8th’s of an inch in thickness.

    This type of board will not bruise or cause injuries to a young child.. And if the force is controlled it shouldn’t traumatize a child.. Either a Boy or a Girl Student. Unless the person that is doing the paddling is using very hard force for the paddling.

  • oahdfuip

    The Mom should threaten cyberschool.  School districts hate that because they lose revenues per pupil.  The home schooling threat won’t work.  The district still gets funds.

  • Airdan305

    I went to Shenandoah Jr. High where corporal punishment was in full use back in the late 80′s. (Before the name change to middle schools.) But, the punishment was only administer by the AP and more importantly, it was the students choice. That’s right, the student choice. You had the option of taking a wack from Big Bertha (name of paddle made by woodshop teacher) or having your parents called in and being handed a three day out of school suspension. I choose Big Bertha over the embarrassment of having my parents come in.

    And now that I’m a parent, I support our limited resourced teachers and the appropriate use of corporal punishment. I think that it builds character in our children.

    • gamom

       only problem, is the loopholes in the laws.  Full immunity?  You are ok with that? You give permission to THEM, and something happens to your kid, like a broken tailbone, then what?! ARe you gonna complain

  • ceanf

    if this were my child, the principle who paddled them would be on the receiving end of the same thing shortly there after. and i would gladly take the assault charge to do it. guarantee it would be the last time they touched my child and the last time they sit comfortably for a while..

  • Rob

    Well the bruising and Welting Problem shouldn’t be a problem anymore.. I’ve shipped offan appropriate size Paddle Boards for elementary age students.. This may avoid future injuries either physical or emotional since you’d have to use quite allot of force to cause that to happen with that sized board.

    • Davidanstey

       You supply paddles to schools?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1514337973 Heather Mosley Parker

    I had issues at Joyce Bullock when my child was in K. I pulled her out of there and she now goes to a school 30 miles from home. I wouldn’t take my dog up there. Most of the teachers are fine but the principle is out of her mind. 

  • Anonymous

    The woman is totally correct. If she did that to her son she would be arrested. two weeks in school and you don’t know your teachers that well. The law lets a stranger smack a kid, but if the parent does it it would be assault. Shame on the states that let teachers hit kids.

  • Live in real world !!!

    I make a nice living working in prisons– I thank you non-spankers for my job everyday. You idiots should be forced to clean up the mess you make and work a stint in prisons where your idiot theories live and breath. Children must learn at a young age that if they buck society — society will cage them like animals or put them to sleep like a rabies infested dog. It is cruel to teach them they can do as they wish and no one will touch them as this is not true. They must learn to discipline their flesh at a young age before it cost them their very lives. You stupid people need to take your dumb hippie theories with you to your hemp festivals.

    • Insanitea

      Here’s an idea – why don’t you poll you inmates and find out how many were paddled, then compare that to the national average.  I can virtually guarantee you that you will find much higher rates of corporal punishment in your population.  That’s because paddling is the refuge of the incompetent. It is the certainty of punishment, not the severity, which has the primary deterrent effect – that, and every child’s desire not to disappoint their parents.

    • Live in the real real world.

      You make a general term for every stupid person. Be more educated. I raised three kids that are very respectful and good members of society without anyone ever laying a hand on them, I on the other hand was scared to go home half the time because my parents were not ‘idiots’ and felt they should punish every wrong with force. I left home when I was 15 to get away from abuse. I promised myself my children would never be afraid to come home.

  • Sabrina

    funny how when we got spanked we knew not to bring guns to school, and this many jails was not needed, look at this world and the dangers we live in, look at how far we have traveled from God’s ways… God says don’t spare the rod and you will not destroy the child, foolish people here think that spanking is vilence or battery… And yet if you go to a movie you could be killed because someone else is having a bad day… hummm no prospective, and spanking gives prospective very quickly. Yal lost foolish people!! Wake UP!!!

  • eddy515

    Spanking is a great idea! All the school reform you hear about is based on such stupid ideas! One good spanking would cure at least half of all the ADD in the schools today. Parents do your job and spank your kid when he earns it!

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education