To spank or not to spank? Corporal punishment in Tennessee

DANDRIDGE (WATE) – Although corporal punishment in American schools has declined in recent decades, paddling is still on the books in several counties in East Tennessee.

In school systems where it remains deeply wove in culture and tradition, some school administrators say corporal punishment has broad support from parents, that it preserves learning time that would be lost to a suspension and they see little need to give up a practice that dates back generations. However, the U.S. Education Department, whose statistics show that more than 100,000 students are subjected to corporal punishment annually, has been urging schools through its “ReThink Discipline” initiative to create safe and supportive climates that emphasize positive behavior.

Several medical and human rights groups have called for an end to a practice criticized as ineffective and potentially harmful. Debate spiked in April after a mother in Georgia aired video of a Jasper County school official holding her crying kindergartner as he was about to be paddled and said she regretted giving the school permission to discipline him that way.

Many states have outlawed corporal punishment in schools, but it remains legal in Tennessee. School systems that allow corporal punishment include Claiborne Cocke, Fentress, Grainger, Greene, Hawkins, Jefferson, Loudon, Monroe, Scott and Anderson counties. However, other school districts, like Campbell County, Hawkins County, Union County, Knox County, Roane County, Anderson County, Blount County, Hamblen County, Maryville City and Oak Ridge City have decided to take the practice off their books.

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