Most Tennessee school districts still use corporal punishment

A preview of our Community Watchdog Investigation

WASHINGTON COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – Although corporal punishment is banned in the majority of the United States, most Tennessee school districts still use the form of discipline “on a very limited basis,” according to a recent Tennessee Department of Education survey obtained by News Channel 11, including five districts in Northeast Tennessee.

Carter, Greene, Hawkins, Johnson and Washington counties are among 76 out of 138 school districts that said they still use corporal punishment, which is routinely administered with a paddle.

Most states, including Virginia, ban the paddling of students. Tennessee law allows the use of corporal punishment “in a reasonable manner against any pupil for good cause in order to maintain discipline and order within the public schools.” The state allows local school systems to decide whether to use the discipline and also requires districts to approve policies that govern the method and circumstances warranting corporal punishment.

According to the state’s recent survey, 15 school districts said they provide only limited detailed advice to guide the use of corporal punishment, while four school districts, none of them from our area, said they don’t provide any detailed guidance.

While corporal punishment is common in other parts of Tennessee, most local school districts don’t use the discipline. Of those that do rely on paddling, administrators said it’s only used after other forms of discipline don’t work and only with the blessing of parents.

  • See also: Lawmakers call for state corporal punishment review

“In many of these situations, this was probably asked for by the parent to be administered. That happens lots of times,” Greene County Director of Schools David McLain said. “It’s to the discretion of the principals whether they want to utilize this type of discipline or not. Numbers are going down where this is being used less and less and I think you’ll continue seeing that.”

Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton came from Nashville Metro Public Schools, which banned corporal punishment 15 years ago.

“We have no plans to end corporal punishment,” she said. “We do not see it as an archaic form of discipline, because many of our parents support that. I think it’s totally up to the parents. If the parents wish for that form of discipline, then I support it.”

Both districts say they’ve not received any recent complaints about using corporal punishment. Hawkins County Director of Schools Steve Starnes also said the form of discipline is routinely dependent on a parent’s blessing.

“A majority of corporal punishment incidences take place at the request of and with permission from the parent or guardian,” Starnes said.

A Tennessee Department of Education spokesperson said the results of the survey, which have not been finalized, are only used for internal planning.

Not only are some area school districts still using corporal punishment, our Community Watchdog investigation found several schools are paddling one particular type of student at a higher rate than his/her classmates. We’ve spent almost two months digging into the data, researching and interviewing administrators and an advocate.

Our Special Report “Disciplinary Discrimination” airs Monday at 6 pm on News Channel 11.

Does your child’s school district allow corporal punishment? Below is a list of school districts across that state of Tennessee (Listed by ‘district’  and ‘use corporal punishment to address student behavior’):

  • Alvin C York Agricultural Institute:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Bedford County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Bells City School District: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Bledsoe County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Bradley: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Campbell County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Cannon County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Carter County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Chester County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Clay County School District: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Cleveland City Schools:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Coffee County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Cumberland County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Dayton City School: Yes
  • Decatur County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Dekalb County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Etowah City Schools:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Fayette County Public Schools:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Fayetteville City Schools: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Fentress: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Gibson County Special:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Giles County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Greene County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Grundy County Schools: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Hamilton County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Hardeman County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Hardin County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Hawkins County School:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Haywood County Schools: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Hickman County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Hollow Rock-Bruceton SSD: Yes
  • Humboldt City Schools:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Huntingdon Special School District:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Jackson County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Johnson County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Lauderdale County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Lebanon Special School District:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Lewis County Schools: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Lincoln County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Macon County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Madison County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Marion County Schools:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Marshall County Schools: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • McKenzie Special: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • McMinn County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • McNairy County:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Milan Special School District: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Millington Municipal Schools: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Monroe County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Moore County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Newport City: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Obion County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Overton County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Paris Special School District: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Pickett County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Polk County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Putnam County School System: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Rhea County Department of Education:  Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Richard City SSD: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Robertson County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Rutherford: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Sequatchie County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Smith County Schools: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • South Carroll: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Sweetwater City Schools: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Tipton: Yes
  • Union City: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Van Buren County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Warren County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Washington County School System: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Wayne County School System: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • Weakley County: Yes – but on a very limited basis.
  • West Carroll SSD: Yes
  • White County Schools: Yes – but on a very limited basis.

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