Lumberton, N.C. — The State Board of Education formalized its stance this week against corporal punishment in schools, but won’t make a difference in Robeson County.
Robeson County is among a dozen of the state’s 115 school districts that still allow paddling as form of discipline. And among those dozen, Robeson County takes the lead.
There were 267 student spankings in the district in the last school year. That’s far above second-place Graham County, which reported 43.
Dwayne Smith, chairman of the county's Board of Education policy committee, said the school has no plans to stop the practice. He said corporal punishment works because children who are spanked "very seldom come back."
“It’s been effective in Robeson County, even back in the days when I went to school,” Smtih said. “It’s almost like, ‘Why fix something if it's not broke?’”
Robeson is a large, mostly poor county with 24,000 students in 42 schools. The district has forms for parents to give their written consent to allow educators to use corporal punishment on their children. Even with the consent form, administrators said, many principals call parents beforehand.
The paddlings seem to be on the decline, with only 46 so far this school year, Still, stories of the principal’s paddle have an almost mythical quality.
“Principal tore me up one time. I’ll never forget it,” recalled Gloria Jacobs, a parent who has children at Tanglewood Elementary School in Lumberton.
Parent Isiah Hunt said he was on board with the idea of corporal punishment, saying it would “straighten out” a lot of kids.
But Kiara Johnson disagreed.
“It’s not their job to hit the kids. It’s their job to teach the kids and leave it up to the parents to do all that,” she said.
The state board approved a resolution Thursday against corporal punishment, saying it can harm students physically, mentally and emotionally. The board did not ask the General Assembly to outlaw the practice, however.