Brookhaven city schools drop physical punishment as an official disciplinary option

Published 9:29 am Thursday, February 29, 2024

Brookhaven School District has officially removed its policy allowed the corporal punishment of students.

Corporal or “physical” punishment has long been a disciplinary option for public schools and has come in the form of spanking or paddling for most of the 20th century into the current day.

The 1977 Supreme Court case Ingraham v. Wright resulted in corporal punishment upheld as constitutional — not a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s “cruel and unusual punishment” clause. States where legislators have not outlawed the use of corporal punishment include Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and Mississippi.

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In Mississippi, public schools cannot use physical punishment for students with disabilities or special education plans. Private schools are permitted to use this disciplinary action, however.

On Tuesday, Brookhaven Superintendent Dr. Rod Henderson recommended to the School Board that the policy be officially removed from its handbook, since it was not being implemented.

“It is not something I feel is feasible in this day and time,” Henderson said. “I feel the best thing to do is to remove it from the books. It’s outdated.”

The 2023-2024 Student Handbook and Code of Conduct records the following for its Corporal Punishment policy:

Reasonable corporal punishment of a student who does not have an IEP or 504 plan is permitted in grades K-6 as a disciplinary measure to preserve an effective educational environment which is free from disruption. Prior to the administering of corporal punishment, the principal or designee shall notify the parent and advise him/her of the particular misconduct of which the student is accused. Corporal punishment may be administered according to School Board Policy JDB with parent/guardian prior approval.

Other acceptable consequences for disciplinary problems are detention, in-school suspension, suspension, alternative school placement, and expulsion.

“It’s just a different time,” said Deputy Superintendent Dr. Danny Rushing. “It doesn’t seem to have the effect, the desired response. We have different parents and they just don’t support it.”

Board attorney Will Allen agreed, adding, “It certainly cuts out a liability risk.”

Henderson explained that he had not permitted the widespread use of paddling for a while, preferring other disciplinary methods be used.

“I believe we could find a better way. We have a ton of other things in place. You still have parents who want that, who request it, but I think it’s best to remove it,” the superintendent said. “I stopped it a long time ago. We’re just making it official.”

The board members present agreed, approving the removal of the policy with no opposition.

Section VII. Discipline Plan is found on pages 54-79 of the Brookhaven School District 2023-2024 Student Handbook and Code of Conduct.