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Amid Revamp Efforts, Georgia Superintendent Explains Her School's Corporal Punishment Policy


One of the Obama administration's last attempts to leave an imprint on policy involves how to discipline children, specifically the kids who live in the many states that still allow corporal punishment in schools. Education Secretary John King recently wrote to governors and school chiefs urging them to stop paddling or spanking children. He called physical punishment harmful and ineffective and said it was disproportionately inflicted on students of color and those with disabilities. Julie Alligood is superintendent of the Laurens County School District in central Georgia, where students do receive corporal punishment for misbehaving. She joins us now from her office. Welcome, Superintendent Alligood.


CHANG: What went through your mind when you first heard the U.S. Department of Education was telling you to get rid of corporal punishment in your district?

ALLIGOOD: Well, we're used to mandates from the federal and the state government. I mean, we comply anytime that we have one, so, I mean, we're just waiting for further, I guess, guidance. But corporal punishment has been in our policy book since I've been in this district for 25 years. And I think we probably are - have been needing to look at other options. So - and we'd started that process already this year.

CHANG: Oh, that's interesting. So what kind of corporal punishment is permitted now in Laurens County?

ALLIGOOD: Well, corporal punishment in Laurens County means paddling, I guess - is how you would typically refer to it. In our policy, it's not typically ever a first line of punishment, and it's always a parent request.

CHANG: And we're talking about students in what grade levels?

ALLIGOOD: Applicable in kindergarten through high school. But we're receiving training in PBIS now, which is positive behavioral interventions and support. Actually, it's a behavior support program for students.

CHANG: Which means the absence of corporal punishment.

ALLIGOOD: Exactly, exactly.

CHANG: It sounds like you're a little bit of a critic of corporal punishment.

ALLIGOOD: I was - I mean, as a superintendent, obviously, I don't get much involved in the day to day, you know, punishments of the children. But I was a primary school principal. And I have seen corporal punishment be effective with children, and I have seen it not be effective with children. I just would much rather handle things positively.

CHANG: What about parents in your community? What do they think about phasing out corporal punishment?

ALLIGOOD: Well, we have just started some of our stakeholder meetings with parents. And in some of these stakeholder meetings coming up, we'll be discussing our PBIS initiatives. But many parents in this area are very supportive of the corporal punishment, so I think the PBIS will take some getting used to. I think they'll all be supportive of it, but, I mean, I do think it'll take some getting used to just because - with everything, it's just different.

CHANG: Julie Alligood, Laurens County superintendent, thank you so much for joining us.

ALLIGOOD: Thank you. I appreciate it very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.