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News Education Is corporal punishment child abuse?

School board gives parents the choice to opt out.

Macon County schools recently revised the Board Policy to give parents the option to opt out of allowing their child to be subjected to corporal punishment.

The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines child abuse and neglect at a minimum as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents as imminent risk of serious harm.” More specifically, physical abuse is generally defined as “any non-accidental physical injury to the child” which can include striking, kicking, burning, or biting the child or any other action that results in a physical impairment of the child.

According to the North Carolina Child Care Law and Rules, child abuse occurs when a parent or caregiver injures or allows another to injure a child physically or emotionally. According to CAPTA’s definition of emotional abuse, “injury to the psychological capacity or emotional stability of the child as evidenced by an observed or substantial change in behavior, emotional response, or cognition,” or as evidenced by “anxiety, depression, withdrawal or aggressive behavior,” it can be concluded that the public humiliation of corporal punishment can be emotionally damaging, which by definition of the law, makes it child abuse.

In the 2009-2010 school year, Macon County recorded 70 instances of corporal punishment, but only 13 the following year.

The Macon County School Board Policy under the Discipline and Student Code of Conduct sections states that According to NCGS 115c-391 a teacher or principal who administers any sort of corporal punishment shall meet the following conditions:

1. Corporal punishment shall not be administered in a classroom with other children present;

2. The student body shall be informed beforehand what general types of misconduct could result in corporal punishment;

3. Only a teacher, substitute teacher, principal, or assistant principal may administer corporal punishment and may do so only in the presence of a principal, assistant principal, teacher substitute teacher, teacher assistant, or student teacher who shall be informed beforehand and in the student's presence of the reason for the punishment;

4. An appropriate school official shall provide the child’s parent or guardian with notification that corporal punishment has been administered, and upon request, the official who administered the corporal punishment shall provide the child's parent or guardian a written explanation of the reasons and the name of the second school official who was present; and

5. Parents have the option to opt out of allowing corporal punishment by signing a form to which will be filed at the student; s school.

During the July meeting of the Macon County Board of Education, board member Gary Shields raised the question to what “corporal punishment” actually entails.

The discussion was brought up during the board meeting when article 5 was added to the Board Policy, which now allows parents to choose not to allow their child to be subjected to corporal punishment at school.

Although the guidelines clearly outline when, where and who must be present in the event corporal punishment is being administered, but what exactly is it? A slap on the wrist with a ruler? A paddle on the behind with a wooden object or a hand?

Organazations such as Actions for Children NC, who work toward protecting the well being of all children, have continuously questioned the practive of corporal punishment and have worked toward banning it all together.

Nancy Cantrell, Director of Secondary Education for Macon County Schools said that according to the state policy, corporal punishment is defined as the “use of a hand, paddle, or strap to inflict physical punishment imposed on a student.”

According to Action for Children North Carolina, an organization dedicated to ensuring that all children are healthy, safe, well-educated and financially secure, State Board of Education policies do not offer a definition of corporal punishment, and that responsibility falls on local school boards. After reviewing policies in the 60 N.C. districts that allow corporal punishment, at least 25 include no such definition.

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