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Bill calls for the return of paddling

February 21, 2011

A Putnam County delegate believes sparing the rod has spoiled the child, so the Republican state lawmaker has introduced a bill that aims to bring back teaching reading, writing and arithmetic to the tune of a hickory stick.

Del. Brian Savilla introduced House Bill 3081, which proposes to allow school officials to use reasonable corporal punishment as a means of returning discipline to the classroom. The bill calls for the punishment to be administered by a school official of the same gender as the student, but it must be supervised by a teacher or administrator of the opposite gender.

A substitute teacher, Savilla said he has talked with many colleagues who believe teachers lost control of the classroom shortly after the state legislature took paddling out of the equation in 1994. He said alternatives, such as detention, suspension, and expulsion, have not worked. Savilla said the hope is for every kid to learn, but said the answer to discipline problems is to "take the kid out of the classroom." He said that brings about more harm that just "letting the teacher paddle them, sit them back down and teach them."

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Del. Peggy Donaldson Smith, D-Lewis and a member of the House Education Committee, was a teacher and principal prior to attending law school. She said she used corporal punishment in both jobs and found it to be a "very effective form of punishment.

"I do not think it should be the first line of punishment, but I have no problem with using corporal punishment as an alternative," she said.

The bill has only negligible support among lawmakers, though educational leaders such as West Virginia Education Association president Dale Lee applauded Savilla's desire to create a better learning atmosphere for today's students. Lee said he believes teachers would be very hesitant to paddle a child in this age of lawsuits. He added the lack of respect for authority is not just confined to the school, but has permeated to all aspects of society.

Savilla, who is 28 years old, said his generation was the first to see massive violence on the school grounds. He said during the days when paddling a student was common, the school day seemed more structured. He called the allowing of paddling "tough love."

He added that discipline began deteriorating when the Bible was removed from the classroom, followed the discontinuation of school prayer and the banning of paddling. He said schools saw a "massive decline" in safety when each aspect was removed.

"Everything gradually got worse," he said following the bill's introduction.

The bill remains in committee for deliberations.



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