Corporal punishment to be reintroduced at River Road ISD

Front entrance to River Road High School, on of the campuses where corporal punishment will be reintroduced starting Jan. 9, 2018. (ABC 7 Amarillo - Abby Aldrich)

In less than one month, River Road Independent School District will reintroduce corporal punishment, or swats to all of its campuses.

The modifications to the RRISD Student Code of Conduct come after the rise in requests from parents. River Road High School Principal Dean Birkes said parents brought up the change to the school board.

“Last year, or I guess this spring, there [was] a lot of talk with parents [and] with our board members about, 'Hey, we really think this would be a good tool to use for alternative punishment,'" Birkes said.

Birkes tells ABC 7 News the school district adopted an "Opt-In" requirement, instead of an "Opt-Out" requirement.

“It’s whatever the parent wants," Birkes said. "If the parent Opts-In for having swats, then we will do it, but if the parent doesn’t, then we will continue on with the normal punishment that we do.”

Birkes adds that before any corporal punishment is given to a student, the parents will be called, even if they previously signed the Opt-In form, to decide if the legal guardian would like to go through with the corporal punishment, or revert back to the normal punishment the district has done in previous years.

According to the RRISD Student Code of Conduct, corporal punishment cannot be administered to a student whose parent has submitted to the principal a signed statement for the current school year that prohibits the use of corporal punishment with their child. The parent can reinstate or revoke permission to use corporal punishment at any time during the school year by submitting a signed statement to the campus principal.

The Code of Conduct also states punishment is limited to spanking or paddling the student and will be administered in accordance to specific guidelines:

  • The student is to be told the reason corporal punishment is being administered.
  • Corporal punishment is to be administered only by a principal or designee.
  • The instrument used in administering corporal punishment must be approved by the principal.
  • Corporal punishment must be administered in the presence of one other RRISD professional employee and in a designated place out of view of other students.

An appropriate number of strikes will be administered depending upon the size, age, and the physical, mental and emotional condition of the student.

Birkes said corporal punishment is an alternative to in-school suspension, or ISS. Instead, he said corporal punishment can keep the students in the classroom, learning.

“It’s not for everybody," Birkes said. "We have several students that would love to spend a few days in ISS. The trouble is, is they are losing a lot of their educational learning by missing instruction."

RRISD is not the only district in the Panhandle implementing corporal punishment. Bushland High School Assistant Principal Cody Strickland said since Bushland High School's opening in 2005, the school has had corporal punishment.

“The parents when we call, if their student is not on that list of not able to get swats, when we call and that’s an option to have corporal punishment, that’s usually what the parent prefers," Strickland said. "Because it does give that option. Just having [corporal punishment] on the table does deter some poor behavior."

Corporal punishment will be implemented at RRISD starting Jan. 9, 2018.

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