The School Board is sticking with its current student code of conduct due to differences in how corporal punishment could be administered.
The board annually considers revisions after gathering recommendations and input from various groups to notify students, parents, guardians, legal custodians, school system employees, and others of expected standards of student behavior, as well as the consequences of the failure to obey the standards.
The board was considering the new policy so that it could have it in place when school starts on Aug. 5.
However, some suggested revisions would have delayed the process, and the board agreed to consider potentially making changes midway through the school year.
At issue was a classification referred to as “Misbehaviors: Level II” which includes misbehavior where the frequency or seriousness tends to disrupt the learning climate.
The infractions, however, do not represent a direct threat to the health and safety of others but have educational consequences serious enough to require corrective action by administrative personnel.
Board Member Sara Liechty said the new section included “school or class tardiness” and lists corporal punishment as a disciplinary option.
Corporal punishment is discipline intended to cause physical pain to a person involving spanking or paddling.
“I don’t think we can merge the two,” Liechty said, referring to spanking children for being tardy.
Board Member Chris Guess said the interpretation is subjective, and there is a difference between violence and discipline.
Guess said the system uses corporal punishment about four times a year.
Liechty said it is used more often and doesn’t serve its intended purpose.
She said some students who have been subjected to corporal punishment have had difficulty as adults due to the trauma they faced from it as children.
Board Member Christine Hopkins suggested the board get input from someone who specializes in trauma to explain how corporal punishment might have lasting impacts.
The board has debated corporal punishment since 2015 and made minor revisions to the policy in 2017.
In 2015, the board geared the policy to have more parental involvement in the corporal-punishment process, and in 2017, it approved to give more leeway to students with disabilities.
The board approved in 2015 to keep corporal punishment, but the decision was in a 4-2 split vote with Guess and Liechty in opposition for different reasons.
Guess had said in 2015 he voted against the issue because he supported having corporal punishment in the school system but wanted the policy left alone.
Liechty had said she was against corporal punishment, and many states have abandoned using it altogether. She had said she thinks the Franklin County system should do the same.
Instead of simply changing the corporal punishment policy from “opt out” to “opt in,” the School Board approved a third option — giving parents time to think about it.
Former Board Member Adam Tucker, who is an attorney, had recommended the board distribute consent forms rather than have parents opt out of the process as was previously done. He had said that it would minimize issues where parents disagree with how their child was treated.
Tucker said the main difference is parents would be giving permission to use corporal punishment on their children.
“From a legal standpoint, there’s a significant difference,” he had said, referring to parents being given the forms with an option to request their children receive corporal punishment rather than them requesting not to do it.
The section added in 2017 regarding students with disabilities requires parents to give their consent in much more detail through written permission.