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Schools: District plans ban on smoking and spanking

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

With reading, writing and arithmetic no longer taught to the tune of a hickory stick, the Georgetown County School District will strike its policy on corporal punishment.

“I don’t believe any school in the district is currently doing that,” said Lindsey Anne Thompson, an attorney who was hired last year as the district’s director of compliance. She is revising several of the district’s policies including one that would ban smoking on all district property.

Under the current district policy, last revised in 2009, “reasonable corporal punishment” is allowed only in elementary grades to “preserve an effective educational environment.” It can only be applied in an administrative office and there must be a witness and a written record.

“Corporal punishment has long since passed,” Superintendent Randy Dozier said.

There’s more good news for students. The policy “Student Rights and Responsibilities” will now include student rights. “We didn’t ever have a student rights section,” Thompson said. So she included some that reflect constitutional guarantees along with “a quality education” and “qualified school personnel.”

The revision also aims to clarify the boundary between free speech rights and limits on “offensive symbols,” Thompson said. The right to free expression in the policy “may not interfere with the rights of others or cause a substantial disruption to the educational environment,” it states.

“It does give us some leeway,” Thompson said.

The school board will have to adopt the changes. The elimination of corporal punishment drew no comments from board members after they heard from Thompson this week. Board Member Pat DeLeone asked that principals review the change to the smoking policy. “This is going to offend some people,” she said.

Smoking is now banned inside school buildings “that serve children under age 18” and by students involved in any school function. The proposed change would extend to school grounds, athletic facilities and parking lots. It would also include e-cigarettes.

The district gets complaints from people about smoking at ball games, Dozier said. The district also has to pay a higher health insurance rate because it allows smoking. And with the district looking at how time is spent on instruction and other activities, “I don’t know if you are actually allowed to work a smoke break into your school day,” he said.

“As a reformed smoker and a reformed spanker, I approve both of these,” School Board Chairman Jim Dumm said.

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