May 25, 2012
By Alison Bath
When a Woodlawn High School student left the school's gym without permission in November, football coach DeCarlos Holmes decided the young man needed to be disciplined.
Upon the student's return, Holmes pulled out a wooden paddle — wrapped in gray tape and marked with the word "Helper" — and gave the teen "three licks," according to a Nov. 10 Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office report. The student also said Holmes "cussed him and slapped him in the face with an open hand," the report states.
Holmes, who denies slapping the student, says he was doing his job. As a "designated" disciplinarian, it was Holmes' responsibility to paddle unruly students, he says.
"The board (paddle) of education never hurt anybody," said Holmes, 36, who was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery after the Nov. 1 paddling. In self-defense, Holmes said he pushed the student off of him after the young man became angry and confrontational. The coach, who no longer works for the district, faces a June 14 trial. Caddo Parish School Board officials declined to comment on the case.
While the circumstances surrounding the paddling may be unusual, the use of corporal punishment to correct a Caddo student's behavior isn't.
This year, at least 584 Caddo school children have been on the receiving end of a paddle. Last year, the number was 948, according to a Caddo Parish School Board report. During the 2009-10 school year, the U.S. Department of Education reports, 1,215 Caddo students received corporal punishment. That earned the district — one of the largest in the state — the distinction of being a statewide leader in paddling, U.S. Department of Education data show.
Caddo officials say the district's declining use of corporal punishment chiefly is because of a push to use positive discipline methods, such as earning special privileges or treats for good behavior. Additionally, the placement of more behavior interventionists at schools to decrease suspensions also has influenced alternatives to corporal punishment....
That use of corporal punishment is rooted in a strong Bible-belt belief in the proverbial "spare the rod and spoil the child," says George Holden, a Southern Methodist University psychology professor.
It's reinforced by Southern sensibilities that favor obedience and respect for authority, a lack of education about the harmful effects of spanking and the fact that few people speak out against the practice, Holden says....