Ex-East Webster High principal to go on trial for spanking student

Published 5:27 pm Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Maben woman hopes the trial of a former East Webster High School principal will push education officials to abolish corporal punishment.

Bill Brand, who is now a teacher at the high school in Webster County, was scheduled to be tried on simple assault charges on Wednesday in Justice Court. However, Hugh Gibson, the attorney for the Webster County School Board, said he expected the trial to be rescheduled.

The charges stem from a March 2007 incident in which 18-year-old Audrey Pee was paddled for violating a school dress code.

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Audrey’s mother, Linda Pee of Maben, said Brand struck her daughter twice, leaving her bruised from the paddling. She said he daughter also was paddled by Brand six years ago.

“I feel that he poses a threat. That he’s a danger to every child in that school as long as he’s able to paddle them,” Linda Pee said Monday, adding that she wanted school officials to ban corporal punishment.

Pee said she signed a notification slip that informed school officials that she did not want her daughter to be paddled.

Gibson disputed that claim, saying Audrey Pee’s name was not on the school’s “do not spank” list. Gibson said the allegation that Brand paddled the student too severely has raised concerns about the paddling policy.

“The big issue is how would anyone ever spank a child without worrying if it is too severe?” said Gibson.

Gibson said he would recommend that the board eliminate the “do not spank” list. He said the board revised its policy this year to require parents to make a personal visit to schools to decline corporal punishment for their children.

Jimmy Pittman, superintendent of Webster County schools, declined to comment about the case or the district’s corporal punishment policy.

Audrey Pee was paddled after she wore a pair of sweat pants that exposed her ankles to school, her mother said.

Linda Pee said the dress code rule against cropped pants was adopted on a day when her daughter was absent and was not mentioned in the student handbook.

She said Brand did not check the school’s “do not spank” list, but instead asked her daughter if she was on it. Audrey Pee told him she was not on the list, her mother said.

“She knew I signed the form and she took the form back to school. I think they destroyed the form after he paddled her because it was not in the folder after I called him,” Linda Pee said.

Linda Pee also alleged that Audrey Pee suffered retaliation for the charges against Brand. The teenager did not graduate this spring after failing a geometry course, her mother said.

Nadine Block, executive director of The Center for Effective Discipline, a nonprofit based in Columbus, Ohio, said the case may be an example of the divisiveness caused by corporal punishment.

“School districts are increasingly realizing it’s both a danger to children and an economic liability to schools,” said Block. “People line up and take sides. Some people are for the parents side and some people are for the teachers.”

Block said 29 states have banned corporal punishment. Mississippi is among the 21 that allow the practice. Mississippi leads the nation in the percentage of students struck each year, according to the center’s Web site.

In Webster County, 346 of the about 2,000 students in the district were paddled during the 2006-2007 school year, according to the Mississippi Department of Education.

On the Net:

Center for Effective Discipline: http://www.nohitting.com