Most Schools Use Spanking as ‘Last Resort’

Times Staff Writer

If Gov. George Deukmejian allows an anti-spanking bill to become law, most school districts in Orange County will need to change their official policies.

According to an informal Times survey of Orange County public school districts, only 10 of the county’s 29 school districts now ban corporal punishment. Of those who do allow it, four rarely spank, and 15 use the paddle regularly, but say they do it as a “last resort.”

In accordance with current state law, school districts may permit corporal punishment only if parents have given the school written permission. In addition, districts generally require a witness, usually a teacher, to be present when the principal or another administrator directs a single swat to the behind of a student. Two schools recommend a “cooling down” time for teachers so they will not strike a student in a fit of anger.


Among the offenses that merit corporal punishment are using foul language and injuring another student, school administrators said. School districts that allow spanking are Anaheim City, Buena Park, Centralia, Cypress, Lowell Joint, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Huntington Beach City, Magnolia, Ocean View, Savanna, Westminster, Yorba Linda, Capistrano Unified, Fullerton Joint Union High, Orange Unified, Placentia Unified, Santa Ana Unified and Tustin Unified.

Anaheim City School District Supt. Meliton Lopez said he is trying to change his district’s policy. “I have instructed the principals if they ever practice corporal punishment, they have to answer to me,” he said.

Administrators at Capistrano Unified, Placentia Unified, Tustin Unified and Fullerton Joint Union High School districts said they rarely use their policies. Capistrano Unified Assistant Supt. William Eller said, “The paddle is the traditional means of punishment, but if you went out to our schools and said ‘OK, where’s your paddle?’ you couldn’t find one.”

Spanking is banned at La Habra City School District, Anaheim Union High School District, Huntington Beach Union High School District, Brea-Olinda Unified School District, Garden Grove Unified School District, Irvine Unified School District, Laguna Beach Unified School District, Los Alamitos Unified School District, Saddleback Unified School District and Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

Even if it becomes law, the ban on spanking will not affect the policies of private schools.

Tread Cautiously

But like their counterparts in the public sector, administrators of several private Orange County schools said they tread cautiously in the area of discipline.


At the Hebrew Academy in Westminster, Principal Cinda Russell said the school rarely practices corporal punishment. At Anaheim’s St. Catherine’s Military School, corporal punishment is also a rare occurrence, said Sister Regina Marie Novacek, principal. “It is so easy to be thought of as mistreating a student.”

No more than 10 students are spanked each year at Abiding Savior Lutheran School in El Toro, said Charlotte Morner, the school’s kindergarten teacher for 12 years. “We always try to admonish children with the love of Jesus because that’s what we’re here for.”

At Carden Country Day School in Fullerton, Chuck Monson said he does not advocate spanking children nor will he “talk until I’m blue in the face” with a student who has repeatedly caused trouble. “I’ll just say (to the parent), you take care of it or find another school,” Monson said.