Dear Editor,

More than 30 years ago my son was spanked with a wooden paddle at a Florida elementary school for running in the halls. My husband and I were notified only after the trauma, as permitted by Florida law. We withdrew our son from that school because he no longer felt safe.

Since that time, most states and most Florida counties have banned corporal punishment, citing the harmful effects to children. In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that all states pursue legislation to abolish corporal punishment in schools. Last year, the AAP advised that parents should not spank their children, pointing to studies showing that corporal punishment is associated with increased aggression and outcomes similar to those of children who experience physical abuse.

Yet, the practice persists in Gulf County schools, according to 2017-18 Florida Department of Education discipline data. Indeed, the 2018-19 Gulf County School District Code of Conduct lists corporal punishment as a Level 1 consequence and examples of Level 1 offenses such as dress code violations, wandering the halls, and failure to follow school rules.

What’s more, Florida lawmakers failed to protect our students during the 2019 Legislative Session, allowing a bill to ban corporal punishment to die in committee. Fortunately, Florida law empowers individual school districts to act. Please join me in asking our school board to finally end corporal punishment in Gulf County. Let’s welcome our students back in August to a safe, nurturing school environment without the threat of physical force.

Anice Reed

State Committeewoman

Gulf County Democratic Party