Some teachers and parents and several Arlington School Board members criticized a proposed revision in disciplinary policy last night that would permit corporal punishment.
The policy, revised to be in accordance with Virginia state law that allows for corporal punishment, would be altered from the current working "corporal punishment is not permitted" to "corporal punishment is discouraged but reasonable corporal punishment is permitted if administered . . . in good faith and not administered excessively."
"Violence makes no sense in the educational process," said Paul H. Markoff, whose son will attend Page Elementary School next year. "Violence begets violence, not learning," Markoff said.
The change "makes the policy very ambiguous," said Marjorie McCreery, executive director of the Arlington Education Association.
The policy was altered to match state law, said Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Henry Gardner. Local school boards cannot adopt regulations that are inconsistent with state rules, he said.
School systems in Montgomery and Prince George's counties prohibit corporal punishment in accordance with state school policy.
District of Columbia schools also prohibit corporal punishment, according to a school spokesman.
School officials in Fairfax and Alexandria said they had faced the problem of wanting to prohibit corporal punishment without contradicting state rules.
In Fairfax, policy for elementary schools states that corporal punishment is "not encouraged," but "may be deemed necessary" and advises that it should never be used as a first resort. "To my knowledge, it is not used," said Assistant Superintendent Beatrice Kameron.
For intermediate and high school students in Fairfax County and for all students in Alexandria, the school boards settled on language that does not explicitly prohibit corporal punishment but makes clear that it is not authorized by the school board.
"We had a large discussion on this last year and we wanted to prohibit it but the Virginia code says you can't," said Alexandria School Board Chairman Lou Cook.
The Arlington School Board asked its staff to seek more legal opinions on the policy and will consider it at a meeting next month.