By mtjulietintern
Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News Wilson County Schools Director Donna Wright shakes hands with Kenneth Dillard, who received an honorary diploma from Lebanon High School class of 1957. Dillard, who served as junior class president, attended Lebanon High from 1953-56 until he entered the United States Navy and served three years.

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Wilson County Schools Director Donna Wright shakes hands with Kenneth Dillard, who received an honorary diploma from Lebanon High School class of 1957. Dillard, who served as junior class president, attended Lebanon High from 1953-56 until he entered the United States Navy and served three years.

The Wilson County school board voted Monday to remove language in its code of conduct relative to corporal punishment after discussion on the issue in two meetings.

The group voted 5-2, with board members Bill Robinson and Larry Tomlinson as the “no” votes, to formally remove corporal punishment as a possible consequence after school leaders said the punishment hasn’t been practiced in several years.

Director Donna Wright recommended last week the district amend current language on corporal punishment from the code of conduct, which sparked discussion on the necessity of the practice.

“At one time a paddling worked, but for many kids, we’re seeing some behaviors that might not exist because we don’t know what’s happening at home. We don’t know what kids are facing. We’re committed to helping work through some behavior with kids,” Wright said Monday.

“When we do that, so everybody might know this, if we take out corporal punishment, then the next step could be suspension. If we suspend somebody, then a parent might have to miss two or three days of work. It’s kind of the lesser of two evils. It’s kind of tough issue to remove it, but I still think it’s the right thing,” board member Wayne McNeese said.

Robinson said he believed the language could have a place in the code, especially since it’s not a mandatory punishment.

“There is not consequence that says a child has to take a paddling in our current code of conduct. My only concern is – not that I’m in favor of corporal punishment – but there is an option if a situation, such as [McNeese] mentioned, comes up,” Robinson said.

Robinson said an example would be if a student does something that warrants suspension but the parent is in a financial situation where missing work would harm the family.

Wright said school leaders do everything they can to avoid out-of-school suspension, especially in the younger grades.

Board member Tom Sottek questioned last week how the district would protect itself if corporal punishment were administered and teachers or staff didn’t receive proper training, if any.

Wright said state law allows local school districts to determine if they want to allow corporal punishment in schools and Wilson County is one of a handful that still had language allowing it as a form on punishment.

Wright said she doesn’t remember any instances of corporal punishment being administered since she’s taken over as school director three years ago. Deputy director Mickey Hall said the last instance he remembers happened about 15 years ago at West Elementary.

The group also agreed to a possible solution to the ongoing liquor-by-the-drink tax litigation situation with the City of Mt. Juliet. The board formally rejected the city’s latest offer in December, but agreed to the terms of the latest offer after a 30-minute closed door session with Wilson County attorney Mike Jennings.

Jennings said he believed the offer to be a “fair proposal,” but did not announce the specifics of the offer.

“They owe us the money. We don’t like doing this, but they’ve owed us money for over 10 years now,” McNeese said last year. 

In 2013, it was revealed many municipalities in Tennessee were not paying their portion of their liquor-by-the-drink tax to public schools systems in which those cities operated due to an oversight. Wilson County Schools and the Lebanon Special School District were among the school districts in Tennessee that were owed back money by cities.

The Wilson County Board of Education filed the lawsuit in Wilson County chancery court in 2014 after failing to reach an agreement with the city about paying liquor-by-the-drink back taxes collected until 2013. Mt. Juliet owes an estimated $372,000, according to Mickey Hall, Wilson County deputy director. 

A court date for the lawsuit is set for March, but Jennings said that would not occur if the Mt. Juliet Commission agrees to the offer during its meeting next Monday.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com