JACKSON, Miss.—Minutes before the Mississippi State Board of Education was set to begin its Oct. 19 meeting, the Mississippi Coalition to End Corporal Punishment’s supporters began filing into the room, taking up every empty seat and lining the walls; those who couldn’t fit spilled out into the hallway. The crowd of more than 40 men, women and children invited the presence of the building manager and Capitol Police up to the fourth floor.
“They didn’t have enough seats in the boardroom because I asked people to come inside the boardroom and the police were clear (that there were) too many people,” organizer Ellen Reddy told the Mississippi Free Press.
Grassroots organizers, student and parent groups, and education advocates gathered at the Mississippi State Board of Education meeting for the Dignity in Schools National Week of Action Against School Pushout. The annual campaign is designed to raise awareness and inspire action against harmful school discipline practices. Mississippi is one of 17 states where corporal punishment is legal, but most districts require written parental consent to administer it.
Reddy is the convener of the Mississippi Coalition to End Corporal Punishment, which works to create awareness around the effects of school policing, paddling and zero-tolerance discipline policies. They are lobbying the Mississippi Legislature to pass a bill that would eliminate exclusionary and harsh discipline policies in Mississippi school districts.
MCECP, which held its inaugural education conference in Jackson last summer, wants paddling banned in Mississippi schools. Until then, though, Reddy wants the State Board of Education to add incidences of corporal punishment to each district’s annual report card. She also suggests having a medical professional on the board as an advisor.
“The American Medical Association says violence is harmful for children,” Reddy said. “When are we going to acknowledge the research and the evidence base? … (The state school board) approved social-emotional learning. How do you have social-emotional learning and corporal punishment? That’s incongruent.”
Before the board moved into a closed-door executive session, Board Chair Glen East informed the audience that public commenting is not allowed at board meetings. Reddy said the coalition
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