Teachers support principal accused of child abuse - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Teachers support principal accused of child abuse

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December 14, 2005

Cordele--To spank or not to spank. It's a question facing the Crisp County school system after the GBI began an abuse investigation.

Teachers packed the Southwestern elementary school library in support of their principal, Toriano Gilbert. "We are very pleased with him as a principal, and he is a man with principles," says teacher, Amber Sheffield.

Superintendent Judy Bean says as a last resort on December fifth, Gilbert paddled a student for disruptive behavior. The child's parents say the spanking caused bruising.

"His whole career is in his hands, and in somebody's hands, so it scares me," says Superintendent Judy Bean.

Bean says the boy's parents did grant the school permission to spank him.

"Sometimes parents instead of them being in ISS or OSS, they will ask them to go ahead and paddle my child, but we require it in writing," says Bean.

However, the child's parents believe the principal took the spanking too far. Parents, like Kaleasha Westbrook, say they don't believe that.

"To hit a child, to abuse a child, no, that's not Mr. Gilbert, you just have to know Mr. Gilbert," says Westbrook.

Westbrook's daughter attends the elementary school and favors paddling."If she's in the school system, and she is acting up, and one of the consequences is to paddle her, then I agree to it," says Westbrook.

"Parents that do their jobs at home, don't have to have their jobs done for them at school," says teacher, Amber Sheffield.

While teachers here support corporal punishment, they also realize it's not the solution for every child who misbehaves.

"If you're beating a child every five minutes, and the behavior is not changing, then as a parent you've got to look for something else to do with the child," says Sharon Stewart.

For now this school and others in Crisp County have put a hold on corporal punish until the district can decide whether paddling is the answer for teaching students a lesson.

"If we do away with paddling, we'll have to have something to replace it because our teachers need some help in the classroom," says the superintendent.

The principal is still on the job. Dr. Bean says the board could decide as soon as spring whether to do away with corporal punishment.

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