Thursday, February 22, 2007

An Invitation to the HBHS Community

My reporting on the case of the head Coach at Horseshoe Bend High School striking a student so hard that he left huge bruises and a possible more serious back injury and the protest I conducted outside the school, has caused a major uproar in this small community. While controversy is nothing new to me it is new for the students, parents of students and faculty of this school. In light of that I am going to post my full position on corporal punishment and an explanation of why I protested outside the school.

I have received comments from what I assume are from students at HBHS. Most have been either of a threatening nature or completely focused on personal attacks that have nothing to do with this story. I haven't allowed those to appear where others could see them because none of it was civilized discourse and would not have lead to a civilized discourse or done anything to soothe everyones frayed nerves. It was emotional, hormone-fueled outbursts from young people who don't have children and therefore do not have the broader understanding that being a parent provides.

I want this thread to be a forum for civilized discussion on what has happened. I invite students who have their parents permission to be on this blog, the parents themselves and even he faculty at HSBS to use this as a chance to better understand where everyone is coming from and to ask questions.

Let me address a couple of issues that have come up that are not related to this directly, but have been tossed into the mix and need to be cleared before we go any further.

First Issue:

Some have incorrectly assumed that since I don't work a 9-5 at a set place of business that I must be living on welfare and somehow using tax dollars to fund my other political work.

Truth of the matter:

I want to make clear that I am Libertarian and I do not accept government assistance for personal use and certainly not for any of my political work. Republicans and Democrats are the political parties that use taxpayer dollars to fund primaries and general elections. We Libertarians fund our own.

Some people, like myself, are lucky in that public school was not able to teach us to go into a factory job. I set my own hours and do work that I love. Just because I am not a slave at Russell Mills or some other dead end job does not mean that I am unemployed...not by a long shot. No offense to the hard workers in factory jobs. There is nothing wrong with that if that is what people choose to do. I simply chose something else and there is nothing wrong with that either. I can do what I love and make a living at the same time, while having free time to do things, like protest occurances like this one at the school my children attend.

Second Issue:

Since I dared speak out about what has happened I must surely hate Horseshoe Bend School and Coach Keith.

Truth of the matter:

While it is true that I am no fan of public education in general and my family has had its share of conflict with the school I do not hate Horseshoe Bend School or Coach Keith nor do I wish to see it closed. My children do well there for the most part. My son has one of the highest, if not the highest, GPA in the school. He brings home grades like 104 in Algebra and I can't remember the last time he made a B. He has lots of friends and participates in band. My daughter also does well there, although I am considering homeschool for her for a year or so. Of all the schools in Tallapoosa County HBHS is the best one. I want it to continue to be. In order for it to do that then parents must feel safe sending their children there and students must be provided with a safe environment in which to learn. I do not currently feel that is the case with regard to what has happened with Coach Keith and the student who was injured.

I also have no prior personal grudge against Coach Keith. To my knowledge he and I have never met. My children have never been involved in any situation with him that I am aware of. I understand he is a popular faculty member at HSBS. But being popular does not exempt one from taking personal responsibility when a child has been injured as a direct result of the decision they (the adult) made. If any parent at HSBS had hit a child hard enough to leave marks like that then that parent would be in jail. That parent would deserve to be in jail. Why should Coach Keith be allowed to get away with something that a child's own parent would be prosecuted for?

On the boader issue of corporal punishment in general let me offer the following scenarios.

If I were to walk up to another adult and strike them repeatedly with a wooden board they would most likely do one of two things. They would either hit me back or they would file assault charges. And rightfully so. I would do no less. What about you? It's illegal for adults to strike each other.

If students at a school get into an altercation the police are generally called and the students face suspension or expulsion. It is against school rules and the law for students to strike each other....though the consequences are generally less severe than what adults receive.

If a student hits a faculty member for any reason the police are called and assault charges are filed against that student.

Why is it ok for an adult or a faculty member of a school to strike a child?

Why do we teach our kids on one hand not to resort to violence to resolve conflicts and, on the other hand, we use violence against these same children when they are part of a conflict? Doesn't that teach them that it is indeed ok to use violence as a means of resolving conflict? I am a hopeless creature of logic so please help me out here.

Not to say that I have never popped either of my kids. Up until about the age of five or so that kind of response to children is sometimes necessary. When my daughter or son would make a mad dash for a busy road at an early age I would use a pop on the leg to make them aware that what they were doing was very serious and not to do it again. I only used that method when my children, at younger ages, endangered themselves. As soon as they were old enough to carry on a conversation and understand an explanation of why they couldn't do certain things spankings were no longer necessary. I personally feel that after age five if a parent uses this method as a first line of defense against misbehavior then that parent is lazy, lacks the cognitive abilities to be more creative in disciplining their children and simply does not care enough to take the time to talk to a child and explain. Spanking does not require any thought or deductive reasoning and it does not teach a child anything other than it is ok to hit people.

Third issue:

Since it wasn't my child I have no right to say anything at all about this incedent and that I am a bad mother for not cowing down and keeping my mouth shut.

Truth of the matter:

Granted, what people do in the privacy of their own homes with regard to disciplining their children is their business, so long as the child isn't battered or injured as a result. But when a public school teacher at the school my children attend strikes a student so hard as to leave huge bruises and possibly more serious injuries IT IS MY BUSINESS and THE BUSINESS OF EVERY PARENT with children at that school. It doesn't have to be my kid. The fact that it could be my kid next time is what motivates me to speak out now. It has nothing to do with any political agenda or personal grudge against the school or any employee of the school. It has everything to do with protecting my children and making sure other parents know that they might need to do the same. That is my duty as a protect my children.

Further, I refuse to believe that if the students commenting on this incedent were to be sent home with bruises like his kid received that their parents would approve. Even parents who think corporal punishment is ok and allow it to be used on their kids would not stand for this. I have heard from many of them this week and that has been the concensus. If they did approve then they would need to be prosecuted just as much as the person who inflicted the bruises on their child.

Another scenario to think about....what if this had been a case of sexual abuse or an allegation of sexual abuse by a teacher against a student? Or what if it had been a young lady sent home with bruises on her behind?

In my opinion those who refuse to speak out against things like this because they don't want to rock the boat are not only cowards but also part of the problem. The 'so long as it ain't my kid' attitude is a dangerous one to have. As parents it is our job to protect our children and that is what I am doing and will continue to do as long as my children need my protection.

Now, if you are a member of the community who has a question please ask it here if you like. In order to have a chance at it being posted and answered you will need to be civilized and present a rational argument for your position. Otherwise, I will not publish it as I intend for this post to provide a place for civilized discussion and a way to move forward from here.

Please note that I am not always at the computer every second of every day. My work requires that I travel to various parts of the state on a fairly regular basis and sometimes it may be hours after a comment is submitted before I have a chance to log in here and approve or reject it. Please be patient if you submit a comment and it does not show up right away.


Liz said...

Mrs. Nall,
I made a comment on your blog a few nights ago, and you have yet allowed it to be posted.

I will make another attempt to have my views/opinions posted here in your forum.

I will summarize what I originally posted in hopes you will allow this comment to be posted.

First of all, Mrs. Nall, I applaud your efforts and admire your rebellious spirit. You are a person who is willing to stand up for what they believe in. You are a person who fully understands their rights as an American and chooses to exercise those rights, specifically in this case in regard to freedom of speech.

Secondly, I consider myself a liberal. I strongly believe in a fair chance for everyone at everything. After doing some research on you and your political views, I must say I am very impressed and am happy to have people like you on "our" side, as radical as you may seem here in the traditionally conservative south *which by the way, I do not believe you are radical*

Furthermore to get to the point- I personally know the coach you accuse of child abuse. I would consider myself a family friend. In the times he has been in my presence, he has never acted in a way towards anyone that would indicate he is a child abuser. I am a political science/social work major, therefore I am very aware of warning signs. He is a wonderful father to his three beautiful girls and an upstanding person in the New Site community. He is someone that the students look up to- for a good reason-- he is a genuinely good person.

By accusing this man of child abuse, by Alabama law, you have accused him of:

"harm or threatened harm to a child's health or welfare which can occur through nonaccidental physical or mental injury; sexual abuse or attempted sexual abuse; sexual exploitation or attempted sexual exploitation." (Alabama DHR)

Mrs. Nall, I can confidently concur that this did not occur. This man did not intentionally cause harm to to the child in question. No court would ever convict him as a child abuser under the current conditions.

Perhaps you should focus your attention and resources to attack the issue of corporal punishment, which I agree is inhumane and of the stone-age.

If proper protocall procedures were not followed by school officials in regards to using corporal punishment, go after the system, not the man.

It is quite obvious that child abuse is not the case here.

Another point, which is somewhat irrelevent, but I wish to make anyway-- as I understand it, the child was not paddled for chewing gum. The paddling was from a cumulation of other instances where the child had been warned. As I understand it, it is somewhat of a "three strikes" rule, before punishment from school officials. So when you make that point, be sure to tell the whole story and not skew it to fit your needs, after all you preach about fairness.

Lastly, I would consider yourself very lucky if the coach did not pursue legal action against you for slander. Slander is defined as-

Slander is a spoken defamation. Defamation or "defamation of character," is spoken or written words that falsely and negatively reflect on a living person's reputation.(Legal dictionary)

I think you are quite guilty of this Mrs. Nall, and incase you try to backtrack and remove the coach's name from all of your postings (including your myspace blog), don't bother because I've already printed them all off with witnesses present incase he decides to pursue legal action against you... You're not the only one who knows how it all works around here.

I sincerely hope you choose to allow this to be posted as a comment to your blog. Have a nice day.

Loretta Nall said...

Thanks Liz. That's a good start.

Let me ask this question of you. Since you are a friend of the man in question how do you think he would have reacted if one of his daughters had come home bruised from a paddling? Would he ever had hit one of his own children as hard as this kid was hit?

Child abuse is the act of harming a child...intent isn't necessary. The coach had control of the paddle and the child was injured after being struck with it three times.

Further, the infractions and the number of infractions do not matter. From what was said in the newspaper all of the infractions were Class I and not really worthy of corporal punishment anyway. Also, there was nothing in the kids file to indicate that corporal punishment was allowed and the parents were not called. Even if what the paper said (he asked for licks instead of ISS) a 14-year-old does not have the authority to consent to that. Even if the rules had been followed the end result of this kid being hurt are not justified.

I have no intention of removing any names from any of my posts. The story is a public one now and every persons name except the names of the family involved is public information. I know there aren't grounds for a lawsuit against me.

This really isn't an issue of whether the coach is a good guy or a bad guy, or whether he is admired by the community or is a good father or not to his own children, but rather an issue of being accountable for the things that you do that cause harm to other people. Isn't personal accountability important? letting a teacher/cocah get away with something like this even if he didn;t mean to do it is unacceptable and teaches kids that some people have more protecion under the law than others. Liz, you and I both know that if we spanked our kids and left bruises we would face legal action from the state. How come someone who works for the state shouldn't face legal action for leaving bruises on a child in their charge?

As for taking on corporal punishment as a whole..... this case serves as a shining example of why it should not be allowed in public schools. There is too much room for very bad things to happen and it also does nothing to teach kids how to resolve conflicts.

The Alabama Moderate said...

I'd like to address Liz. Just because someone seems to be a great person or is well respected in the community doesn't mean that what he does behind closed doors is the same. I don't know a single person who doesn't act one way in public and another way in private. Criminals don't always "look" or "act" like criminals. Take it from someone who has worked with prison inmates. They can look and act just like you and me. (Don't get me started on Alabama social workers, DHR, and their history of reading "warning signs" of potential child abusers.) What's worse, those closest to the person in question are usually the last to suspect something because they often overlook (or ignore or brush off) any "warning signs" that are given. Some particularly paranoid parents see "warning signs" where there are none. You see what you want to see (or most fear) in the people closest to you. That's why a third party is usually the key to determining "warning signs." As a social work major, I'm surprised that you didn't consider that.

I'd say that if a concern has been raised, it's warning sign enough and needs to be investigated. Not investigating seemingly "good" people is how you end up with dead four-year-olds with curling iron burns on their bodies. How many times do you hear about a crime being committed by someone who the neighbors thought was a "good" person or a "respected member of the community"? When I was living in Pleasant Grove, a group of "good" kids from "good" families came over to a family friend's home and litterally beat his brains out with baseball bats in front of his wife and kids. It's amazing what "good" people can do.

My late grandfather was often described in the same way that you describe this coach. Too bad that behind closed doors, he was an alcoholic who beat my mother and her sisters. My mother was often (and still is) described in the same "good" way, but behind closed doors it wasn't (and still isn't) pretty.

The harm that was done has been proven with photographic evidence and (I'm assuming) medical documentation. If that exists, there is no question that the harm was done. Period. Intent is not in question, what the child did is not in question, and neither is included in the definition of child abuse. And I guarantee to you that if such proof exists, he can very much be prosecuted and convicted.

You state that he has "never acted in a way toward anyone that would indicate he is a child abuser." Would you rather wait until he did, perhaps with one of your own children, before the matter is at the very least investigated?

Liz said...

Alabama moderate-

I appreciate your point of view.

I am aware that "good" people do bad things. I am currently working on a case study involving the psyche of the accused in several different realms. Every situation is different, and this situation of alledged child abuse is definitely one of them.

In a case of child abuse (which Mrs. Nall is calling this), I am quite sure that the accused's social, professional, and personal character would be addressed. That is simply the reason for my assessment of his "good" character. It is simply my opinion. You stated,

"That's why a third party is usually the key to determining "warning signs."

Although I would consider myself a family friend, I would consider myself to be a third party. I will further explain my previous post that seemed to imply to you that I was closer than I actually am to the coach and his family. I have been around the coach probably 10-15 times during the past 2 and a half years. This would further categorize me as a third party, in my opinion, therefore, as stated in your post, a key to determining warning signs.

I agree that this is a very unfortunate event for everyone involved. I feel for the student who was alledgedly injured. I feel for the coach, whom I FIRMLY believe has been wrongly accused, and his family.

This whole situation needs to be addressed to those who allow corporal punishment. If corporal punishment causes such injuries as portrayed, surely there is cause for ammending the rules.

I am not here to argue with anyone, but to simply offer my opinion in this heated matter. I believe in compromise and effective solution, which I hope is what comes of this matter.

Thank you to all of you who wish to see this matter solved in a proactive, positive way.

Anonymous said...

can we get some sort of update on this situation. how is the protest coming along?

Loretta Nall said...

I'm sorry I do not have any new updates to give at this time. I do not have any plans to protest again until it is determined whether or not this Coach will remain an employee of HBHS. If he leaves then I won't protest again. If he stays then I will. One protest was really all it took to get the discussion and the community informed of the situation. Another one wouldn't be productive until we know what the outcome will be.