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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
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No New Trial Over |School Paddling Policy

(CN) - A former Tennessee high-school basketball player isn't entitled to a new trial on his claim that teachers and coaches paddled him excessively for things like missing practice and getting bad grades, the 6th Circuit ruled. The judges noted that state law allows corporal punishment in schools.

Martin Nolan, a former basketball player for Hamilton High School in Memphis, challenged the school's paddling policy in 2004. He claimed he was paddled two to three times a week, for things like missing practice, missing shots and getting bad grades.

"Martin testified at trial that (his coach) routinely paddled him for missing practice, being late for practice, missing shots, and getting poor grades," the ruling states. He said he was also paddled 12 strokes for missing a car wash.

The paddlings were painful, Nolan said, though he admittedly never complained to school administrators.

At trial, Nolan's coach, Theodore Anderson, said he paddled Nolan "very rarely" - no more than three times during the player's three years on the team - "because Martin was a good kid ... he didn't get into trouble and he made good grades."

Anderson denied ever paddling Nolan for missing shots, but said he may have paddled him for "not using the correct technique that had been shown to him [on] several occasions."

He admitted padding Nolan for poor grades.

Anderson was also verbally abusive, according to Nolan. He allegedly told Nolan that he was "playing like a bitch" when he missed a shot during an away game.

After that incident, Nolan quit the team, transferred to another high school and started seeing a psychologist.

In 2004, his family sued the Memphis City Schools and his school's coaches, principal and superintendent, claiming they targeted him with excessive paddling, assaults and verbal abuse. They also faced claims of negligence, assault and battery, and outrageous conduct.

A jury ruled for the school on all counts, and the Nolans appealed, claiming they were entitled to a new trial.

The 6th Circuit in Cincinnati disagreed, saying the evidence at trial "was not so one-sided that it precluded a judgment in favor of Memphis City Schools." Writing for the panel, U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley also pointed out that school paddling is permitted in Tennessee.

Under Tennessee code, "[a]ny teacher or school principal may use corporal punishment in a reasonable manner against any pupil for good cause in order to maintain discipline and order within the public schools."

"From all of the evidence, a reasonable juror could conclude that the paddlings ... were for disciplinary purposes, and were not 'excessive' in severity, frequency, motivation or means," Marbley wrote.

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