ACLU criticizes S.D. elementary school for forcing students to plank
Horton Elementary School in southeastern San Diego has come under fire for disciplining students for misbehavior by forcing them to hold a plank position on a hot blacktop surface, which the ACLU said amounts to corporal punishment.
An incident occurred in October when a ruckus erupted in the cafeteria after a student reportedly took a bathroom pass from an employee’s pocket. The school replaced open recess for fourth- and fifth-graders with structured exercising, including the plank or push-up position.
Some of the students’ parents were banned from campus for 14 days under threat of prosecution after they complained to the principal.
The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties criticized the San Diego Unified School District, called for an apology, staff training and lifting on the parent ban in a letter sent to Superintendent Cindy Marten last week.
San Diego Unified disagrees that corporal punishment was used, rather Horton “modified open recess” for the students for three days “as a result of unruly behavior displayed by students during the lunch period on Oct. 14,” district spokeswoman Shari Winet said in a written statement.
“District leadership is working with the parents and the principal to reach a resolution that satisfies everyone,” said Winet, who noted that an investigation into the matter was under way before the ACLU sent its letter.
The rowdy lunchtime incident prompted staff to summon the principal, Staci Dent , who arrived at the cafeteria to find some students pounding on their desks or tables.
“Instead of free play, the students engaged in PE-type activities including jumping jacks, squat holds, as well as holding the push-up position for 10 seconds,” Winet said. “The structured recess was an opportunity to reinforce the importance of safety and following directions, as well as engage in exercise.”
According to the ACLU and parent complaints filed with the district, students were “forced to get into a push-up or ‘plank’ position, and hold the pose for a significant period of time, potentially as long as several minutes.” Some developed blisters on their hands after they “were forced to hold their hands against the scalding hot blacktop” or face time in juvenile hall, according to the principal’s threats, the ACLU said in its letter to Marten.
Dent is on maternity leave. Her interim replacement did not return phone calls Monday.
In a report that aired Nov. 3, Dent told Channel 10 News the modified recess was meant to promote good behavior.
“In clear conscious, I would have done it again,” Dent told Channel 10. “If I could have ACLU criticizes S.D. elementary school for forcing students to plank - The San Diego Union-Tribune: