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CHEER CAPTAIN PADDLED SECTION HIGH SCHOOL ALABAMA 2008

In north eastern Alabama lies the small town of Section. Section High School, despite its name is in fact a K-12 school, and the only public school in town. At the start of the 21 st century corporal punishment was a seldom used punishment at Section High School. The image below shows a report from the Office of Civil Rights, showing that SHS reported only paddling 5 students in the 2000-2001 school year. All five were boys.

Durham's office for 'licks'. The photo below previously appeared on the Section High School website.

However the report on the 2006-2007 school year indicated a massive upturn in the use of corporal punishment at SHS.

Mr Durham's paddle can clearly be seen laying on his desk. Students say that the pink colored taping around the handle indicate that this was Mr Durham's 'girls' paddle. A slightly larger board, with blue taping was used to paddle boys. Despite the frequency of paddling at Section High School, one student who had successfully avoided the board was senior Raeah Johnson. Raeah had been an 8 th grader when Mr Durham arrived at the school, but unlike most of her friends and class mates she had never experienced a 'licking' at the hands of Principal Durham. Raeah was one of the top academic students in her class, as well as one of the most well behaved. She was a long time member of the Section Cheerleading squad, and had been named as captain for the 2008-2009 school year. She would go on to be elected Prom Queen at the 2009 Senior Prom. Many of her fellow cheerleaders had been paddled by Mr Durham, and Raeah recalled how on many occasions she saw the effects of the paddle in the locker room, with

One hundred and fifteen girls were paddled at the school that year. Many of them more than once. The reason for this huge increase in the use of the paddle as a disciplinary tool can be attributed to one clear factor. The arrival in 2004 of Mr Steve Durham as Principal. Mr Durham is strongly pro-paddling, and immediately began using corporal punishment as the primary disciplinary measure for most offenses for students in grades 7 through 12. Students at Section HS say that rarely a day went by without someone going to Mr

several girls having marks that lasted for several days after the licks were given.

Mr Durham, who had not witnessed anything he considered to be inappropriate taking place, set about investigating the claims. He spoke with Head Football Coach Jeff Monroe, hoping he might be able to confirm the claims made in the E-mail. Coach Monroe told Principal Durham that he had not seen anything inappropriate taking place on the field, however he had found Raeah in the boys locker room with the football players after the game. This was a clear breach of Section High School rules, and one that Mr Durham knew he would have to punish the cheer captain for. Raeah was instructed to report to the Principal's office at the end of her lunch period. The senior was totally oblivious to why she was being called to see the Principal. When she arrived at the office, three 7th grade boys who had been involved in a school yard fight sat waiting to see Mr Durham. Secretary Dolores Patterson told Raeah to take a seat next to the three boys. Shortly afterwards Principal Durham appeared at the office door. Despite arriving last, Raeah was the first to be called into the office. Inside Raeah was questioned about the claims made in the E-mail. She admitted to hugging and kissing her boyfriend, a Section football player, but denied doing anything inappropriate. Next Mr Durham asked her about going into the boys locker room. Raeah admitted that she had, but insisted that she left immediately when told to by Coach Monroe. Principal Durham told Raeah that he would

The 2008 football season did not start well for the Section Lions. After a victory in their opening game, the Lions suffered three humiliating losses in a row, leaving them in last place in Alabama's Class 2A Region 6 Division. A non-divisional game against a class 3A opponent, Pisgah High School, looked set to hand the Lions a fourth consecutive defeat. However, to everyone's surprise, Section pulled off a dramatic victory, winning 19-15. As time expired on the game clock, players and cheerleaders ran onto the field from the Section sideline to celebrate the unlikely victory. When Principal Durham arrived at school the following Monday morning, he was surprised to find an E-mail in his inbox from a concerned parent, complaining about inappropriate behavior from some students at the end of Friday's game. The E-mail specifically named Raeah Johnson as well as 11th grade cheerleader LeeAnn Handback as two of the culprits.

not be taking any action over the claims made in the E-mail, however she had behaved inappropriately by entering the boys locker room. As cheer captain, he told her, she was to set an example. Instead, he was going to make an example of her.

witness Raeah's punishment. Outside the the three 7th grade boys could not believe what they were seeing. Cheer captain Raeah Johnson was stretched across Mr Durham's desk, awaiting a 'licking'. Mr Durham was known for giving slow and hard licks. Students believed he left long gaps between licks to allow each lick to sink in. Raeah's paddling was to be no exception to this procedure. Each lick was delivered with such force that it lifted Raeah right up onto the tips of her toes. Each time this was followed by a gap of twenty to thirty seconds, during which the 17 year old clung tightly to the desk and tried her best to fight back tears. After her fourth and final lick, Raeah remained bent across the desk as she had been instructed. Again Mr Durham had her hold this position long enough for the last swat to sink in, before allowing her to stand up. Raeah said she could not sit comfortably for two days as a result of the paddling, and was still sporting marks on her bottom when she came to cheer at Section's next football game the following Friday night.

Unlike many schools which still use the paddle, students at Section High School do not get the option of an alternative punishment. The decision to administer corporal punishment is made by Principal Durham alone. Raeah had hoped that she would be spared a paddling, but she knew that hope was in vain when Mr Durham opened his desk drawer and removed his pink handled girls paddle. Raeah was instructed to step up to the front of his desk. She then had to bend over and grip the far side of the desk. At only 5'4 this was not so easy for Raeah, she was at full stretch and up on her toes to assume the required position. Mr Durham walked across to the door, paddle in hand. He opened the door and asked Mrs Patterson to come inside to

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