Officials say results of Blue Ribbon behavior plan will take time

When the Memphis City School Board did away with corporal punishment, The Blue Ribbon Behavior Initiative came front and center.

"There are still consequences for misbehavior," said Blue Ribbon coordinator Denise Keyes Johnson, "it's just now paddling is not one of them."

Punishments, like in-school suspension, still exist, but the focus of Blue Ribbon is promoting good behavior.

"The model calls for us to take the time to teach the children what is acceptable behavior," Johnson said.

But in the 80 days since the Blue Ribbon Behavior Initiative began, weapons possession is up 27%, gang related problems are up 9%, and battery against staff is up 47%. The district says the numbers reflect problems in the community and a resistance to positive change.

"It seems only logical that the numbers would spike," Johnson said. "That If you took out what you consider to be the most powerful discipline strategy, there would be a spike before there is a calm."

The teacher's union agrees that returning corporal punishment to the school system won't solve the discipline problem. They say the answer really lies at home. Charles New, President of the Memphis Education Association, said teachers complain the most about the lack of respect.

"The bottom line is that we need teachers and parents pulling in the same direction," he said.

Even with that, research says it will take at least three years to see the district wide effects of Blue Ribbon.