A national anti-spanking group wants an investigation of the Mobile County Public School System, which has paddled far more black children than white children in the past two years.

“The Mobile school board and administration are doing nothing to correct this matter,” wrote Bob Fathman, president of the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools, in a letter faxed July 20 to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Fathman’s Ohio-based nonprofit group got the federal agency to intervene in an Ohio school system for the same reason and has been active as an anti-corporal punishment lobbyist since the 1980s.

In Mobile County, black students comprise 49.5 percent of the public school population but received 70 percent of the 781 school spankings in 1999-2000 and 65 percent of the 1,054 paddlings in 2000-2001, according to school system figures.

The school board deadlocked in a 2-2 vote to outlaw corporal punishment last month. Board member David Thomas, who has said he favors keeping school spanking, has been out of town.

Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have banned school paddling. Alabama gives local districts the right to decide for themselves.