Corporal punishment is child abuse. I’m just going to get that out of the way. I don’t care if it’s one swat on a child’s bottom with a paddle or whipping them with a belt. The student has to be publicly shamed at a school for an infraction that the teacher and/or administrator sees necessitates it. It’s an archaic way of treating people that is held over from the days of slavery and medieval times as a form to degrade and humilitate people one feels is less than them.
This issue has come up in the last week when the Cassville, Mo. School District said they will implement paddling during the 2022-2023 year. But, they will use it as a last effort when other forms of discipline have been used. This includes suspension. Also, all administrators will have to report it to the superintendent. What if the superintendent is in a meeting? The student has to wait for hours knowing it’s coming?
Cassville is a small town in the southwestern part of Missouri in the Ozarks which is no surprise. Most district that have implemented corporal punishment seem to be in rural areas and/or south of the Mason/Dixon Line. Missouri is one of 19 states that allows corporal punishment. My native state of Georgia is one. Oklahoma is also one and at one time it was the seventh in use. I remember reporting on a lawsuit filed about a decade ago in the Wagoner, Okla. School District where an administrator was sued for paddling a student that left injuries both physically and mentally. I’m wondering if the McGirt case also applies to corporal punishment.
I found out that Oklahoma with other southern states, such as Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee banned it on use of disabled student it was determined disabled students were some of the students most likely to be paddled. But I don’t know if this applies to physically disabled or developmentally disabled. Either way, it’s a horrible way to treat a young person already afflicted with problems. Yes, Cassville has set a huge level of criteria even saying each student’s parents can or deny that their child be paddled.
And this is where I think the problems get worse. If a child is paddled at school because their parents approve it, does that mean the child will also get spanked, beaten or whipped by their parents at one. At this point, it’s enabling child abuse. I wouldn’t want to be an educator who paddled a student, then have that student be absent for some time only to return to school with bruising.
Also, by having the parents opt out, they are immediately saying that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. So, who would opt out? Obviously, it’s probably the more rational and logical parents. It’s not always that way. But it’s often presumed the more country and blue-collar families would approve of corporal punishment while the more well-to-do families would opt out it. This means some students can literally get away with being more disruptive than the other students.
Paddling is an archaic form of teaching. It’s asking educators to do more than what they’re supposed to as well as giving them the authority they shouldn’t have and don’t deserve. From my own experience growing up in the 1980s and 1990s and covering education in ther 2000s and early 2010s, I felt some teachers overstepped their boundaries, more of the older than the younger teachers. There was one teacher’s aside in elementary school who just didn’t get to know my name. It told me at an early age that I wasn’t important enough to her.
There were also teachers who though they could use the paddle as a constant threat. And this is the problem. Terrorizing a student with violence can lead to problems in education. And sometimes the teacher at my school felt they could use it for whatever reasons. It was like that Simpsons episode where Jasper is a substitute teacher saying everything is a paddling. Chewing gum? That’s a paddling. Not writing in legible cursive? That’s a paddling. Sneezing too loud? That’s a paddling.
Fortunately, my school district phased it out as I got into middle school. I also think it’s foolish to paddle middle school and high school students. With mass shootings almost a daily occurrence in America, I think they last thing we need to do is to give anyone a reason to bring a gun to school. And I’m sure a student who feels they’ve been targeted unfairly by the faculty or administrators could do just that.
We’re already facing a shortage of teachers beccause they’ve found better jobs that pay more. I think asking them to consider abusing a child is a boundary many don’t want to cross. Thankfully, most Boomers have retired out of the system, so it’s mostly just Gen Xer, Millennials and even Gen Zers. The world has changed and people who were paddled or threatened with a paddling are now the educators and they don’t want to do it.
Going back to Wagoner, I remember hearing of an administrator who would paddle students so hard that it left bruising and injury. That was back in the 1950s and 1960s and people turned a blind eye. Yet one time, I did hear of an older person say that the administrator probably should’ve never been in the position. My ex met her first husband because he transferred out of the school district rather than be paddled. The last thing we need in education are administrators with “God” complexes.
Now, we’ve evolved thankfully over the years to understand some students may have autism or Assperger’s syndrome which can lead to their behavoir. We take ADHD and neurodivergece more seriously than we did 25-30 years ago. And while many Boomers might say it’s a poor excuse for disruptive behavior, a lot of them opt out of paying school taxes so they shouldn’t have a say.
Most Gen Xer and Millennial parents view corporal punishment more negatively than their Boomer parents. I guarantee you, no one who was beaten by a parent or adult turned out just fine. It’s because of this toxicity and abuse while many Gen Xer and Millennials have chosen not to have children. And those that have don’t have a good relationship with their Boomer parents. According to Mitch Preinstein, chief science officer with the American Psychological Association, reports decades of research has shown corporal punishment hasn’t reduced inappropriate behavior but actually increase aggression and rage as well as depression and self-esteem issues.
As I got older, I saw corporal punishment as just a way for schools to weed out the less desireable students. As I’ve mentioned before, my brother was briefly a long-term substitute teacher in music at a Birmingham, Ala. school. He said the administration would dump the problem students in his class. School districts often cater to the more privileged students. Even during No Child Left Behind, the lower-income students with less resources were expected to catch up with the more privileged.
Will they use corporal punishment to be a blemish on a student’s record who might be in contention with another more affluent student? Will educators use it as a way to get students to perform lewd or inappropriate acts on the students? Let’s be honest here. OUr public education system is an unfortunate breeding ground for pedophiles. It seems to be a recurring problem where you’d hear about a student who was preyed on by a teacher. Just within the last week, a former teacher at Broken Arrow Schools outside Tulsa was arrested for allegedly having sex with a minor. And most sexual predators often prey on more at-risk students and youth.
It’s no surprised that conservatives Christians have issues with public education as well as who public education should benefit. Let’s say the child of the bank president or the big car dealership is very disruptive in school and needs to be disciplined. Will the child be paddled knowing that the child’s parents are more powerful than the kids from the other side of the tracks who parents work low-income or odd jobs?
An administator tried to say my cousin was disruptive in class. When his parents asked what he did? They said he forgot to turn a homework assignment. This happened when many of the students, including the preppies and jocks, were found to be buying vitamins illegally from a fellow student. My cousin got in-school suspension because of the “disruptive” behavior. The other students got one 30-minute detention session. And just like our judicial system, schools cherry pick who they favor and how they punish them.
Along with low-income students, black and non-white students are twice as likely to be paddled as white students. There’s already a stigma with law enforcement and school resource officers creating a pipeline between school and prison. SROs are more likely to target BIPOC students than white students and use excessive force. It seems that public schools only care about non-white students when they can play sports.
Currently, there is a push by Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.) to ban corporal punishment across the board if a school receives any federal funding. He calls it a “barbaric practice.” The problem is that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that corporal punishment is considered constitutional and should be regulated by the states. However, Murphy’s plan should hit schools in their purse-strings. It’s a smart move and might actually make several of the states explain why they think an 8-year-old needs to be hit with a thick piece of wood.
Cassville School Superintendent Merlyn Johnson said the decision was egged on by parents of the district. Yet, I find it highly unlikely. It’s been my experience as a reporter whenever a higher officials says the “community wants something,” they’re only talking about a very selective group of people. Regardless, it’s putting the school under a microscope and opening doors for lawsuits it may not need.
Part of me wonders why a small school in BFE Missouri is now in the news with this. It is less than three months until the November mid-term general elections. Is someone trying to win votes in November? Or is someone trying to cover something up to keep it from going national and basically international?
In closing for those who don’t remember, left-handed students used to be punished by having teachers slap their hands with rulers to force them to write with their right hands. Left Handers Days was two weeks ago. The reason they probably have it in August is because school was still out and people were afraid of some old crow teacher hitting them.
What do you think? Please comment.