Honor student paddled for failing science paper; no, not by his parents but by his teacher, something perfectly legal in the Alabama town where it transpired, likewise permissible in 19 other states predominately in the south. Worse, it was done without the parent’s knowledge, consent or presence; further the boy’s parents were completely unaware the policy was practiced in the school. According to statistics roughly thousands of students show up in emergency rooms nation wide with injuries from school-sanctioned paddling. While some believe kids seeking medical attention for a “good old fashion whipping” is another sign we are becoming a nation of wusses, others are of the mind corporal punishment, be it at home or at school, is a way to reign in a society, a youth culture out of control, a few even subscribing to the theory that just having the threat there makes children better behaved vs. the out of control brats teachers are forced to deal with while parents do nothing at home or anywhere else to give their kids structure, consequences, discipline in any form, fact is school districts with corporal punishment have no less discipline problems than those without.
What makes what happened in this case particularly insidious is what the boy reported his teacher saying before the paddling; “well my daddy beat me, I beat my children, and that’s what I’m about to do to y’all. “ On top of that jaw-dropping statement is why the boy was paddled in the first place, for failing a paper not a breach of discipline. Despite claims of clear regulations so restrictive it has nearly made the practice extinct; clearly something went drastically wrong here. And absent published reports going in depth on specifics of said regulations, forgoing the idea of outlawing a barbaric and cruel practice, certain criteria should have to be met for a school to execute a paddling on any student. Starting with, first and foremost, parents’ mandatory notification that this is a discipline practice used at their child’s school, and parents should be required to sign a consent form for the use of said punishment. Further parents should be notified and have the right to be present when their child is paddled; regardless of whether the parent can be present at the paddling, a witness should be an absolute, mandatory, no exception component to the discipline process to insure no significant or permanent injury is done to the child. Where were any of these simple guidelines when this 13-year-old boy was hit for failing a paper?
Citizens have pointed out you can’t hit a dog, you can’t hit a prisoner, parents in most states can’t spank their children; even in states where it is legal you are not allowed to leave marks or bruises, something that surely would have gotten DFS involved had this incident taken place at the boys home or in a daycare, owing to the large bruise on the child’s buttocks. Even parents who believe whole heartedly in their right to spank their child don’t want others doing so because of unknown X factors like what their child might be spanked for, how hard they will be spanked. Yet outrageously this mother has no recourse to get justice for her son, except perhaps a civil suite; she got plenty of sympathy but no action, not even in an effort to change school policy, not even in an attempt to inject some common sense into this particular form of discipline. Prisoners have sued over the type of peanut butter and other food products served, people have sued over fast food consumption making them fat, for hot coffee they spilled in their own laps, but this parent can’t do anything about a school policy that’s literally a throw back to 40, 50 years ago. Adding insult to injury misapplied by someone demonstrating significant indicators of emotional disturbance. More facts people in favor if this method don’t want to hear, ethnic and minority students are significantly more likely to be paddled than their white counterparts even when they make up the majority of the school population. So now we have a possible racial component complicating a practice largely use in an area of the country notorious for negative race relations, even in the 21st century.
Paddling this particular child sends the wrong message to parents, students and the general public; it promotes the idea we should beat children for being intellectually stupid, or seen that way, for struggling academically, for taking longer than their peers to grasp concepts sans the effort they put into learning the material. It gives the impression that we should beat or otherwise discipline kids for failing at something be it a paper, a test before doing anything else such as looking at the class grades as a whole to determine if the paper subject matter was too difficult, too vague or confusing. Finding out if this one particular student was having problems at home while working on the paper, perhaps needs extra tutoring to better absorb fundamental principles. Maybe science is his worst subject. Further here is a young man who wasn’t a discipline case, unlike a 5th grader who made national headlines in the 90’s for dialing 911 after his father hit him 5 times with a belt after repeated behavior problems at school and a warning that would be the result if he got in trouble again. That young man’s father spent several months if not years regaining custody of his son, which he was granted and the boy slowly realized his father did not abuse him. By contrast the young boy in the current story was an honor student, far from a discipline case who failed one paper for an unknown reason.
Compounding the issue is the age of this child; experts who believe in spanking say spanking a child after about age 8 is unnecessary because you have the ability to reason with them also by this time there are other methods that drive home your point in a better way, allows the child to feel the consequences of his actions more fully than a sore behind. Parent tricks of the trade like taking away privileges, TV, video games, i-pods, sports participation. Now translate that into powers the school has, giving him detention, making him redo the paper with no change in grade, the teacher giving him extra work either in an attempt to make sure he understood what was being taught or to show him what will happen in the future should he goof off, not take a paper seriously again. Another option letting him flunk the quarter or semester, have to repeat the class or the grade, letting him learn from his mistake, all more effective in dealing with a teenager than putting a bruise on his body he is only going to resent, not going to learn any sort of life lesson from, other than to fear his teacher, fear his school because they have the power to hit him. To say nothing of his ability to learn is going to decrease exponentially if he now has fear going into that classroom, if it creates performance anxiety around tests, other papers and assignments, if he has to endure more paddling incidents for poor performance in class, only creating a vicious cycle
Thankfully the Alabama school district where the 13 year old victim attends disbanded the practice of paddling, but the why still bears the foul taste of injustice, not because it is cruel, barbaric, arcane, and clearly can be disastrously mishandled when administered by the wrong people, by people who are unstable or have deep personal issues with the practice, rather due to the boy appearing on one of the morning shows and the incident garnering national attention. Further nothing has been said publicly about whether this teacher is still teaching, whether this young man is still forced to sit in a classroom with the authority figure who did this to him. A teacher who clearly should have been fired for what he said, if not what he did, because of the spirit in which it was done as an act of vengeance, taunting, abuse of power and control. Rather than this is the policy, this is what you did wrong, a short conversation on responsibility and the importance of education, importance of taking assignments seriously then the paddling. A teacher who clearly should no longer be allowed around children based on the fact that just because they took the paddle out of his hands doesn’t mean they took away the ability of his mouth to run.
Bringing us to another point; how many other belittling, humiliating or frightening things has this teacher said to students in his current classroom, to his students over the years; how many derogatory, inappropriate comments has he doled out to other students before paddling? How many of the paddling episodes were the result of minor infractions it was never intended to be used for; how many times has he paddled a student struggling academically who may have an undiagnosed learning disability, may be having problems at home, may be homeless, hungry, suffering abuse? Have any students come to him, trusted him in talking about what was going on at home and he blew it off as adolescent whining or the normal goings on in a typical American household, essentially ignoring potential abuse rather than reporting it? How many other students has this teacher exacted such a punishment on who were too afraid to tell their parents? Examination possibilities in the entire school how many other teachers do they have on staff doing the exact same thing in the exact same way misusing a discipline tool, abusing authority?
At the end of the day schools, daycares, parents who do use corporal punishment, find kids are several times more likely to be aggressive, lose respect for and disrespect authority, become depressed. And it has no bearing on discipline problems compared to school who don’t use it. Campaigns to stop bullying after seeing the devastating outcomes of student suicide, students harassed unto death over sexual orientation or appearance are spreading across the nation. Do we want the devastating trend to trickle down to younger and younger grades for different reasons; if not why are they, these 20 states, perpetuating a stereotype; why are they legally allowed to continue a practice almost completely socially outlawed, especially when this is the result? Who ever thought teachers would be the bullies and a discipline-sanctioned paddle would be their weapon?