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A Small Town in North Texas Now Lets School Administrators Paddle Children of the Opposite Sex

Illustration for article titled A Small Town in North Texas Now Lets School Administrators Paddle Children of the Opposite Sex

Rural North Texas, the land that time forgot, now boasts a town that has not only refused to abandon corporal punishment for school children, but has somehow found a way to make paddling kids even ickier. Thanks to unanimous — unanimous — approval by the Springfield's school board, school administrators in the small North Texas community of 2,600 will now be allowed to paddle students of the opposite sex.

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According to Reuters, Texas is one of 19 states in our diverse union that allow public schools to administer corporal punishment. Though most urban school districts have banned the practice, rural districts like Springfield still employ paddling (striking a clothed child's bottom with a wooden paddle) as a permissible form of punishment, mostly because, explained Superintendent Michael Kelley, everyone knows everyone else, and isn't it just easier to paddle a kid instead of giving him or detention, shuck-a-muck? According to Kelley, many members of the Springfield community grew up together, and know each other so well that they are totally fine with letting their old chum who's now a high school math teacher paddle their ne'er-do-well child:

They're sitting beside that guy in church and they see that principal in the grocery store or at the restaurant. They have a sense of trust. So they'll call up and tell us, when their child commits an infraction, those parents will call up and tell that principal, 'Rather than in-school suspension, why don't you just give 'em a swat?'

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Kelley also said that the new paddling policy, which parents can opt out of entirely, will foster more gender equality, since, before this new measure, a paddle-wielding administrator had to be the same gender as the student. Since the school district is so small, Kelley said that the old policy was beginning to prove untenable:

We don't have a very large district and in our middle school there is only an assistant principal, who is a female. If the old policy remains in place, then the parents of the boys at the middle school would not be able to request corporal punishment.

Oh no! Without broad access to corporal punishment, how would school administrators convince students that time had frozen in 1955? Earlier this month, the Springtown school board attracted some criticism after a male assistant principal paddled two high school girls (Kelley apologized to the girls at yesterday's school board meeting). Meanwhile, Jimmy Dunne, who heads the Texas-based group People Against Paddling Students, has characterized the Springtown paddling policy as "barbaric," and said that hitting kids with boards is "legalized child abuse." Depending on your perspective, Springtown's equal-opportunity corporal punishment policy is either a sad confirmation of your regional bias, or proof that small town America is just as creepy as Stephen King says it is.

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Adults may paddle students of opposite gender in Texas district [Reuters]

Image via Everett Collection/Shutterstock.

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DISCUSSION

emmabrocker2
emmabrocker2

I actually don't know how to think about this issue. I'd always been vehemently against the idea of corporal punishment in schools, but veteran teachers at my school talk about it in a matter-of-fact no-nonsense tone and discuss it as a tool that doesn't have any more malice or ill-intent behind it than a lunch detention. It makes me wonder if I'm approaching the idea with a disdainful northeastern liberal attitude that doesn't give proper consideration to the issue.

I don't know. Maybe it's something that makes sense in communities that have certain attitudes towards authority and discipline, where it wouldn't be perceived as cruelty. But so many wholly good ideas have been twisted and misused in schools—double literacy blocks and math labs, anyone?—that I'm inclined to think an under-certain-circumstances-maybe idea like this one just can't be on the books.