Some Schools Still Don't Spare The Rod

Illustration for article titled Some Schools Still Don't Spare The Rod

Thought "paddling" was a thing of the past? Think again: in 20 states, corporeal punishment is still legal, and some schools take full advantage.


The breakdown, as one might expect, is largely regional. Says the New York Times,

While the image of the high school principal patrolling the halls with paddle in hand is largely of the past, corporal punishment is still alive in 20 states, according to the Center for Effective Discipline, a group that tracks its use in schools around the country and advocates for its end. Most of those states are in the South, where paddling remains engrained in the social and family fabric of some communities.

And while one might expect only oldsters to hold out against research against paddling's efficacy — and arguments that it's flat-out inhumane — the Times produces one startling anecdote.

In Louisiana, where corporal punishment is also legal, controversy erupted this year after the board of trustees for St. Augustine High School, the lone Catholic school in New Orleans and perhaps the country that still paddled its students, decided to ban the practice. St. Augustine was under pressure from Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, who has said that paddling promotes violence. But the predominantly African-American school's administration and alumni want the practice reinstated. They argue that paddling for minor offenses has been instrumental in helping St. Augustine build character and achieve high graduation rates. The school's students have also voiced their support, holding a march in New Orleans to demand that the archbishop reverse his position. Jacob Washington, a senior and the student body president, helped organize the march. "This is a tradition for the school," he said on the eve of the rally. "It's how the school has been run for 60 years. Just the seniors alone - we can tell the difference between our class and some of the newer students who didn't receive the same discipline."

Because something has been going on for a long time doesn't make it right. "Tradition," in the wrong context, can be a dangerous rationale.

Schools Under Pressure To Spare The Rod Forever [NY Times]



I know that I don't have the experience or background to talk about whether this is a problem, and I'm not convinced that anyone at Jez does, either. At some point in the eighties or nineties spanking, and, to a lesser extent, discipline of any sort, became the Worst Thing You Could Do to Your Child, Ever, and I believe that without that as an option, some families suffered. I was spanked (by my parents) as a child. It wasn't abuse and it wasn't the only discipline. I would argue that I was not traumatized or damaged by this in any way. I turned out fine. Might that have been different if it were someone at my school doling out the punishment? Maybe, but maybe if it were in a larger framework of discipline it wouldn't have. On the other hand, I saw families close to me where the parents refused to spank their children, even symbolically (a smack on the butt, particularly on a diaper, creates more scary noise than actual pain), and the kids ran amok.

That, of course, is all anecdotal and doesn't address the question of schools. For what it's worth, I have read that when clearly and systematically implemented, with the full permission of parents and with other methods in place to control behavior and create a positive learning environment, corporal punishment can be rarely used and a structure of consequences including corporal punishment can be effective.