Paddling is back-to-school fashion

Paddling is back-to-school fashion

SThis fall, tudents will return to school in the Ozarks town
Missouri may be showing better behavior than usual. That’s because the local school board has reinstated corporal punishment, otherwise known as paddling, for disciplining poor conduct.

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The spanking
isn’t quite like the old days of classroom law and order. Parents and guardians must consent in writing to allow their children to swing at the paddle “when other means of discipline have failed,”This includes suspension and detention. They can also opt out at any moment, regardless of what their child has done that warrants a body check.

Cassville will also keep the whacks away from other children and include an adult staffer as witness. The ban on head or face hitting is strictly prohibited. There are no details about whether a video record will also be kept. The individual principals have the right to decide when and to what extent the buttocks penalty option should apply. The board’s policy manual states, “A staff member may use reasonable physical force against a student for the protection of the student or other persons or to protect property. Restraint of students in accordance with the district’s policy on student seclusion and restraint is not a violation of this policy.”

The directive has caused a storm on social media and protests from educators, including one who called corporal punishment a violation of the law. “wildly inappropriate, ineffective practice.” However, the superintendent of Cassville’s 1,900-student district said the move to unspare the rod was made in response to concerns voiced by parents, employees, and students who say in-school misconduct has gotten out of control.

Missouri is one 19 (mostly Southern-most) states that allow physical discipline of students. This is supported in a 1977 Supreme Court decision (
Ingraham v. Wright
) that says school spanking does not violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, as long as it is not “unreasonable”Or “excessive.”The most recent
federal data
Nationally, approximately 4,000 schools reported using some form corporal punishment.

I still feel and remember the pain of my own paddling in 1962 under the strict guidance of Miss McDonald’s, my grade school principal. Students were warned not to cross the ballfield after a snowstorm, possibly out of fear that kindergartners might disappear in a drift. A couple of second graders and I were outed for defying the ban — how could we not! We were shown to our class and asked to bend over. Then, we were wiped clean of any lingering snickers. I can still hear Miss M., a bun-haired girl, taking a deep, nasal wind up breath before she thwacked my backside twice with her paddle, which she held as tightly as a Federer forehand. A leather wrist strap was attached to her paddle, which indicated how often it was used.

Some prominent medical- and behavioral groups include the
American Psychological Association
School spankings have been opposed by many, who argue that they pose injury risks and are disproportionately applied to minority children. There’s also concern that striking children, even in a controlled fashion, triggers more defiance and aggression, which is why many professionals endorse positive reinforcement to modify unruly students.

But as long as it is deployed fairly and with restraint, the mere threat of ritualized paddling could check disruptive students who won’t respond to other types of direction. Cassville is actually making a mistake by removing the punishment from the classroom. I did not feel guilt or remorse for my actions in the snowy fields, but I was humiliated when I was flogged by my classmates and friends. It was a pain far greater than the paddle. Cassville loses the powerful deterrent effect of peer shaming, which may be the best way to prevent future misconduct or rule-breaking, by sequestering the actors in any spanking situation.

I think I may have scored some bravery with my friends that long-ago. I did not stop instiguing mischief, sometimes even to the point of threatening school decorum. I was afraid of being embarrassed again by the humiliation of a full-blown paddling show. It is hoped that it will discourage some of the Cassville doofuses from doing the exact same thing, even if they are not in public.

Allan Ripp manages a New York press relations agency. 

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